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This German Apple Cake with Streusel Topping [Apfelkuchen mit Streusel] is one of my favorite traditional German desserts that I know you are going to love too! The tender, juicy apple filling is topped with a sweet, crunchy streusel on a buttery shortbread crust.
German Apple Cake with Streusel Topping
I have been obsessed with Germany for almost as long as I can remember. It's the language I took in high school and college, it's the second country I ever visited outside of the United States (the first was Costa Rica for our honeymoon), and I lived in Frankfurt, Germany and interned at a law firm there during the summer between my 1st and 2nd years of law school. It was a dream come true.
Paul and I went to Frankfurt together and he worked with a wonderful German woman named Gudrun, who introduced us to this absolutely wonderful, traditional German apple cake.
It is amazing. So simple, so unpretentious, but so wonderful. We had a bäkerei on the corner where we could go and get slices of this German apple cake and it was hands down my favorite dessert, even though I'm also a sucker for Black Forest Cake and all the fabulous chocolate you can get in Germany.
The thing to know about this German apple cake is that you don't want to go overboard on cinnamon here. I think some people hear apple and think cinnamon, but there is just a hint of cinnamon flavor in this cake. The main focus should really be on the tender, juicy apple filling and how it combines with the buttery, sweet crust and streusel.
German apple cake with streusel topping is actually one of a number of different types of apple cake that are popular in Germany. This German apple cake is almost a cross between a cake, Dutch apple pie, and dessert bars since it is baked in a 9x13-inch pan and has a more substantial, shortbread-type bottom crust. Although there are other recipes for the same German apple cake that uses a bottom crust made with yeast that I haven't tried at home yet.
There is another hugely popular German apple cake called Versunkener Apfelkuchen ("Sunken Apple Cake") that is made with a dough that rise up around large pieces of apple that have been sliced thinly and arranged decoratively. Both apple cake recipes are so delicious that it was hard to choose which one to share first. But streusel wins out every time for me.
If you love apple desserts, you might also want to check out this Irish apple cake with custard sauce. It's totally different and also super tasty.
Obviously we have a major thing for apple desserts and apple cake, especially. This won't be the last apple recipe you see from me this season, either. Apples are a favorite around here, whether it's eating the out of hand, baking them in apple oatmeal muffins, glazed apple fritter yeast bread, or German apple pancakes, using them in savory dishes like this creamy apple cider chicken skillet, or making apple pie. We just cannot get enough of their sweet, homey goodness!
What goes in German Apple Cake?
The ingredient list for German apple cake is super simple. We're keeping things fresh with delicious, sweet-tart apples and pantry staples to make this easy German dessert.
- all-purpose flour
- granulated sugar
- apples (keep reading to see my favorite apples for baking)
- applesauce (I use unsweetened, but you could use sweetened applesauce if that's what you have on hand)
- lemon zest
How to Make German Apple Cake
- Make the bottom cake layer: Combine flour, softened butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl and mixing with an electric mixer until combined. Press the cake dough into the bottom of a 9x13" baking dish that has been sprayed with non-stick baking spray.
- Make the apple filling: Combine apples, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, cinnamon, and applesauce. Spoon evenly over the bottom layer.
- Make the streusel topping: Cut butter into flour and sugar using a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Squeeze handfuls together to create larger clumps, then sprinkle the streusel over the apple filling.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes until lightly golden brown on top and the apples are soft in the middle.
- Cool completely, then cut into squares. I think this German apple cake tastes best chilled, straight from the fridge. It's delicious all on it's own, or with sweetened whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
How to Make Streusel Topping for German Apple Cake
This streusel topping is incredibly easy to throw together. Just combine sugar, butter, and flour in a bowl and cut the butter in with a pastry cutter. I just used the same bowl that I used for making the bottom layer of the cake.
The streusel will be very dry and sandy looking, but if you squeeze handfuls together, it will create some larger clumps of streusel that you can sprinkle over the top of the German apple cake. As it bakes, the streusel gets this wonderfully crunchy texture that is also somehow melt-in-your-mouth. I'm obsessed.
Best Apples for Baking
I think the best apples for baking are Granny Smith, Jonathon or Jonagold (a Jonathan/Golden Delicious hybrid), Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, and Envy Apples. Golden Delicious, Cortland, Pippin, and even Braeburn are also pretty wonderful too and I have used each of them in the past.
When I'm baking apple pie, I like to use two to three varieties of the apples listed above, which adds dimension to the pie. But for German apple cake, one type of apple is enough. I used Granny Smith apples this time around because that's what was on sale.
How long does apple cake keep?
We actually like this cake best the second day, cold from the fridge, so it makes a great dessert to make in advance. Just cover it well with plastic wrap and it will keep for 2-3 days on the counter, or up to 5 days in the fridge.
Love German food? Here are more great German recipes to try!
- Homemade Soft Pretzels with Mustard Cheese Dip
- Apfelstrudel Recipe (German Apple Strudel)
- Sauerkraut and Sausages with Apples
Did you make this recipe? Let me know what you thought with a comment and star rating below. You can also take a picture and tag me on Instagram @houseofnasheats or share it on the Pinterest pin so I can see.
German Apple Cake with Streusel
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup butter room temperature
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 5 apples peeled and diced
- 1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce
- 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup cold butter cubed
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9x13" baking dish or spray with non-stick baking spray.
- Mix flour, butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla together in a large bowl using an electric mixer until combined.
- Pat the cake dough into an even layer on the bottom of the prepared baking dish using the back of a rubber spatula or your hands. Refrigerate until apple filling is ready.
- In another large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar, cinnamon, and applesauce. Spoon apple filling in an even layer over the cake dough.
- In another large bowl, cut the butter into the flour and sugar using a pastry cutter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Squeeze handfuls of streusel topping together to create larger clumps, then sprinkle the streusel over the apple filling.
- Bake for 45 minutes until lightly golden brown on top and the apples are soft.
- Cool completely, then cut into squares and serve with sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. I think this cake tastes best cold, straight from the fridge.