German Apple Cake

My friend Emma, who has orchards of apples, recently gave me several slices of this delicious cake, with the recipe, but on quizzing could not adequately explain why it is a particularly ‘German’ cake. Still, the German’s are awfully good at this sort of thing, so credit where it’s due. Emma uses an Aga/Stanley type of oven (ie very little thermostatic control), so I’ve adapted the recipe for a fan oven. I’ve also made a few additions of my own, aimed at upping the apple quanitity, while reducing their sogginess. The result is a very moist but not wet cake.

It’s a three-stage production, which isn’t difficult, but it does generate quite a bit of washing up. After a couple of attempts, I’ve developed a reasonably efficient modus operandi, which I’ve included in these long-winded instructions. My top tip is to have two large and two small bowls ready. Measure out everything and prepare the base and the topping at the same time in the two large bowls. Use the small bowls for the dry filling ingredients – one for the sugar/spices and the other for the almonds, and set aside. Don’t even begin to worry about the apples until the base and crumble topping are prepared. It takes a while to get everything ready, but assembling the cake and getting it into the oven should be quick.


6oz (175g) self-raising flour
3oz (85g) soft brown sugar
2oz (60g) ground almonds
4oz (110g) butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon lemon juice (from a fresh lemon)

1.5lb–2lb (675g–900g) apples, unprepared weight (5–6 largish apples)
2oz (60g) ground almonds (or, even better, mix 1oz ground almonds with 1oz flaked almonds for extra crunch)
3oz (85g) soft brown sugar
half a teaspoon mixed spice
1 tablespoon lemon juice (from the same lemon you used earlier!)

4oz (110g) self-raising flour
3oz (85g) soft brown sugar
1tsp cinnamon
1tsp mixed spice
3oz (85g) butter


Grease and line an 8x12inch traybake tin or a 9-inch square cake tin (I use Silverwood’s 8x12-inch brownie tin for this quantity. A round 9 or 10-inch cake tin would also work.) NB it’s not an easy cake to turn out, so either use a loose-based tin, or be prepared to cut the cake while it’s in the tin.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan).

Cut the lemon in half and squeeze out the juice. Set the juice and lemon skins aside until needed.

Prepare the base first: Sieve the flour into a bowl, stir in the sugar and almonds. Rub in the butter to a breadcrumb consistency, then bind with the beaten egg and 1tbs of the lemon juice. Tip into the prepared tin and press down lightly and evenly, using your knuckles (flour your hands for this), completely covering the base of the tin. Put in the fridge until everything else is ready.

Next prepare the topping: Sieve the flour and spices into a bowl, stir in the sugar and rub in the butter. Set aside.

Next prepare the filling: Reserve 1tbs lemon juice. Put the remaining juice and lemon carcasses into a large bowl of water for the apples. Peel the apples and core them, putting each prepared apple into the lemon water to stop them browning. When they are all peeled, quickly slice into a clean, dry bowl, using a hand slicer/mandoline if you have one. The thinner the better. Then toss in the lemon juice, mixed spice and sugar and HALF the almonds, being quite heavy-handed to squeeze out the juice a bit.

Then assemble the cake: Evenly sprinkle the remaining HALF quantity of almonds on to the cake base (this stops the cake absorbing too much apple juice and going soggy). Then layer the apple slices on top. This does not need to be neat in any way, but an even, deep covering is desirable. If your apples are very wet, you may be left with a few tablespoons of sweet spicey apple juice in the bottom of the bowl. This is a cook’s perk. Do not add it to the cake – drink it surreptitiously rather than discard it.

On top of the apples, sprinkle the topping mixture, again in an even layer. Then bake for about an hour, until the top is nicely browned and the apples are cooked through.

Serve warm with cream as a pudding, or cold as tasty snack with a cup of tea and your feet up.




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