Before we start gorging on more festive desserts, let’s have this simple yet satisfying apple cake, which makes for a delicious Sunday breakfast, an afternoon snack or a light dessert anytime around.
It’s an old Slovak recipe that has been in my personal cookbook since I started learning to bake years ago. I got it from my mum, tried and tested it dozens of times while experimenting with different ingredients.
The original recipe uses pork lard instead of butter or margarine, because (as my mum says) the dough is more pliable, easier to work with and therefore less likely to tear. I have also replaced sour cream in Mum’s recipe with yoghurt to make the cake lighter and healthier. For a fruitier, more succulent taste, increase the amount of apples – the quantity stated in the recipe below is the minimum required in proportion to other ingredients.
Light Apple Cake
For the dough:
- 500 g fine pastry flour
- 150 g sugar
- 150 g butter/margarine/pork lard
- 1 egg
- 1 sachet baking powder (about 13 g)
- 200 g plain yoghurt
- more butter for glazing, melted
For the filling:
- 1½ kg apples, grated
- cinnamon and vanilla sugar to taste
- If you are using butter, take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to dough making and let it soften.
- Sieve the flour into a large mixing bowl and add all other ingredients. Combine well into a smooth, supple dough. Cover with a dishcloth and let stand in a cool place for an hour.
- Meanwhile, peel and wash the apples. Grate them into another bowl and cover to prevent browning. Some people grate apples with their skins on – just follow your personal tastes and preferences here.
- Grease a baking tray with butter, margarine or pork lard, and dust with flour. Take the dough out of the mixing bowl and place on a floured rolling board. Divide into halves.
- Roll out one half of the dough into a rectangle the size of your baking tray. Remember to dust with more flour whenever the dough starts sticking to either the rolling pin or the board. Carefully roll the sheet of the dough onto the rolling pin and transfer into the baking tray.
- Gently press the dough with your floured fingers to fill in any blanks or fix tears. Spread the grated apples onto the dough and lightly dust with the cinnamon and vanilla sugar.
- Roll out the other half of the dough and carefully transfer onto the apples. It does take some skill, but don’t dispair. You can always fix the tears in the dough by gently patching them up with your floured hands.
- Lighly prick the top of the cake in several places with a fork, glaze with some melted butter and put in the oven. Bake at 180ºC for about 25 minutes or until the crust is coming off the sides of the baking tray.
- Let cool down, dust with powdered sugar and cut into shapes of your choice.
Apple cake is the most popular dessert among Slovaks, as we are a country with a wide variety and good quality of home-grown apples. The best apples, however, come from people’s private gardens, where they are carefully looked after and nurtured to perfection.
I’m extremely lucky to have a friend whose parents are devoted gardeners in a remote village up in the mountains. They use no artificial fertilizers or chemicals, so some of their apples come with blemishes and imperfections, but the taste, smell and colour of their produce is second to none.