There is a saying “as American as apple pie,” but I think you could just as easily say “as Swedish as apple cake.” It’s everywhere and I certainly see it on menus here much more than I ever see apple pie on a menu in the U.S. This particular recipe has been a favorite of mine ever since I first tried it at my mother-in-law’s probably a decade ago. She has been making it for so many years she no longer remembers where the recipe came from. It is just one of many gems that have been written out by hand and filed into a ‘recipe favorites’ folder. It’s not really a pie, but not a cake in the traditional sense either (at least as Americans would think of a cake). But in Sweden this definitely counts in the kaka, or cake category. I had a hard time deciding what to call it so I appreciated the suggestions I got to stick with good ‘ol Swedish apple cake.
I have mentioned before I am not much of a baker. One of the reasons I like this recipe so much is that it doesn’t intimidate me like a pie or a tart. It’s very forgiving. Once you mix the dough you press a portion of it into the base of the springform pan and the other part is rolled out and doesn’t need to be fussily or fancily connected to the base. The end result is way more presentable than any pie I will create in my lifetime. I’ve already made it three times this season. The first time I forgot to photograph it before it got dark outside and there was no way I could wait until the next day to eat it. My second attempt got overbaked. Despite it’s dark crust, it still tasted great but wasn’t so photo worthy. What you see pictured is cake number three and it was deeelish.
I used Kaisa apples that we picked at my in-laws but any fairly sweet baking apple will do although I’d avoid apples that are too tart since there isn’t a lot of sugar in the crust and no sugar is added to the grated apple filling. In the final product the fresh apple flavor really shines through and is well complimented by the simple, buttery crust. Vanilla sauce is a traditional accompaniment, but of course you can use whipped cream or ice cream. I have even topped it with a bit of dulce de leche before. So for those of you out there who are looking for something a little different, or have the same aversion to making pies and tarts that I do, welcome to a simple solution and a Swedish staple dessert.
Swedish apple cake
1 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup (100g) sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla sugar or vanilla extract*
1/2 cup (115g) chilled butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
4-5 medium-sized baking apples
powdered sugar for dusting, optional
1. Preheat the oven to 390°F (200°C). Butter the bottom and part way up the sides of an 8″ springform pan.
2. Blend all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Dice the chilled butter and cut it into the dry ingredients using two forks or a pastry cutter. When the mixture looks like course meal, add the egg mixing lightly to incorporate (*note that if you are using vanilla extract rather than vanilla sugar, you can beat the extract with the egg before adding to the dough mixture). Use your hands to knead the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into three parts. Press two parts into the base, and part way up the sides of the springform pan (about 1/2″ or 1.2cm). Roll the remaining dough out between lightly floured waxed paper to form a circle large enough to cover the top of the cake. Set aside.
3. Peel, core, and grate the apples using the largest holes on the grater. If you work quickly the apples won’t brown too much. Dump the apples into the springform pan and lightly press them down. Make sure none of the grated apple is touching the side of the pan because you want dough-to-dough contact when you add the top crust.
4. Gently lay the top crust over the grated apples. Press the crust down around the edges of the pan to adhere the top and bottom crust. If any tears or wholes form in the crust carefully pinch/stretch them together.
5. Place the pan in the preheated oven and bake until golden, about 20-30 minutes. Watch it carefully because it can overbake quickly. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
6. Dust the top with powdered sugar, if desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled with vanilla sauce.
Vanilla Sauce (adapted from Vår Kok Bok)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon potato flour or cornstarch
2 cups (475ml) whole milk (3%)
1-2 tablespoons vanilla sugar or 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
whipped cream (optional)
Combine the eggs, sugar, potato flour, and milk in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly, until it thickens. Be careful not to let it boil. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Avoid using a steel wisk at any point as it can turn the sauce a grayish color. Once cool, you can serve the sauce as is or fold some whipped cream into it.