The History of the Christ Stollen from Dresden
The tradition of baking Christmas Stollen in Dresden is very old. Historians fond out that Christmas Stollen was already baked in 1400.
As a Christmas pasty it was created at the Saxon Royal Court in 1427. That time it was made of flour, yeast, some oil and water. The method to prepare it was supervised by the Church Council. Since the Stollen or "Striezel" was made without butter and sweet ingredients, like raisins, candied orange peel, candied lemon peel and almonds, it was a quite tasteless and flavourless pastry.
In 1450 Elector Ernst of Saxony and his brother Albrecht applied to the Pope Nikolaus V. for an abrogation of the butter-prohibition. The Vatican bureaucracy was a hard test of Saxon Bakers patience. Five popes must die, before Pope Innocenz VIII. sent a letter in 1491, known as "butter-letter", to Dresden. In that letter he had declared that richer ingredients were allowed. In return, the Dresden Stollen bakers had to pay a "fine". The money was used for building of churches.
Since 16th century, the Stollen bakers delivered one or two Stollen weighing 36 pounds to their ruler for the Holy Celebration. Eight master bakers and eight journeymen carried it to the palace. This tradition ended only 1918 with the fall of the monarchy.
But in the year 1730 August the Strong, elector of Saxony and king of Poland, exceeded all past stollen. On the occasion of the Zeithainer Lustlager, a legendary celebration for more than 20000 loaded guests, he let bake from the baker master Zacharias a giant stollen heavy to the 1.8 tons.
The grandiose baking work had been prepared by 100 baker masters and baker assistants in nearly one-week work. For this court architect Pöppelmann had let establish particularly an oversize stollen oven. In a procession the steaming stollen was finally pulled by eight horses by the city to the table of the king. This event is the historical model for today´s annual Stollen Festivals, which take place every Saturday prior to the 2nd Advent.
Religions aspects influenced the history of the "Dresden Christmas Stollen". The rolled form of the Stollen symbolized the wrapped in a nappy and lie in a hay box Christ Child.
Of course the quality and the taste of the Dresden Christmas Stollen changed decisively during the centuries. Lehmann / Münster writes in his publication "Dresdner Stollen - ein traditionsreiches Festgebäck", Bäcker und Konditor 11/1968:
The taste of the Christmas cake of that time won´t probably meet our today´s sense of taste. Up to 1490 it was prohibited to use butter, because the Advent fasting preceded Christmas. People had to settle with oil. Elector Ernst of Saxony and his brother addressed the Pope in Rome in order to cancel the "butter prohibition". This request was granted, but there was the condition to pay fine. This money was used for building the Freiberg Cathedral.
The Dresden Christmas Stollen came to the today´s taste and quality only in the 20th century according to the raising prosperity of wide classes of society. It reached the today´s high level by using noble raw materials and ingredients. Already before the World War II the Dresden Christ Stollen was parched and exported in metal sheet boxes over the Atlantic Ocean to North and South America.