German Apple Cake (Versunkener Apfelkuchen) is a traditional German dessert that is so easy to make even if you aren’t totally kitchen confident! With a simple batter that rises up and bakes around the apples this easy apple coffee cake is the perfect everyday dessert that tastes best with a dollop of whipped cream on top.
Sunken Apple Cake is one of the easiest cakes to make! With a simple batter that rises up and bakes around the apples this coffee cake is easy enough to make every day but also special enough for a holiday dinner.
This traditional apple cake is served with a dusting of powdered sugar on top and a big dollop of whipped cream. But for special occasions, I love to serve it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. So delicious!
What also makes this cake a great choice for holidays, potlucks, or parties is that it tastes best on the next day. I always make this cake one day in advance! It is moister and more flavorful on the next day because the apples will infuse the cake.
In Germany, this cake is often served in the afternoon for “coffee and cake” time (Kaffee und Kuchen). It’s a coffee break at around 3 pm where people sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee with a piece of cake, a pastry, or cookies. My grandparents do this every day.
Tips and Tricks for Making German Apple Cake
- Making small cuts but not cutting through the apples makes them bake quicker. Using a small knife for this work best.
- You want to fit as many apple quarters as possible in the pan and they should be placed quite snug. This recipe doesn’t make much batter because the batter will rise up and bake around the apples.
- This cake tastes great warm but it tasted even better on the next day in my opinion.
- You can brush the apples with hot apricot jam after you take the cake out of the oven. This adds a nice shine!
- You need cake flour for this recipe! If you don’t have it at home you can easily make your own (see below).
How to make cake flour from all-purpose flour
To make cake flour from all-purpose flour, you measure one cup of all-purpose flour, remove two tablespoons flour from the cup and add 2 tbsp cornstarch. Sift the mixture two times to evenly distribute the cornstarch.
1 cup AP flour – 2 Tablespoons AP flour + 2 Tablespoons cornstarch = 1 cup cake flour
What apples to use for Apple Cake?
You need small apples for this recipe, so they get soft while baking and to fit more into the pan. I always use what I have on hand. Golden Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, or Boskop apples, all taste great in this cake. The quality of the apples is really important because the cake is so simple and the apples are the main flavor. If you use a really sour apple, don’t skip the sweetened whipped cream because this cake will not be as sweet as an American cake.
How to make Vanilla Sugar from Scratch
To make vanilla sugar at home you need 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 vanilla bean. Place the sugar into the bowl of a food processor. Scrape out the vanilla bean using the back of a knife and scrape the seeds into the bowl with the sugar. Pulse the sugar and vanilla seeds until well incorporated. Store vanilla sugar together with the scraped-out vanilla bean in an airtight container until ready to use.
Can you freeze Apple Cake?
Yes, you can freeze the baked cake. Let it cool to room temperature, cover it airtight with plastic wrap and freeze it up to 3 months.
How long will Apple Cake stay fresh?
This cake will stay fresh 3-4 days covered at room temperature. It tastes best on the second day in my opinion. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar just before serving.
What to serve with apple cake?
Whipped cream is traditionally served with German apple cake. But I also love a big scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.
How to make whipped cream?
To make whipped cream (Schlagsahne), you need 1 cup cold heavy cream and 1 tbsp sugar or vanilla sugar. To make it easier and more foolproof, place a metal mixing bowl and metal whisk into the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes. Put the sugar into the mixing bowl and add the whipping cream. Whisk just until the cream reaches stiff peaks. Don’t overwhip or you get butter not whipped cream! Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 10 hours.
Looking for more Apple Cake Recipes?
- German Apple Streusel Sheet Cake
- German Covered Apple Cake Recipe
- Puff Pastry Walnut Apple Strudel
- Apple Cinnamon Bread
- Apple Cake Recipe with Cinnamon Butter
If you are looking for more German recipes you can find all of them here.
Tools used for making this Apple Cake Recipe
Springform Pan: You need one of these for this cake. 9-inch and 10-inch pans work both.
Vanilla Sugar: In Germany, vanilla sugar is used instead of vanilla extract. You can buy it on Amazon or make your own.
Cake Flour: You need cake flour for this recipe. German all-purpose flour equals American cake flour. Using American all-purpose flour in this recipe would result in a dry cake.
Want to try this easy Apple Cake Recipe?
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German Apple Cake Recipe
- 4 small apples
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla sugar, or vanilla extract
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 3 large eggs
- 1 1/2 cups cake flour, (see instructions above)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp milk
- Powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease the bottom of a 9- or 10-inch springform or use parchment paper.
- Peel, quarter, and core the apples. Thinly slice each quarter lengthwise without cutting all the way through (like in the image above).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter until creamy, about 1 minute. Add sugar and mix until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
- Add eggs one at a time and beat for 30 seconds on high speed after each addition.
- Add vanilla sugar (or extract) and lemon juice. Beat until combined.
- Combine cake flour, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer running on low speed add half of the flour, then 1 tbsp milk, followed by the remaining flour, and then the remaining milk. Beat until just combined. Don't overmix!
- Transfer batter into prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Distribute the apples with the sliced side up on top (see image above).
- Bake in the lower third of the oven for 45 minutes, until lightly browned and a skewer comes out clean.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and remove the springform ring. Let cake cool on the bottom of the springform pan to room temperature.
- Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cooled cake and serve with sweetened whipped cream.
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If you’ve tried this or any other of my recipes, don’t forget to rate the recipe and to leave me a comment. I love hearing from you!
I love baking this cake. The only thing missing is 2 tablespoons of sour cream. Makes the cake fluffier!
Laura Schneider says
Delish i used cake flour substitute but used 1/2 cup of flour for coconut and almond flour combined.
Then instead of sugar i used monkfruit sugar and vanilla power instead of sugar. I cooked 5 min longer
Malavika Mohanan says
Hey, loved the recipe.
I was wondering is the apple supposed to taste a little bitter. The cake tasted sweet and the apple bit sour. Thing is, I have ever had this type of cake before, so I’m just curious if it is supposed to taste that way?
I LOVED the taste, even my mother loved it. The combination of the sweetness from the cake and the bitterness of the apple was amazing.
The recipe was super easy to follow. Thank you!
Julia Foerster says
I have never had it taste bitter. Perhaps try a different type of apple next time.
I was wondering if I can use a 9 x 9 inch square pan?
Cynthia Schimming says
This cake is delicious…. I doubled the ingredients for a bigger cake and a added coconut too…yummy
Lovely flavor, and really enjoy the guilt free cake (not a lot of butter or sugar). But can’t give it 5 stars because of the texture. Despite it getting a bit more moist the next day as mentioned in the recipe, it’s still not a moist cake, and a little dry for my taste.
Julia Foerster says
Mmh not sure what went wrong, perhaps you had it a bit too long in the oven, Claude. This cake always comes out moist for me.
Carrie Goertz says
Hi! Can you tell me if you used a 9 or 10 inch springform for the cake pictured? I’d love it to turn out just like the picture. I’m making it tomorrow along with some of your other recipes for a German family feast!
Julia Foerster says
I think I used a 10-inch pan when I took the photos.
This is such an easy, moist, tasty, elegant coffee cake to bake! The freshly picked apples became tender while keeping their shape. I did add a sprinkle of granulated sugar on top of the cake before baking it. My family loved it with a dusting of icing sugar and a spoonful of whipped cream. They also asked me not to freeze it since it will not stay ling on the serving plate. Excellent cake to serve company who especially do not like iced cakes. Thank you for this discovery, Joanne
I loved making this cake and followed the cake flour trick and used 6 gala apples. The cake came out perfect, exactly as I have tasted in Germany and German restaurants – not too sweet and caramelized on top. I baked in the center rack for 45 minutes and it was just slightly toasted on top, and I topped with powdered sugar and served with whip cream on the side. It looks so impressive, I think I will make it again for the holidays. Thank you so much for posting this recipe.
I enjoyed this recipe! I agree with the others that it’s definitely not too sweet, probably not sweet enough for the typical American palette. The only thing I would change to this recipe is to make sure to bake it in the middle rack of the oven, at least for my oven. After 45 minutes at the bottom third, the top was still pale and the sides and bottoms were sufficiently browned. I had to bake it for 10 more minutes in the middle rack which took the bottoms and sides to a dark brown color which was just a little too firm.
Hey I’m from Germany and I was looking for a good apple cake recipe a long time now. I really like the cake and the recipe is super. I did the cake with my kids and they love it too. Our cake was a little bit dry. Do you have any suggestions how I can make it better next time?
Julia Foerster says
Cakes like this always get moister on the second day, but if it’s really dry it might have been in the oven too long. Next time check a bit earlier if the cake is done, some ovens just run hotter.
Christina Chastain says
Yummy recipe. Made the cake flower, ordered the vanilla sugar..made vanilla whipped cream. Didn’t have apricot jam so used bear jam. Beautiful color, wonderful taste. Husband is German and appreciates the less sugar in German recipes.
Very tasty and beautifully looking cake. I tried your recipe a while ago and it immediately became my family’s favorite cake (which I am quite happy about, since it is so easy to prepare). I like to add small chunks of marzipan, which I place under the apples.
Last week I made the cake again, but I used pears instead of apples. Also very tasty and highly recommended. The pears were a little softer than the apples, so the dough surrounding the pears was a little more moist (but not too moist). It made a nice and juicy cake.
After visiting Germany last year, I was feeling nostalgic and decided to make this cake. It came out moist and the edges were carmelized to perfection. I love how it’s not overly sweet and didn’t even need the whipped cream! Loved it!
Brigitte Wittel says
Sehr Gut. Very Good.
Jen K. says
Just helped my 11yo make this for her German class. It was delicious! Not too sweet and terrific texture. Thanks for sharing!
What is the serving size for the nutritional info provided? My daughter and I baked this last night. Her Oma would be proud–can’t wait to taste it tomorrow on Thanksgiving! :)
Julia Foerster says
Happy Thanksgiving, Renea! The serving size for the nutritional value is 1/12 of the cake.
This is a wonderfully foolproof recipe, and delicious! We used small pink lady apples and made the cake flour from regular flour with your instructions. My son sliced the apples with a pastry cutter, which worked great.
I love this recipe! I also love using whole grains and alternative flours. I substituted one of the cups of flour with oat flour and used nectarines instead. It was a huge hit can’t wait to make it again with apple season being here!
Can’t wait to make this today! The perfectionist German in me is wondering if you have weight measurements available instead of the American cups. Thank you!
Yes, you can switch to metric measurements in the recipe card. There is a little button in line with the ingredients header to toggle between US customary and metric. Hope this helps!