I’ve mentioned this before, but just to be absolutely clear: I am not a baker. I’ve neither the patience nor the precision required to make cookies and cakes (nor good enough scales), and I’m always pleasantly surprised when something sweet emerges from the oven all in one piece, or risen, or not burnt. This means that on the infrequent occasions that I do I bake, I choose my recipes very carefully: they don’t necessarily need to be simple, but they do have to be foolproof. And, of course, absolutely delicious. This traditional German sunken apple cake is a cake for people like me.
Geschlupfter Apfelkuchen (which really translates as slipped rather than sunken apple cake) is a truly lovely teatime treat. Though there are various apple cakes to be found all over Germany, this particular versions hails from Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany’s most northeastern state, which is famed for its stunning Baltic coastline and plentiful natural parks and conservation areas. The fruits grown in the region – plums, pears and apples in particular – are used widely in cooking and baking.
This particular apple cake is both moist and more-ish, and since it’s not too sweet and adorned with plenty of fruit, a second (or third) slice doesn’t feel like a mad indulgence. Best of all is that though it takes its time in the oven, it’s very quick to prepare (even with the help of a toddler), and all in all it’s very simple to make. Even for an anti-baker like me.
Sunken Apple Cake (makes 12 generous slices)
3 large sour apples, such as Boskoop or Granny Smith
15g bourbon vanilla sugar (2 packets, if you’re in Germany, or you can very easily make your own)
Juice of one lemon (optional)
100g caster sugar
A pinch of salt
120g self-raising flour (I used Dove’s gluten-free)
6 tbsp neutral oil, such as canola or sunflower
50g butter, plus extra for greasing your cake tin
Icing sugar, caster sugar or sugar crystals
First, heat your oven to 170˚c/325˚f/gas mark 3.
Next, prepare the apples: quarter, core and peel them, then cut them into thick slices – about four or five per quarter. Put them in a large dish, mix with the vanilla sugar and set aside. (If you’re worried about them discolouring, squeeze over some lemon juice.)
Whisk your eggs gently in a large bowl before slowly adding the caster sugar and salt and whisking again till frothy. Carefully fold in the flour and then, once it’s all mixed in, quickly add the olive oil, stirring vigorously as you do.
Grease and line a springform cake tin (approximately 23cm, if you’ve got one, but larger also works) and pour in the batter. Lie your pieces of apple on top of the batter – they’ll sink slightly, but that’s the whole point, so don’t worry. Be as tidy or messy as you like, and keep going till the slices are all on.
Put the cake tin into the oven on the middle shelf to bake and check it after an hour: it might need slightly longer, but it’s ready when the cake visible between the apple slices is golden brown.
Remove from the oven, dot the butter on top and allow to melt. When cool, sieve your icing sugar on top, or sprinkle with caster sugar or decorating crystals.
Serve at room temperature, with a good cup of tea or coffee.
Are you a fan of German apple cakes? How do you like yours?
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