apfelkuchen (German apple cake)
One bite of this apfelkuchen (German apple cake) takes me right back to my childhood. We lived in Germany until I was six years old and I clearly remember grade school days when Kindergarten classmates left me out of games and referred to me as “ausländer” (meaning foreigner).
During my year in German kindergarten, my birthday was the only time when my ausländer status didn’t seem to bother my classmates. Not because I had suddenly gained favor in their eyes but because my mom baked us a delicious apfelkuchen (German apple cake) to share. My teachers pushed tiny desks together for a make shift banquet table and I was given the seat of honor. My mom’s perfect cake was placed before me with birthday candles aglow and I remember the smiling faces of my former persecutors as they sang to me “zum gebertstag viel gluck”.
My amazing mom still bakes me an apfelkuchen every year on my birthday. It’s a wonderful reminder of how loved I am regardless of what the rest of the world might think about me.
This is my mom’s original recipe, translated from German to English and tested through many years. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large granny smith apples
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (1 cup), at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 5 eggs, at room temperature
- zest and juice of 2 fresh lemons
- powdered sugar for dusting
- freshly whipped cream or creme fraiche for serving (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a 9” springform pan with parchment paper, set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Peel the apples, cut each apple in half and remove the core. Slice the domed part of each apple into thin slices, leaving the bottom 1/4 of the apple attached, set aside.
- Place the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until fully combined, 3 minutes.
- With the mixer on low speed, add the eggs, one at a time. Make sure each egg is well combined before adding the next egg.
- Add the lemon juice and zest to the batter. Beat until just mixed. The mixture will look curdled but will smooth out when you add the flour.
- Add the flour mixture to the butter and eggs. Beat on medium speed until just combined. Do not over mix. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer and use a rubber spatula to fold in any flour stuck to the sides of the bowl.
- Pour the thick batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top.
- Press the apple halves into the batter with the domed portions facing up.
- Place the cake pan inside a rimmed baking sheet and bake on the middle rack for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean with a couple moist crumbs attached.
- Allow the cake to cool in the pan. Remove the cake from the pan dust with powdered sugar, then serve at room temperature with a hefty dollop of whipped cream.
The recipe calls for cutting the apples “hasselback style” with thin slices on the domed portion of the apples but keeping the apples attached on one side. You can also cut the peeled apples into thin slices and push them on over the top of the batter before baking.
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