A classic German Apple Cake is one of my all-time favourite cakes to bake when the leaves are turning and fresh apples are in season. Loaded with apple slices, this simple cake is excellent for beginners and perfect to serve with afternoon tea and a cup of coffee.
What is a German Apple Cake?
Around these parts, this sort of cake is known as a Versunkener Apfelkuchen or Sunken Apple Cake. This is a simple, quickly made cake topped with slices of tart apple.
The batter rises around the apples as the cake cooks, giving it the classic sunken effect. Some German cakes can be complicated, but this recipe is super easy!
You’ll find similar cakes all over Europe, but I will always associate this delicious sweet treat with Germany.
After all, the Germans know what they are talking about when it comes to seriously good cakes to be served with coffee in the afternoon (Kaffee und Kuchen is practically a national sport).
To make my traditional German Apple Cake Recipe, you’ll need the following main ingredients:
- Apples: The star of the show and the most important ingredient! For a cake like this, where you want the apples to retain most of their structure, you are best to use a slightly tart variety. Granny Smith apples, Braeburn and Boskoop are all great candidates. Try to find smaller apples, as while enormous apples will still taste great, they are more challenging to arrange in the cake pan.
- Butter: In Germany, we usually use unsalted, cultured butter. Now, cultured butter doesn’t mean that this is butter that goes to the opera and visits museums! It is made from cream that has had a culture introduced and has a light tanginess. Any good quality unsalted butter is suitable for this cake.
- Sugar: I always use plain white sugar in this recipe so that the flavour of the apples can really stand out. Brown sugar will overwhelm the subtle apple flavour (though it’s great in an apple streusel cake like this one!)
- Vanilla, Cinnamon and Lemon Zest: These flavours enhance the apple cake.
- Eggs: I use German Large (L) eggs, which weigh approximately 68g (2.4 oz) in the shell. This is quite a forgiving cake, so don’t stress too much about this.
- Flour, baking powder, milk and salt: The building blocks of a cake. I use German cake flour (Type 405), but this recipe will work with all-purpose flour too.
This is a SUPER easy cake recipe. In fact, I always find the hardest part is waiting for it to cool down enough to eat!
- First, prepare your cake pan and heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F. Place a rack in the bottom third of the oven. This will ensure that the cake cooks properly on the bottom.
- Next, peel and slice your apples. If you work quickly, you can keep them on the board while you chop, but if you want to take your time or you are using a variety that browns rapidly, fill a bowl with water, add a squeeze of lemon juice and place the apple slices in there as you cut to stop them going brown.
- After that, you’ll need to make the cake batter by creaming the butter and sugar together and adding the flavourings and the eggs. Don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled when you add the eggs; it’ll come right when you mix in the flour and baking powder next. The mixture is fairly stiff, but that stops your apples from sinking to the bottom and disappearing!
- Then, all that is left is to spread the batter into the prepared cake pan, place the apple slices on top and bake until risen and golden brown. Yum!
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Which apples are best for this apple cake?
Smaller, tarter (or more sour) varieties. I like Granny Smith, Braeburn or Boskoop. I often use a mixture to get a nice balance.
Can I freeze German Apple Cake?
Yes, this is a sturdy cake, so it is perfectly suitable for freezing. Allow to cool completely, wrap in clingfilm and again in foil. Cakes freeze well for around 3 months. This apple cake is quite delicious served hot with custard (though this is not how it would be served in Germany!)
How do I store Apple Cake?
Well covered in a cool place for 3-4 days. To keep this cake moist, I’d recommend an airtight container.
How can I tell my cake is cooked?
It should be well-risen and golden brown. A skewer inserted into the thickest part of the cake batter should come out clean or with a few small crumbs attached.
I DON’T HAVE A CAKE PAN IN THE RIGHT SIZE! CAN I STILL BAKE THIS APPLE CAKE?
Yes, for sure. I like to bake this cake in a deep-sided pie dish, but as it is reasonably robust you can be flexible with your choice of baking dish. Just keep an eye on it and test it with a wooden skewer to ensure it is cooked through. Try to find something as close to the recommended size as possible.
LOOKING FOR MORE APPLE RECIPES?
I love cooking with apples! Why not try my deliciously nutty and crunchy Farmhouse Apple Cake, or New Zealand classic Apple Shortcake? How about my Deep Dish Apple Pie? Or a Traditional German Apple Strudel?
German Apple Cake Recipe
- 750g (1.75 lb.) tart apples (granny smith, braeburn, boskoop etc.)
- 125g (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 125g (½ cup) white sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract or vanilla sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- zest of 1 lemon
- pinch of salt
- 3 large eggs
- 200g (1 ¼ cups) plain or all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 Tbsp milk
- powdered sugar
- whipped cream
- PREPARE: Grease the sides and line the base of a 26cm / 10 in. round springform pan. Heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 with a rack in the bottom third of the oven.
- PEEL AND SLICE THE APPLES: Peel the apples, cut them into quarters and remove the cores. Slice each quarter 5-6 times lengthways, keeping the slices together. Set aside.
- CREAM BUTTER AND SUGAR: Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy using an electric mixer. Beat in the vanilla, cinnamon, lemon zest and salt. Add the eggs one by one, beating well between each addition.
- ADD THE DRY INGREDIENTS: Sift over the flour and baking powder, add the milk, and mix until just combined. This is a fairly stiff batter (which stops the apples from sinking too far), but if it is extremely dry, add a splash more milk.
- ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Use a silicone spatula to spread the cake batter evenly over the base of the prepared cake pan. Place the sliced apples on the top of the batter, starting on the outside and working your way into the middle, keeping the apple halves as much in their original shape as possible.
- BAKE: Bake in the preheated oven for 45-50 minutes until the cake has risen and is golden brown. A skewer inserted into the thickest part of the cake should come out clean or with perhaps a few crumbs attached.
- COOL AND SERVE: Allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack before dusting it with icing sugar and serving with whipped cream (or a scoop of vanilla ice cream!)
Smaller apples work best for a cake like this as they will look more beautiful in the finished cake.
Storage: Store this delicious cake in an airtight container. It is best kept in the fridge if it is warm where you live or the house is warm. You may even find it tastes better on the second day!
Pro tip: Different apples can be more or less juicy. If you insert the skewer and the cake is clearly not cooked, it may be that you have very juicy apples. You'll simply need to increase the baking time a little bit and tent loosely with some foil if it is browning too rapidly.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 slice
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 178Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 74mgSodium: 179mgCarbohydrates: 32gFiber: 1gSugar: 18gProtein: 4g
Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.
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