Before we start gorging on more festive desserts, let’s have this simple yet satisfying apple cake that’s fit for a 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 my 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 sachet baking powder (about 13 g)
200 g plain yoghurt
For the filling:
1½ kg apples, grated
cinnamon and vanilla sugar to taste
egg or butter for glazing
If you are using butter, take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes prior to dough making and let it soften.
Meanwhile, peel and wash the apples. Grate them in another bowl and cover to avoid browning. Some people grate apples with their skin 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 the dough into halves. Roll out one half 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 sprinkle with the cinnamon and vanilla sugar. Roll out the other half of the dough in the same manner as the first one, and transfer onto the apples. It does take some skill, granted, but you can always fix tears in the dough or empty spots by gently patching them with floured hands.
Lighly prick the upper layer of dough in several places with a fork, glaze with a beaten egg or 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, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into shapes of your own choice. The cake is best eaten warm, but it can also be enjoyed cold with a cup of your favourite brew.
Apple cake is by all means the most popular dessert in Slovakia, 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.
As this was a very good year for apples, the generous supplies from my friend kept coming until late autumn. No wonder I have made my family’s favourite fluffy apple cake on numerous occasions.