German Apple Cake (Versunkener Apfelkuchen)

German apple cake (versunkener apfelkuchen) is a perfect fall dessert that even a novice cook can make. In Germany, this cake is often served in the afternoon for “coffee and cake” time (kaffee und kuchen), a coffee break at around 3 p.m. where people sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee with a piece of cake, a pastry, or cookies. Traditionally this cake is given just a light dusting of powdered sugar and served with a dollop of fresh, sweet whipped cream, but you could also serve it warm with a cold scoop of vanilla ice cream. If you want, you can also give your finished apfelkuchen a golden and glossy appearance by lightly brushing it with a little hot apricot jam.


  • 4 small apples
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla sugar*, or vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 large eggs
  • cups cake flour**
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. milk
  • Powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C) and grease the bottom of a 9- or 10-inch springform or use parchment paper.
  2. Peel, quarter, and core the apples. Using a small knife, thinly slice each quarter lengthwise without cutting all the way through (this technique is called hasselback, and makes the apples bake quicker.)
  3. 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.
  4. Add eggs one at a time and beat for 30 seconds on high speed after each addition.
  5. Add vanilla sugar (or extract), salt, and lemon juice. Beat until combined.
  6. 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 over-mix!
  7. Transfer batter into prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Distribute the apples with the sliced side up on top. You want to fit as many apple quarters as possible in the pan, and they should be placed quite snugly. The batter will not come up over the apples- this recipe doesn’t make much batter because the batter will rise up and bake around the apples.
  8. Bake in the lower third of the oven for 45 minutes, or until lightly browned and a skewer comes out clean.
  9. Transfer to a cooling rack and remove the springform ring. Let cake cool on the bottom of the springform pan to room temperature.
  10. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the cooled cake and serve with sweetened whipped cream.

Cook’s Notes

*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.

**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 tablespoons cornstarch. Sift the mixture two times to evenly distribute the cornstarch. (Formula: 1 cup AP flour – 2 tablespoons AP flour + 2 tablespoons cornstarch = 1 cup cake flour)

It’s up to you what type of apples you use in this recipe, but I recommend using a firm variety of apple that will hold its shape while baking, like Gala, Braeburn, Fuji, or Golden Delicious. Avoid softer, juicier apples like Macoun, Gravenstein, and McIntosh, as these apples don’t hold their shape while cooking and may make your cake soggy (these varieties are tasty, but are better suited to making apple sauce or eating out of hand). If you use a tart apple like Granny Smith, don’t skip the powdered sugar and sweetened whipped cream, as this cake is not as sweet as American cakes.

This cake will stay fresh 3-4 days covered at room temperature. It tastes even better on the second day, in my opinion. Sprinkle it with powdered sugar just before serving. You can also freeze this cake once it’s baked. Just let the cake cool to room temperature, cover airtight with plastic wrap, and freeze for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to serve, defrost at room temperature until thawed. You can warm the cake up in the oven just before serving if you like.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 208kcal | Carbohydrates: 29g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 61mg | Sodium: 67mg | Potassium: 183mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 15g | Vitamin A: 330IU | Vitamin C: 3.1mg | Calcium: 53mg | Iron: 0.5mg