The word "kuchen" is German and simply means "cake", but there are as many versions of this sweet treat as there are castles in Germany. A kuchen can be a normal cake made by the creaming method, pastry-like or a yeast-raised cake.

They are commonly topped with cheese, custard and fruit or nuts and often dusted with powdered sugar and a sweet spice like cinnamon. In America, they are referred to as coffeecakes, denoting that they are eaten with a cup of coffee, usually late in the morning for a coffee break or late breakfast or brunch and are very popular in areas where there is a large German migrant community or where the population is largely descended from German immigrants.

These coffeecakes are often, but not always, yeasted and often richly accented with brown sugar, butter and cinnamon. However, in Germany itself, the term does not mean any one particular creation and is used as loosely as the term "cake" is, in the English language.