Apfel Kuchen

Last week, I bought a bag of apples at the grocery store–My favorite kind (Jonathan) were on sale. I knew I was going to make something or other with the bulk of them…I love apples in just about every form, except whole. I know. It’s weird. I’ll slice and eat them, but I won’t just grab one and start munching away. But I love apples in savory dishes, in sweets, as applesauce…And especially as apple cake. Or in this case, Apfel Kuchen.

Apfel KuchenWhen I was younger, my folks used to say we were basically 3/4 German and 1/4 French ancestry, with a smidge of Dutch thrown in. Fast forward about 25 years, and the further back I’ve gone with our family tree, I’ve since discovered it’s more like 1/4 English, 1/4 Dutch, 1/4 German and 1/4 French, with a hint of Irish and the possibility of some Native American thrown in. What does that have to do with anything? Nothing, other than I’m trying a German dessert, for the heck of it.

So, the Apfel Kuchen…Also random aside, Kuchen happens to be the South Dakota State Dessert. Which, given how much the Norwegians (my husband’s family included) around here go bonkers for things like lutefisk and lefse (Lefse’s actually pretty good…I wouldn’t touch lutefisk with a 10-foot-pole for all the money in Mitt Romney’s offshore accounts) is a little surprising to me. I didn’t realize there’s a rather large pocket of folks with German ancestry in the central portion of the state. But there are as many kuchen recipes apparently as there are Oles and Lenas ’round here…But could I find one that I absolutely HAD to make? No. Well, obviously I did, but it took me a few days.

The hard part is/was narrowing everything down. Kuchen is the German word for cake, and can be used to describe a staggering number of desserts. And though my maternal grandparents were fiercely proud of their German heritage, I can’t recall any instance of my grandma making anything close to an Apfel Kuchen when I was a kid. So after a few days of searching, I finally came across a recipe from Jenni, at Pastry Chef Online.

Apfel Kuchen - Slice 1It is time-consuming, but well worth the effort. We popped over to Jay’s folks’ for lunch on Sunday, and after we got home, I got to work. I figured that with Jenni being a pastry chef and all, she most likely weighed her ingredients. I point this out because I usually don’t do that with baking, unless it’s something that’s a little fussy, like my failed macarons. Or, in this case, a recipe from someone who’s an actual chef and used to using more precise measurements. So I dug out the kitchen scale. And because I wasn’t paying as close of attention to my butter and milk, I had to wait for it to cool off some before adding it to the rest of the ingredients. Still, even though it sounds rather complex with the yeast dough and the cheesecake layer, it’s actually a lot less labor-intensive than you’d expect.

Apfel Kuchen 2The “hardest” part about the whole recipe was peeling and coring the apples!

But still, it’s worth it. It’s a delicious autumnal dessert…Way better than apple pie (which no, I don’t really like…I know. It’s weird, like me and whole apples).

Yield: 10-12

Apfel Kuchen

Apfel Kuchen
Prep Time 3 hours 30 minutes
Cook Time 55 minutes
Total Time 4 hours 25 minutes


For the Dough:

  • 1 packet active dry yeast (1/4-oz.)
  • 1.75 oz. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. whole milk (1/2 C)
  • 3 oz. unsalted butter (6 Tbsp.)
  • 1 large egg
  • 12 oz. all-purpose flour

For the Apple Filling:

  • 6 Jonathan apples
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. apple pie spice (or, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg, 1/8 tsp. allspice & a dash of ginger)
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar

For the Cheesecake Filling:

  • 1 block of cream cheese (8-oz.), softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 oz. sugar


In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the yeast, sugar, salt and 4 ounces of the flour. Over low heat, melt the butter with the milk, without bringing it to a boil. The temperature should be between 125-130 degrees F. Add the milk mixture along with 1 egg to the flour mixture. Mix for 2 minutes on medium-low speed, using the paddle attachment.

Add in 4 more ounces of flour, and mix for 2-3 more minutes. Switch to the dough hook.

Drop the speed to low, and add the remaining 4 ounces of flour, a little at a time. Once all the flour has been added, increase the speed back to medium-low, and knead the dough for about 7 minutes.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover, and allow it to rise for an hour or two (it may not double in size).

Spray a 10-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Press the dough along the bottom of the pan, and up the sides about 1 1/2-inches.

Peel and core the apples. Thinly slice them, and toss with the lemon juice to prevent browning.

Mix together the salt, apple pie spice, flour and sugar, and toss with the apples. Arrange them as desired over the dough.

Combine the cream cheese and sugar and mix on medium speed. Add in the egg, salt and vanilla, and mix until well-combined. Pour over the apples and allow the dough to rise again for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until the center is mostly set, wiggling just a little if you shake the pan.

Allow to cool, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Did you make this recipe?

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I admit, I probably let this cook a little longer than necessary, but I wanted to make sure it was done. Not that I don’t like a gooey center, but I didn’t want the middle of the cake to collapse. But I don’t think there was much danger in that! No, the danger is going to be in it not lasting too long. Jay’s already had 2 pieces, the bambino’s eaten one, and I’ve had one. I should probably lower the servings to 8!