How to Make German Apple Cake Just Like Oma

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Embrace fall flavors and homey feelings with German apple cake—an old-fashioned dessert that's so delicious, we keep making it today.

As soon as fall hits, it seems we’re all craving homey, nostalgic desserts. We say goodbye to light and fluffy summer treats and immediately pop open a can of pumpkin, break out a jar of cinnamon and start peeling apples. Some of us might even dive into grandma’s cookbook to find a few extra cozy recipes. One of our Test Kitchen’s favorite recipes from Grandma is apfelkuchen (German apple cake).

This cake is dense, rich and full of those homey fall flavors that we’re all craving. So head to your favorite orchard, pick some apples and get baking. We’ll show you how to make this German apple cake.

How to Make German Apple Cake

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This old world cake comes to us from Amy Kirchen of Ohio, who told us that her husband’s family has been making this cake for more than 150 years. We love a recipe that can stand the test of time. We also love that this cake uses pantry staples you already have. Here’s what you need to make Oma’s Apfelkuchen:

  • 5 egg yolks
  • 2 medium tart apples, peeled, cored and halved
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1-1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup 2% milk
  • Confectioners’ sugar

Step 1: Prep the Apples

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For this cake, you’ll want to opt for a nice, firm apple that will hold up while baking. Granny Smiths are a great option here (also one of the best apples for apple pie), as are Honecrisp or Cortlands.

To prepare your apples, start by peeling and coring them (this is the best apple peeler, according to our Test Kitchen). Then slice the apples in half. Next, you’ll make a fan with the apples by making slices into each half—about a quarter-inch wide. Don’t slice all the way through the apples; leave about a half-inch unsliced so the fan shape holds together. Set the apples aside while you prep the batter.

Step 2: Cream Butter, Sugar and Eggs

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Next, add your butter and sugar to a large mixing bowl and cream until the mixture is light and fluffy. This will take some time—about five to seven minutes. After creaming, add in the room temperature egg yolks one at a time. Make sure you fully incorporate each before adding the next. Adding only yolks to the batter makes this cake extra rich.

Editor’s tip: Don’t toss those extra egg whites! Use them to make an egg-white omelet, meringues or one of these recipes.

Step 3: Add Dry Mix to the Batter

Next, grab your sifter and sift together the flour, corn starch, cream of tartar, baking powder and salt. If you don’t have a flour sifter, a mesh sieve works just fine. Once you’re done sifting, sift again. That’s right—the dry ingredients get sifted twice in this recipe. Sifting might seem like a pain, but don’t skip it for this recipe. It’ll help give the cake the right texture.

Then slowly add the dry mixture into your creamed butter, sugar and eggs. Beat until just combined, then add in the milk.

This German apple cake batter is thick! Don’t be alarmed if it doesn’t resemble a typical cake batter. You want this batter to be thick, rich and buttery.

Step 4: Prep the Pan and Add Cake Batter

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With your batter and apples ready, it’s time to prepare your cake pan. Grab your favorite nine-inch springform pan and wrap the exterior with a sheet of foil. (Even leakproof pans aren’t foolproof!) Then give the pan a quick spritz of cooking spray. Even if the pan is nonstick, it’s a good idea to grease it just to make removing the cake even easier.

Then spread the cake batter into the pan. Try to spread it in as even a layer as possible. Because the batter is thick, it may take a little finessing, but you’ll get it.

Step 5: Add the Apples and Bake

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All that’s left to do now is add the fanned apples. Press them slightly into the batter (not too far—a quarter-inch will do). Then pop into a 350ºF oven for 45 to 55 minutes. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes away clean (a few crumbs is fine).

Editor’s tip: If your apples split apart when you fan them, don’t worry. Just press them into the batter anyway. The cake batter will bake up around the apples and you won’t be able to tell.

If you find that after 55 minutes the toothpick is still coming out covered in uncooked batter, don’t fret. Just keep the cake in the oven and retest every five minutes until the cake is done. You can tent the pan with foil to prevent excess browning. Because moisture levels vary in apples, cook times can vary for this recipe. It’s OK if the cake takes a bit longer.

Step 6: Cool and Remove from Pan

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When the cake is baked through, remove it from the oven and cool on a wire rack. After 10 minutes, run a knife around the edge of the cake pan and remove the springform collar. Let the cake cool another hour before slicing.

For a finishing touch, you can add a dusting of confectioners’ sugar. It makes everything look more delicious and polished. Slice with a sharp knife and serve!

Why We Love This Old Fashioned German Apple Cake

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This classic apfelkuchen is unlike traditional cakes. It’s buttery, rich and dense. A slice is begging to be topped off with a scoop of ice cream or served up alongside a cup of coffee.

If you manage to have any leftovers, pop them into an airtight container or stash under a cake dome and eat within a few days. Because this cake isn’t overly sweet, we recommend having a slice for breakfast the next day. Here are some more of our favorite dessert for breakfast recipes.

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Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is an editor at Taste of Home where she gets to embrace her passion for baking. She pours this love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa is also dedicated to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.