A friend (who really knows the the way to this girl’s heart) gifted me with Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking for my birthday back in July. The summer was so full (and hot) that I rarely turned on the oven, but now that Fall is in full swing (and I’ve been watching The Great British Bake Off on Netflix), I was itching to get back to baking and trying some new recipes!
Having done our traditional apple picking trip a few weeks back, I’m up to my eyeballs in apples, even after having made two pies, but Classic German Baking was ready for me with three different Apfelkuchen recipes. I fully intend to try all three in the coming weeks, but based on what was in my pantry/fridge, I went with the Versunkener Apfelkuchen first, which also happens to be the simplest of the three. And since the recipe declared it “great for people baking with small children” I asked Little Miss Cleaver to help out. (The smiley face was all LMC’s idea and execution).
The high egg and butter content makes the cake-crumb similar to that of a pound cake and the batter is lightly flavored with lemon-zest, making it a bright alternative to the cinnamon and nutmeg-heavy desserts typical of fall and making it suitable as a spring and summer dessert too. The raw sugar sprinkled on the top before baking gives the top a pleasing crunch. I didn’t have any cream on hand to make whipped cream, but it would be nice finish to this simple, but pleasing dessert.
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German Sunken Apple Cake (Versunkener Apfelkuchen)
Easy enough to whip together on a weekday and fun to make with kids, this classic German cake combines apples and lemon zest under a raw sugar crust for a bright and delicious dessert.
3 medium apples
1 medium lemon, scrubbed
1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons (125g) granulated sugar
9 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (130g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, room temperature
11/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons demerara (raw) sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9” round cake pan (or springform pan) with an oil-based spread (like Crisco or baking spray) and line the bottom of the pan with parchment.
Peel the apples, then core and slice into 8ths (I use a corer/slicer to make quick work of this).
Zest the lemon into a bowl with the butter and sugar. Cut the lemon in half and juice one half. Strain any seeds and set the juice aside.
Using a sturdy wooden spoon or mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
Add vanilla extract and one egg, mixing until fully combined. Add remaining eggs one at a time, fully combining each egg before adding the next.
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lemon juice and flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the apple slices with the core side down in a circle around the edge of the pan, pressing down slightly, so each slice is secured in place. Take the remaining apples and place in the center. Sprinkle the top of the cake generously with demerara sugar.
Place pan in the center of the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
Let the cake cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing pan. The cake should be firm enough that it should be easy to move without disturbing the apples.
Enjoy at room temperature with some lightly sweetened whipped cream.
Adapted from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss