Text by Emma Wartzman and Recipe by Olaf Klutke, Basically - Bon Appètit
We’re in the midst of Apple Season, the longest season of any fruit that exists. It stretches from late summer to late winter, and is rivaled in duration perhaps only by Potato Season, but potatoes aren’t even a fruit. So...back to apples.
It is easy to get frustrated at apples, to take out your I’m-so-over-this-weather and why-isn’t-there-anything-else-at-the-market energy on them. I, for one, just stuffed my face with apple pie for several days in a row, made Apple Pandowdy twice for recent dinner parties, and had slices of this guy and this guy in the test kitchen. And this is not to mention the countless apples I have sunk my teeth into as a straight-up snack. I’m over it! Or at least I thought I was over it—until I met this Buttery German Apple Cake.
The recipe came to us courtesy of a BA reader, submitted among hundreds for our annual Reader Recipe Challenge. It won for a reason. Listen, those other desserts I just mentioned are fantastic. You should make them. But there’s something about this cake that stands out, and this is actually because it is so much more than a cake. It is like a cake and a cookie and a tart all in one! Tell me you’re not intrigued.
The base is a dough made from sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, salt, flour, egg, vanilla, and butter. You mush it all together in one bowl with a fork and then your hands. No equipment required. It should be a large, soft mass, almost of sugar cookie consistency. You press that down into a buttered springform pan with a removable bottom. Next spread a thin layer of apricot preserves over the surface, which is a genius way of giving a subtle, slightly different taste and ensuring a glossy look to the finished product.
Then comes the topping, quartered apples sliced into shingles up until the very bottom so that each piece holds together. Shingles are beautiful! They make the dessert look fancy without much effort. You arrange those on top, pressing down slightly, and bake it. The dough puffs up a bit around the apples from the baking powder and what results is a crisp, golden brown bottom, a chewier middle from the release of liquid in the preserves and the fruit, and then slightly softened (but not mushy!) apples as the crown of the cake. It is a delight of textures (especially when served with whipped cream), and is the best way to cap off a cold weather dinner party that I know of.
This is all to say: Next time you think you’re done with apples, think again.
Buttery German Apple Cake
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature, plus more for pan
¼ cup plain fine breadcrumbs
⅔ cup granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3 Tbsp. apricot preserves
3 medium, firm apples, such as Pink Lady or Honeycrisp
½ cup powdered sugar
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Unsweetened whipped cream (for serving)
A 10"-diameter springform pan with removable bottom
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease bottom and sides of springform pan with butter, then coat with breadcrumbs, tapping out excess.
Whisk granulated sugar, lemon zest, baking powder, salt, and 1 cup flour in a large bowl. Create a well in the center and add egg, vanilla, and remaining ½ cup butter. Using a fork and working in a circular motion, stir until dough starts to form large clumps. Using lightly floured hands, knead very gently in bowl until dough comes together in one large, soft mass (you may need to add a little bit of flour to dough to keep from sticking to your hands).
Still using lightly floured hands, press dough into bottom of springform pan, then press into an even layer with the bottom of a dry measuring cup or mug, sprinkling a little flour over dough if it starts to stick to measuring cup. Spread apricot preserves in a thin layer over surface of dough with a small offset spatula.
Peel and quarter apples. Cut core out of each quarter and arrange apples flat side down on cutting board. Make thin parallel crosswise slices in each quarter, taking care not to cut all the way through so apples stay in one shingled piece. Arrange apple quarters in concentric circles over entire surface of dough, trimming to fit if necessary (you may have a few extra pieces).
Bake cake, rotating pan halfway through, until apples and crust are golden in colour, 55–60 minutes (apples will not be completely tender, but that’s intentional). Let cool 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, place powdered sugar in a small bowl. Gradually pour in lemon juice, whisking constantly until a thick but pourable glaze forms.
Remove sides of springform pan. Lightly brush top and sides of cake with glaze. Let cool completely before transferring to a platter. Serve with whipped cream alongside.
Feature Image: Chelsie Craig