German Sunken Apple Cake (Versunkener Apfelkuchen)

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It’s that time of the year again when we trade in our shorts, tank tops and flip flops for light coats, cardigans and socks. I can feel it in the air. Fall. Rather than fighting it, I happily relinquish summer with baking. And nothing says Fall to me than a German Sunken Apple Cake coming out of my oven. Seven years ago, I discovered this German afternoon cake from a cookbook, Unser Kochbuch No. 1. Das Kompakte Universalkochbuch, given to us by J’s mom (she loves sharing recipes like I do). I have baked this multiple times every year since then. J translated the recipe for me, of course. Dankeschön, mein Liebling.

What I love about the Sunken Apple Cake

Despite its seemingly complicated yet self-explanatory German name—go ahead and say it out loud, this cake is easy to make. There is no special ingredient required and it is fairly quick to put together. Preparing the Hasselback-sliced apples is the most involved part of the prep work, but it’s worth the effort. Not only does that ensure that the apples soften throughout, it also makes for a delightfully appealing presentation. The apple quarters are propped on a thick batter and sprinkled with turbinado sugar.  Traditionally, the cake is only lightly dusted with powdered sugar before serving. I do that sometimes, but I also love having the crunchy element from the large sugar crystals.German Sunken Apple Cake - before baking

During baking, the apple wedges sink and fan out a little bit, while the batter puffs up around them. The resulting cake is sturdy enough to hold the apples in place and is a touch on the dry side, which I believe makes them last longer at room temperature. Plus, no soggy cake there. The crumb is lightly sweet and lets the flavours of the apples shine. This is why I’d highly recommend using your favourite sweet-tart variety/ies for this recipe.

Our very own Fall harvest

We tend to bake with our backyard harvest of Spencer apples in as soon as we get them. Spencers have an alluring aroma and amazing balance of sweetness and tartness that lends extremely well to baked goods.

As it happens, we just picked a couple of boxes of apples over the weekend. They are as organic as it gets—lumps, bumps, bruises, and often with surprise “friends” inside…all natural indeed! Even with half of the fruit being unusable, I’d keep coming back to them because what could be better than baking with one’s own harvest?

I simply adore this cake and it epitomizes what I like in an afternoon treat: light, delicate, and goes perfectly well with coffee or tea. But who am I kidding? This is lovely with sips of bubbles, too.

German Sunken Apple Cake

Some of you may recall that I had previously shared this German Sunken Apple Cake in my blog back in 2013. Alas, I couldn’t automatically recover the posts from the backup of the old site anymore. It’s hard work, but I’m slowly manually extracting the hundreds of recipes I’ve posted throughout the years so I can share (and make) them again.

German Sunken Apple Cake - sliced

Looking for more fruit recipes? There’s still time to make this Peach Focaccia until the end of the stone fruit season.

Versunkener Apfelkuchen (German Sunken Apple Cake)

A favourite German afternoon cake, this lightly sweetened showstopper of a cake cake wonderfully features the fall harvest.
Prep Time25 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Afternoon Tea, Breakfast, Dessert, Snacks
Cuisine: German
Keyword: Apples, Autumn, Baking, Fall

Equipment

  • 9" springform pan

Ingredients

Apple Topping

  • 3 medium apples peeled, cored and quartered
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (juice of half a medium-size lemon)
  • 25 grams (2 tablespoons) granulated sugar

Cake Batter

  • 125 grams (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons)granulated sugar
  • 125 grams (1/2 cups + 2 1/2 teaspoons) unsalted butter room temperature
  • 3 large eggs yolks and whites separated into 2 bowls
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or **1 package of Dr. Oetker vanilla sugar (from the original recipe)
  • 200 grams (1 1/2 cups)unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 8 grams (2 teaspoons) baking powder or **1/2 package of Dr. Oetker baking powder (from the original recipe)
  • 1 tablespoon (7 grams) powdered sugar optional, for serving

Instructions

Apple Topping

  • Take each piece of apple and using a sharp paring knife cut lengthwise slits 1/4-inch apart to create a "fan". Placing two chopsticks, one on each side of the wedge perpendicular to the knife, will help prevent slicing the wedge all the way through. If you make "Hasselback" potatoes, that is basically the same technique used here.
  • Place prepared apples in a small bowl and toss with lemon juice and sugar. Set aside.

Cake Batter

  • Preheat oven to 350°F with the rack in the lower middle position. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan by lightly greasing it with butter, then lining the bottom and sides with parchment circle and strips. This ensures the parchment paper will stay in place, and the cake will easily separate from the side and bottom of the pan with ease.
  • Cream the butter and sugar over medium speed in a stand mixer bowl fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a medium bowl using a hand mixer) until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  • Add vanilla extract and egg yolks. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for another 10 seconds.
  • Whisk together flour and baking powder in a separate small bowl. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in three (3) increments until incorporated, scraping the sides of the bowl at least once. The batter will be very thick, similar to a cookie dough.
  • Whisk egg whites to stiff peaks and fold a few dollops into the batter to loosen it up, then fold in the rest.
  • Pour into the springfrom pan and level with a spatula. Carefully place apple quarters core side down into the batter, pressing lightly to secure them in place. You can arrange them according to your desired pattern. Placing one in the center and the surrounding it with the rest is one way to do it.
  • Bake in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, depending on your oven and pan. It is done when a cake tester inserted in a non-apple section in the centre comes out clean and the top of the cake (not the apples) is lightly browned.
  • Cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes before unfastening and removing the side of the springform pan. Cool completely on a wire rack before placing on a plate.
    Optional: Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Notes

This recipe was translated and adapted from the German cookbook, Unser Kochbuch No. 1. Das Kompakte Universalkochbuch. It is sadly not 

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