German Apricot Cake
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This recipe for German Apricot Cake is brought to you in collaboration with BC Egg, who have financially compensated me to develop it.
All opinions are my own.
Ripe apricots are a thing of beauty, and Aprikosenkuchen - German Apricot Cake - is all about celebrating them. The simple, moderately dense sponge is flavoured with a bit of lemon and (in my iteration) almond. It's delicious on its own, but truly shines as a backdrop for the flavourful orange apricot halves that adorn the top.
Delightfully simple to make, German Apricot Cake benefits greatly from the use of very ripe apricots. Unfortunately, truly amazing apricots can be tricky to find, which is why this recipe includes a few flavour-boosting tricks!
We sure do love to show off good fruit. The decadent beauty of seasonal fruits has always commanded our attention, to the point that we've given it a place of great importance in our art for millennia. Whether it's the rosy blush of an apple, the transparent elegance of ripe gooseberries, or the powdery bloom on a deep purple plum, fruits have captured our artistic attention for millennia. Apricots are, of course, no exception - indeed, they may be one of the most celebrated fruits of all.
Apricots have held a place of honour in the art and poetry of the Old World for centuries. In his book The Carrot Purple, author and food historian Joel S. Denker explores the long cross-cultural love affair with the apricot. The Ancient kingdoms of China, Greece, and Central Asia frequently waxed poetic over the blossom-laden boughs of the apricot tree, and the blushing fruits they soon bore. The Islamic caliphates of the 7th-16th expanded apricot cultivation away from Persia, establishing and popularizing the fruit in what is now the Middle East, Europe, and North Africa. A heat-loving, early-season fruit, the apricot proved trickier to grow in some cooler European climes, but this did little to dull passions for the fruit. Indeed, it may have further reinforced their special, seasonal, and local appeal amongst Europeans. Apricots were even the subject of the first known English-language treatise on painting written by a woman, the celebrated Mary Beale.
Apricots have clearly captivated artists, cooks, and bakers alike wherever they're grown - and I do emphasize grown, rather than sold. When ripened on the tree, apricots are fragrant, sweet, and meltingly soft - but they are especially delicate and ephemeral in this state. Unripe apricots ship well, but pale miserably in comparison to their tree-ripened cousins. While inconvenient in the modern world of agribusiness, it is perhaps less likely that the apricot would have spread as far as it did if it were easier to transport the fruit itself. As it is, the best apricots still tend to be found nearest to the trees on which they were grown. Consequently, apricots remain something of a treat, to be highlighted and celebrated - in art, or on the table - while they last.
The craft of baking may not receive the same reverent praise as painting (though perhaps it should), but bakers too have long demonstrated a passion for showcasing the perfection of good fruit. German apricot cake (Aprikosenkuchen) could just as easily be made with chopped apricots - and indeed, distributing the pieces throughout the cake batter might yield a more consistently fruit-loaded bite. But the beautiful apricots on top of this cake - much like the sweet cherries in a clafoutis, or the caramelized pineapples on an upside-down cake - are used deliberately in celebration of their combined visual and gustatory impact. Aprikosenkuchen is art. We'll likely never know who first baked this beautiful cake (or the similar cakes made in France and Spain), but we are all lucky to be able to create our own iterations. Best of all, each cake is an artwork to be shared and enjoyed by those we care about.
As cakes go, I would characterize German apricot cake as one of the easier recipes out there. The batter is easy to make, and thick enough to be able to bake in all but the leakiest of springform pans. This version does add the extra step of making an apricot syrup (and puree) for glazing the cake, but this too is a rather simple and straightforward task. If you have incredible apricots at the ready, you could even skip the glaze without much fuss.
Despite the relative simplicity of this recipe, there are a few notes about the ingredients that are worth taking into consideration - so let's consider them!
Apricot Ripeness & Quality
I would argue that this is probably the single most important thing to consider when you bake Aprikosenkuchen. Sadly, there's no getting around the fact that many of the apricots that reach grocery store shelves are, frankly, awful. Picked well before ripening in order to improve their durability, these apricots are hard, fibrous, sour, and often lacking much in the way of apricot flavour. Avoid these apricots - in this recipe, and in general. Baking will soften them, but will amplify their sourness and bitterness. Look for the softest, ripest apricots that you can find, and be sure to taste test one or two (or ten) to make sure that they meet your expectations. If you don't like them raw, you probably won't like them in your German apricot cake.
As long as you can find acceptable (but perhaps unremarkable) apricots, you're in business. In order to pump up the sweet apricot flavour, I've included instructions for making an apricot syrup to brush the top of the cake. This step really helps to transform middle-of-the-road apricots. It also adds some moisture to the cake, which is a nice touch even if you've got incredible ripe-on-the-tree apricots to bake with.
If you really want to make this but your apricot options are disappointing, try using good quality canned apricot halves preserved in light syrup. Drain them thoroughly before using, and reserve some of the syrup for brushing over the finished cake. This also gives you the option of making your Aprikosenkuchen out of season!
Flour Type & Measurements
Baking with flour is always a bit more complicated than I'd like it to be. Whether it has to do with the protein content of your flour (addressed in great detail in my pandesal recipe), or differences in measurement, it can be frustrating to get consistent results from this ubiquitous ingredient. In order to improve your chances of success, I'll address each problem separately here.
I used unbleached all-purpose flour for this recipe. Now, all-purpose flour can vary quite a bit in terms of protein content. Canadian wheat (and therefore the flour made from it) is generally pretty high in protein, but I still found that the crumb of my cake was nice, even, and fairly light. German flour isn't graded the same way as North American flour, so it can be difficult to compare directly. Soft (low-protein) German 405 flour is generally used for making cakes, but it's actually a little higher in protein (8-10%) than most North American cake flour (6-8%). If you want to use low-protein cake flour, I would recommend mixing it with all-purpose flour at a 1:1 ratio. But if you only have all-purpose, you should still be fine. Try to avoid overmixing the batter, as this will over-develop the gluten in the dough, leading to a denser, more bread-like cake.
Now, let's talk measurements. If you have the option, I highly recommend weighing your flour for more consistent results. A digital scale is, hands-down, one of my most used kitchen tools. If you're using volume measurements however, please note that the quantities I've given are for packed (i.e. unsifted) flour. 1 cup of flour scooped straight from the bag/container will weigh around 160-170 grams (6 oz). If you sift it and spoon out one cup, you'll find that it weighs about 120 g (4.2 oz). Needless to say, this is a pretty big difference. If you like to sift your flour, do it after you've measured out 1.5 cups. If you're some sort of uber-organized super baker who has a ready supply of airy pre-sifted flour... well then you probably also own a scale. But 2 cups should be about the right amount.
German Baking Powder
This recipe was developed in Canada using Canadian ingredients, including the double-acting baking powder that is most commonly found in homes and grocery stores. This type of baking powder is also the type you'll find in the USA and Australia. If you're baking this in most of Europe, however, you're likely to be using single-acting baking powder. This makes a difference... but there's not much you can do about it. Allow me to explain.
Double-acting baking powder contains ingredients that will release gas bubbles into your batter at two distinct stages. The first stage occurs at room temperature within the first few minutes of mixing your ingredients. The second stage is initiated by a heat-activated ingredient, and only occurs once the batter is baking. Single-acting baking powder only acts at the first room-temperature stage. Because of this, cakes (etc.) made with double-acting baking powder will generally be airier and rise higher.
It's tempting to try to correct for this, but very difficult to do so (unless you want to go to the trouble of buying double-acting baking powder online). You CANNOT use more single-acting baking powder in place of double-acting stuff. This will produce a bit more gas in the initial stages, but still won't give you any added 'oven spring,' and it's likely to leave a rather unpleasant metallic taste behind. Excess baking powder does not taste good. The secondary leavening agents used in double-acting baking powder aren't really available commercially, so you can't really make a DIY version. If you really want to try to get a little more air into your batter before it bakes, you can add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda (not powder!) to this recipe. The buttermilk used in the batter is acidic enough to react with the baking soda quickly, producing a little extra kick of carbon dioxide gas. Make sure not to overmix your batter in any case; in addition to developing more gluten, this can mix bubbles right out of your batter.
So, if you can't really adjust for single- vs. double-acting baking soda, will it matter? Well, not really. My German apricot cake has a domed center that came from the extra lift of double-acting baking powder. If you look for German-language version of Aprikosenkuchen, you'll notice that they tend to be a bit flatter overall - but still airy throughout. Perfectly delicious, just a little less puffy.
If you're looking for more information on converting between German and North American baking staples, I recommend starting with this detailed guide from Spoonfuls of Germany.
Baking Pan Options
A standard 9 inch (22 cm) springform baking pan is what I used, and is generally going to be one of the easiest baking options for cakes like this. If you don't have one, you can use a similar-sized cake pan lined with parchment paper, or a Pyrex baking dish. Just ensure that whatever you use is deep enough to accommodate the rise of the cake.
Baking times may vary depending on your oven and the type of baking pan you use, so be sure to check the center of the cake with a cake tester or skewer.
Note: Nutritional Information is given for a single slice (1/10th portion of the total recipe), including the syrup and apricot puree used to finish the cake.
As cakes go, this one is pretty low in fat and added sugar. It's also quite high in Vitamin A thanks to the eggs and apricots.
Not much, really! It's a fruit-forward, simple dessert that manages to be fairly light. The saturated fat is a bit on the high side (as you'd expect from most butter-based baked goods). But hey, it's cake. Enjoy.
No ingredient pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
No pantry pages have been written yet for any of the ingredients in this recipe. Like to see one? Let me know in the comments below or by email.
German Apricot Cake (Aprikosenkuchen)
- 9 inch (22 cm) springform pan
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 4 large eggs
- 1.5 cups flour (see note)
- 2 tsp baking powder (see note)
- 1/4 cup buttermilk
- 1 lb apricots (~12 small apricots) halved and pitted
- sliced almonds (optional)
- 1/4 lb apricots (~2 medium or 3 small) chopped
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp water
- Grease a 9 inch (22 cm) springform baking pan (see note for alternatives).
- Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C). Place a rack in the center of the oven.
- Using a stand or hand mixer, cream the butter, sugar, vanilla, and almond extract, lemon zest, and salt.
- Add the eggs one at a time and continue to mix.
- Slowly add the flour and baking powder.
- Add the buttermilk and mix until the batter is just combined. Note that it should be quite thick.
- Pour the mixture into baking pan and spread it evenly. Layer the top with apricot halves, cut-side down. Press them in very slightly - they'll sink further on their own.
- Bake for 35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out of the center of the cake clean.
- Remove the cake from the oven and loosen the springform wall. This will help to keep the cake from sticking as it cools. Sprinkle the top with sliced almonds.
- Brush the surface of the finished cake with the apricot glaze (see below). Sprinkle with almond slices, if using. Allow the cake to cool. Serve with apricot jam/puree (see below).
- Combine the apricots, sugar, and water in a small pot. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce temperature to low.
- Simmer for 7-10 minutes, crushing and stirring the apricots until they've been reduced to a soft puree.
- Strain the liquid from the apricot puree to use for glazing the cake. I brush two coats over the cake, but you may want to do more if your apricots aren't overly sweet.The solids can be served alongside the cake too if you like, or reserved and used as jam for other recipes. For a finer texture (as shown in the photos), run the solids through a food mill or chinois.