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Apple Kuchen

Apple Kuchen

There are many, many varieties of dessert that claim the name kuchen, from yeasted pastries to custard and fruit-filled pies. At its core, though, kuchen is simply the German word for “cake” and none of the delightful baked goods associated with it are misnamed.

This recipe is published in the French Laundry Cookbook – the gorgeous tome dedicated to the works of Thomas Keller – but I picked it up some time ago on the Amateur Gourmet‘s site. The original version adds blueberries and has a slightly different spicing, though I really love the combination I used here. Mine has cinnamon and vanilla, in addition to nutmeg. The nutmeg really shines in this dish and I strongly recommend using freshly ground.

The unusual thing about this cake is that the batter is thick and stiff. It doesn’t fill the pan completely in its unbaked state, but rises high around the apples as it bakes. The kuchen is beautiful to look at. After it has cooled, the cake will shrink back from the apples slightly, so don’t be suprised when it happens.

Apples seem to pose a challenge to many chefs who don’t like the fact that they begin to brown as soon as you have sliced into them. Don’t bother tossing them in lemon juice or any other slightly acidic solution. The apples will brown in the oven, so it’s not necessary to try to prevent browning before they are cooked. In fact, a browner appearance to the fruit will probably be more appealing the the final dish. I used a combination of Fuji and Pink Lady apples for this kuchen. I think that a sweeter apple is a much better choice to compliment the light sweetness and spicing of the cake than a tart Granny Smoth-type apple.

The kuchen is best served warm, so slice it after cooling only for a short time or let it cool completely and reheat each portion in the microwave. I think it tastes just as good, perhaps better, on the second day. Top each warm piece with a dollop of whipped cream or a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, if desired.

Apple Kuchen

(adapted from French Laundry Cookbook)
2 or 3 Fuji apples
1/3 cup butter, soft
1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg

1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg (fresh grated)

1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease an 8-inch round cake pan.
Peel and core apples. Slice into approximately 1/4 inch thick slices. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugars. Beat in egg and vanilla. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
With the mixer on low speed or by hand, add flour mixture and milk to sugar mixture in 2 or 3 alternating additions. Spread into prepared pan.
Arrange apple slices as desired and sprinkle with 1 tsp sugar.
Bake for 40-45 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.
Serve warm.
Serves 10.

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  • Chloe
    February 23, 2006

    That looks very yummy… I love apples in anything. But I actually have tons of frozen blueberries I must do something with. So I might just change it back!

  • Luisa
    February 23, 2006

    So funny – I’ve been hoarding this recipe since Adam first wrote about it and can’t wait to try it. Your version looks and sounds delicious! Must get to it soon…

  • Sam
    February 23, 2006

    Just to be pendantic 🙂 The original version actually has cranberries, not blueberries. This is the only recipe in the French laundry cookbook, that I repeat over and over again. (Well its so easy compared to the others!).
    I prefer to use a much sharper apple than the golden delish Adam recommends, and the cranberries really add great colour and a tartness contrast to them mild cake. This one is very popular with work colleagues!

  • Nic
    February 23, 2006

    Thanks for pointing that out, Sam. I think that your version looks astonishingly good! And it doesn’t hurt that I love cranberries, either. They seem like they would work better with the apples than blueberries.

  • Sam
    February 23, 2006

    you’ve made me just hungry realising its been quite a while since I last made one, and I am not sure if cranberries are in season any longer. We dont get them at them market I am sure.
    Another thing I do – differently to you I think – is slice the apples really thin and really leave no gaps when I add them. I then just make one apple circle on the top of the cake, filling the hole in the middle and the edges with crabberries so there is really no cake surface left at all. I also use a spring form tin.

    Oh man, i wish I could have a slice right now, diet be damned!

  • Nic
    February 23, 2006

    One of the great things about this is how many variations there are. Different fruits, different arrangements – and it’s all so easy to work with!

    I say that you should just have a small piece, Sam. The fruit is healthy!

  • dksbook
    February 23, 2006

    This is so incredibly similar to an apple cake I first had in Germany, called “Versunkener Apfelkuchen”, refering, I think, to the fact that the apples partially sink into the batter as it cooks. One lovely thing my recipe calls for is not putting the cinnamon in the cake, but mixing it with a bit of sugar, and strewing it over the whole unbaked top. Another good thing is to brush the baked, still-hot cake lightly with melted butter, especially on the apples. The presentation is a little different too, and may help the apples cook a bit more – the slices of apple are partially sliced through along the spine of each slice, and the apples placed on the batter with those cuts facing up, making a fan-like effect on the baked apple. These partial cuts also make nice grooves for the cinnamon sugar to bake into the apple slices.

    Guten Apetit!

  • Anonymous
    February 23, 2006

    That looks great.I love anything with apples in it.

  • Lori
    February 23, 2006

    Nic, this looks just wonderful. How can I not like something that rises up and demands to be eaten just minutes from the oven?

  • Tokyoastrogirl
    February 23, 2006

    I love this recipe. I, too, saw it on Amateur Gourmet’s site awhile back and was so impressed with how beautiful it was. Turns out it’s delicious too!

  • Chef-arini
    February 23, 2006

    It’s like everyday that you’re posting some yummy amazing dish that you’ve made in school. How long have you been going? Are you studying strictly pastry, or a general culinary?
    Wow. 🙂

  • Mika
    February 23, 2006

    I love cooked fruit and this kuchen looks so delicious. Thanks Nic for a nice and easy recipe.

  • Clare Eats
    February 23, 2006

    OOh it looks good, but my Oma’s apple kuchen is the best 🙂 lol

    It is quite different to this… but Iknow casey would be veryhappy if I made this

  • Bloghungry
    February 25, 2006

    I just discovered your blog and I’m entranced. I’m digging this apple kuchen thing.

  • mini_sid
    February 26, 2006

    thanks for sharing all the wonderful recipes, this apple cake looks absolutely delish!
    can’t wait to try it!

  • Anonymous
    February 26, 2006

    I made this for dinner tonight and it was wonderful. I have Chef Keller’s book and til today I have regarded it as a work of art. I never thought I could make one of the recipes until you inspired me. Thanks!

  • Anonymous
    February 27, 2006

    I made this over the weekend. Very tasty & a big hit with my friends.

  • shammi
    March 4, 2006

    Probably one of the BEST fruit-based cakes I’ve had, and my husband loves it too. And so simple to make as well! Thanks Nic 🙂

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