Grandma’s Christmas Morning Apple Kuchen
December 4, 2019
My family’s Christmas traditions have changed over time. When we were kids, we did our sisters gift exchange on Christmas Eve, and now we do it as a video call whenever we can make it work. But one tradition that we try to hang onto is Christmas breakfast. Even though we live in different corners of the country now, it’s fun to think that we are all eating the same Christmas morning apple kuchen, just like Grandma used to make.
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To me, it’s not the Christmas season until I have a bite of this moist, and delicious cake, stuffed to the brim with local apple slices. The traditional recipe was made with upstate NY McIntosh apples, but I like to have fun with some new varietals. This time we used a combination of JonaGold, IdaRed, Sansa, and Cortland apples from our stock.
What You Need to Get Started
- Produce: Apples
- Pantry: Flour, Sugar, Baking soda, Baking powder, Vegetable shortening, Apple cider vinegar, Raisins
- Fridge: Milk, Egg, Butter
- Spice Rack: Cinnamon
- Equipment: Mixing bowls, Pastry blender, Disposable foil pans, Vegetable peeler, Aluminum foil
Let’s Make Apple Kuchen for Christmas
We like to use disposable foil pans for these for a couple reasons. First, these cakes make excellent gifts for friends, family, and neighbors. If you give the away in foil pans, there’s no need to hunt down nice pie tins later. Also, we are normally making so many at once that we don’t have enough cake and pie pans to start!
When you make one recipe of these, you may as well make a whole bunch. I remember setting up like an assembly line, with one person assigned to mix the batter, another to slice apples, another to place the apples in the cake, and a fourth to top and prepare for baking. But if it’s your first try, you may want to start with a single batch, until it’s second nature.
The traditional apple kuchen recipe calls for peeling the apples, but our family stopped doing that years ago. If you’d like to peel the apples, feel free, but the cake is delicious either way! Then slice the apples about 1/8 inch thick and set them aside. After prepping the apples is a good time to preheat your oven.
Add the apple cider vinegar to the milk and set it aside for about 5 minutes until the milk is soured. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or two butter knives, cut in the shortening until well combined. Then add in the soured milk and egg, mixing well until a batter forms.
Grease your pans, and spread the batter evenly. Stand up the apple slices on the flat, cut edge, so the peel side is facing up, and press them into the batter, until the pan is full. The apples should be fairly close together, covering most of the batter.
Using a vegetable peeler, cut thin strips of the butter and place on top to dot the cake.
Cover the pans with foil, and bake covered for twenty minutes. Then uncover, and bake for an additional twenty minutes. Use a toothpick or butter knife to check the cake, and it should come out clean. Just be sure that you are testing the cake and not an apple! Let the cakes cool for ten minutes, and then serve or cover and store for later.
Celebrate Christmas all month with this easy to make and store German-inspired cake, filled with thin apple slices, and covered in cinnamon sugar and dried fruit. It’s the perfect way to start any holiday!
How to Serve and Store Apple Kuchen
These freeze excellently. Just covered tightly with foil, and place in the freezer for up to six months. Then thaw in the fridge overnight before serving. You can store a cake in the fridge for about a week, if it lasts that long!
Traditionally, we’ll serve a slice of cake warmed up in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds. It doesn’t need anything additional, since the cake is already topped with your choice of dried fruit, plenty of cinnamon sugar, and dotted with butter before baking. To drink, seasonal coffee, warmed apple cider, or hot cocoa do the trick. But if you want to be like us, you’ll pour a tall glass of Martinelli’s sparkling apple cider.
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Grandma's Christmas Morning Apple Kuchen
- 2 lbs Apples, about 5 medium to large apples
- 2 cups Flour
- 1/2 cup Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 cup Vegetable Shortening
- 1 cup Milk
- 1 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Egg
- 1/2 cup Raisins or other dried fruit such as cranberries or cherries, optional
- 2 Tbsp Sugar
- 2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/4 cup Butter
- Peel (if desired) and slice the apples about 1/8 inch thick. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender or two butter knives, cut in the shortening until well combined.
- Add the apple cider vinegar to the milk and set aside for about 5 minutes until soured. Then add 1 cup of the mixture to the dry ingredients. Add the egg and mix well until a batter forms.
- Grease 2 8" square or round pans, or 1 9x13" pan. Add the batter evenly to the pans and spread.
- Stand up the apples on the flat, cut edge, so the peel side is facing up, into the batter, until the pan is full. The apples should be fairly close together, covering most of the batter.
- If desired, sprinkle the raisins or dried fruit on top of the apples. Combine the cinnamon and sugar and generously sprinkle the mixture on top the cake.
- Using a vegetable peeler, cut thin strips of the butter and place on top to dot the cake.
- Cover the pans with foil, and bake covered for 20 minutes. Then uncover, and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Use a toothpick or butter knife to check the cake, and it should come out clean. Be sure to test the cake and not an apple.
- Let cool for 10 minutes, and serve immediately. Or cover and store in the fridge for up to one week, microwaving pieces to serve as needed. For long term storage, cover tightly with foil and freeze for up to 6 months. Refrigerate to thaw overnight, and then reheat to serve.
- The traditional recipe calls for peeling the apples, but our family stopped doing that years ago. If you'd like to peel the apples, feel free, but the cake is delicious either way!
- You can arrange the apples in the cakes in fun patterns, or just place them randomly. Start with the longer slices toward the middle of the cake and then fill in with smaller pieces as needed.
- If you don't have baking powder on hand, you can use equal parts baking soda and cornstarch.
- For a fun spring seasonal twist, use fresh pitted and halved cherries instead of apples in the cake. Or feel free to experiment with other fruits or toppings.