Aeblekage – Danish Apple Cake

Brita as Iduna with apples, painting by Carl Larsson

Brita as Iduna with apples, painting by Carl Larsson

by Cat, (image, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Æblekage, or “apple cake” (pronounced as Eh-bluh-kay-eh, with the ending ‘eh’ almost silent, but see Forvo (2) for audio pronunciation) is an ancient dessert common to all the Scandinavian countries, but each is slightly different. When I traveled around Scandinavia in 2006, I could see and taste first hand all the variations in this dessert.

In my Mom’s family, Æblekage is part of their tradition for Christmas Eve; each slice is garnished with a dollop of freshly whipped cream. I continue this tradition.

Scandinavian Apple Cake (About)

When I went to Scandinavia in 2006, I tried many different versions of this apple-cake:

  • In Sweden (Äpplekaka) it was more like a tart (see Swedish Food.com (3) for a recipe of this type);
  • In Norway (Eplekake) it was a cake with slices of apple (see Three Clever Sisters blog (4) for a recipe of this type);
  • In Denmark (Æblekage) it was almost a pudding or an English trifle (see Fifth Floor Cookbook (5) for recipe of this type).
  • I didn’t travel to Finland, but their apple cake (Omenakakku) is most like the Norwegian version: cake with slices of apple buried in the cake.
  • In Germany, they have a similar cake, called Apfulkuchen.

Some versions are not baked at all, just layers of crumbs and applesauce topped by whipped cream, rather like an English trifle; but I prefer my Mom’s recipe made by layering crumbs and cooked apples (rather than applesauce), then baked, and served with whipped cream.

The photo, below, shows my own Æblekage arranged on my hand-carved Monk’s plate. I hope to get another photo of a serving of the cake, with whipped cream. This recipe is adapted from my Mom’s, and is in the Danish tradition with a hint of the Norwegian tradition.  It resembles a brown betty. as evident in the photo, below:
Cat's Aeblekage, fresh from oven

Click the link for better detail: Cat’s Æblekage, fresh from my oven.

This version is layers of  buttery crumbs and cooked, sliced apples. After baking, it is sliced crosswise for serving, and to reveal the layers.

About apples

You can use a canned apple pie filling (like Mom used to do in her later years), but I prefer to use fresh apples, a mix of sour and sweet. (Refer to Apple Info for more on apple varieties). See Pretty Sweet blog (9) for the best method to core and slice apples for pie or Æblekage.

About crumbs

You can use Basic Homemade Rusk, a delicious type of dried bread, or purchased Zwieback (or other dried baby teething toast).  Rusk is a slightly sweet yeast bread that is first baked, sliced after cooling, then the slices are laid on a cookie sheet and placed in a warm oven to dry. In a pinch you can use any dried bread crushed to crumbs.

Since about 2010, I have not been able to find Zwieback at our local grocer (it is available online), so I bake my own rusk, then dehydrate it before grinding to crumbs.

About spices

Image, left, of Revel Spice Grinder, from Amazon (8).

These are: cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamon. Cardamon is essential for the true Scandinavian flavor. All three are used to flavor the apples, and crumbs.

It is by far the best to use freshly ground spices, as they have the most flavor and health benefits. I use my wonderful Revel grinder from India, where they always grind their spices right before using.Start with stick cinnamon, whole nutmeg seed, and the tiny cardamon seed (remove its outer covering before grinding).

About grinding the rusk/Zwieback

Cast iron food grinder

The image, right, is from Walmart (7).

This applies to both recipes. I use my Mom’s old cast iron grinder that has several sizes of rotating grinder; I use the new-to-the-smallest one (the smallest one grinds the rusk too fine). After using it to grind dry bread such as rusk, Mom didn’t wash it (because it is cast iron and would rust), but rather took it apart and shook/brushed off as much bread debris as possible from each piece. She never used it for wet foods like meat.

Another method is to break up the dried rusk into 1-inch pieces and place them between two sheets of waxed paper. Then use a rolling pin to roll over them and further break them up. Just don’t overdo or they will be too fine.

About date sugar

This ingredient is used in the first recipe (that uses fresh apples).

The health benefits of date sugar similar to those of whole dates. They both contain important minerals like potassium and magnesium, and vital antioxidants that “promote longevity and provide protection against the development of a wide range of chronic diseases.” (6a)

Date sugar can be used as a substitute for white and/or brown sugar in baked goods. A good rule thumb is to use (from Heal With Food (6a)):

  • ⅔ cup date sugar for each 1 cup of regular sugar in your recipe; Or
  • 1 ½ cup white cane sugar for each 1 cup date sugar in your recipe.

Because date sugar is made from dried dates, it tends to absorb available moisture; for this reason,  consider increasing the amount of liquid in the recipe. Also, “bake with care because date sugar burns easily.” (6b) Many types of apples, as in this recipe, tend to have a fair amount of moisture.

Æblekage Recipe, using Fresh Apples

This recipe makes one 4″ x 8″ loaf, with amounts for 4″ x 9″ loaf in parenthesis, to serve 8 – 10.  

For the sweetener, I’ve never tried this using all stevia; the apples need the sugar/maple syrup for the right texture, and the crumbs need the stickiness of real sugar to hold their place in the layers.

For the filling: I like to use a combo of mostly tart apples, and sweet apples, but you can adjust this to your own taste. And to sweeten the apples, I choose a combo of two sweeteners; I’ve tried two different combos:

  • date sugar (dried and ground dates) plus sugar (Rapadura or white cane); OR
  • date sugar plus maple syrup

If you don’t have date sugar, I’ve included the amounts of using Rapadura or brown cane sugar instead (based on, in the recipe; however, I’ve not yet tested this.

For the crumbs, you can use either all sugar, or a combo of sugar and stevia.

Corningware Square Baking dish

2019 update: I’ve been mostly sugar-free for more than 4 years, but I do allow a bit of sugar for the Christmas holiday. The best way to do that is to make a much smaller recipe, perhaps my small, about 4½inch square Corningware baking pan (similar to photo, left, cropped from Wikimedia Commons), and make the servings smaller, to serve 5 – 6. I plan to test this for 2019 Christmas. See ingredients for that version below the 8″or 9″pan version (the method is the same, though it may need less baking time).

Ingredients for either 8″ or 9″ loaf size

  • Apple Filling:
  • 1 (1) Granny Smith apple
  • ½ – 1 (1) moderately tart red apple such as Macintosh
  • ½ (1) sweet apple such as gala or a golden delicious
  • 1 ⅓ (1 ½) Tbsp date sugar; or 2 (2¼) Tbsp Rapdura or brown sugar
  • 2-3 (2-3) Tbsp sugar or maple syrup, to taste (depends on overall sweetness of the apples)
  • ⅓ (½ tsp) tsp cinnamon
  • scant ¼ (full ¼) tsp nutmeg
  • scant ¼ (full ¼ tsp) cardamon
  • 4 (4) Tbsp real butter for both sizes
  • Crumbs:
  • 6 (9) oz homemade rusk or Zwieback
  • Sweetener – choose either option:
    • All sugar: ½ (½ – ⅔) cup Rapadura sugar or white cane sugar; OR
    • Sugar + stevia: ¼ cup (6 Tbsp) sugar + ⅛ (⅛) tsp powdered stevia extract
  • ⅓ (½) tsp cinnamon
  • scant ¼ (full ¼) tsp nutmeg
  • scant ¼ (full ¼) tsp cardamon
  • 5 – 6 (6 – 7) Tbsp real melted butter
  • Garnish:
  • Whipped cream
  • Sliced, blanched almonds (optional)
  • Equipment (both sizes):
  • medium bowl
  • cast iron pan
  • cookie sheet (if making your own rusk)
  • grinder (or other method of making crumbs)
  • 4″ x 8″ or 4″ x 9″ loaf pan

Ingredients for my 4½” square Corningware baking pan

See “Testing,” below, for my 2019 Christmas Eve dinner. I have not tested this using date sugar.

  • Apple Filling:
  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • ½ sweet-tart apple such as honeycrisp
  • Sweetener – you need both of the following; amounts depend on overall sweetness of apples
    • ½ – 1 Tbsp Rapadura or brown sugar
    • 1 – 1½ Tbsp maple syrup, to taste
  • scant ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp cardamon
  • 2-2½ Tbsp real butter
  • Crumbs:
  • 3.5 oz homemade rusk or Zwieback (for the test, used my dried homemade rusk)
  • Sweetener – choose either option: (for the test, I used sugar and stevia option)
    • All sugar: rounded ¼ cup Rapadura or white cane sugar; OR
    • Combo: 2-2½ Tbsp sugar + pinch (about 1/16 tsp) powdered stevia extract
  • scant ¼ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp cardamon
  • 2½ – 3 Tbsp real melted butter
  • Garnish:
  • Whipped cream
  • Sliced, blanched almonds (optional)
  • Equipment:
  • medium bowl
  • cast iron pan
  • cookie sheet (if making your own rusk)
  • grinder (or other method of making crumbs)
  • 4½″ square baking pan

Method (all sizes):

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Prepare filling: You can peel the apples or leave the peeling on.  Core and slice the apples as for a pie.  If you prepare the apples ahead of time, put them in a bowl of lemon water (water to which 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice has been added), to keep them from turning brown.
  3. Melt butter in cast iron pan.
  4. Add apples and stir to coat with butter.
  5. Add sweeteners and spices and stir again.  Cook until soft, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat and set aside while you prepare the crumbs.
  7. Prepare crumbs: Grind rusk or zwieback, using the medium blade of a grinder.  Crumbs should not be too fine.  Place in medium bowl.
  8. Add sweetener (choose all sugar, or sugar plus stevia option) and spices and mix well with a fork.
  9. Add melted butter and toss with fork until crumbs are coated.  The crumbs should almost hold together when squeezed in a ball.
  10. Assemble: Butter the loaf pan
  11. Pat ⅓ of the crumbs into the bottom of the loaf pan.
  12. Spread half the apple filling evenly over the crumbs.
  13. Top with another ⅓ of the crumbs and pat down with fingers or a fork.
  14. Spread remaining apple filling over;
  15. Top with remaining crumbs and pat down with fingers or a fork.
  16. Bake in preheated 325°F oven until lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes (a smaller pan may need less time, so check after 15 min).
  17. When done, remove pan from oven to cool in pan on a rack. This allows the crumb layers to set before slicing and serving.
  18. To serve: turn pan upside down to drop the aeblekage onto a plate, then slice ½″ – ¾″ thick, and place each on a dessert plate. Top with whipped cream. If desired, garnish with a few sliced, blanched almonds (as they are, or chopped).

Testing:

Testing 4½″ square baking pan, 12/12-24/19: For apples, I used: ¾ Granny Smith and ½ honeycrisp apple (the Granny Smith was larger than the average apple); 1 Tbsp Rapadura sugar, 1 Tbsp maple syrup, spices as listed, and 2½ Tbsp butter. Cooked them until they were tender and most of the liquid had evaporated. For the crumbs, I made as written, using homemade rusk, which I crumbled by using a rolling pin. Made in 5 layers as instructed and baked in preheated 325°F oven for 25 min; the crumbs had just begun to brown. Lovely. Result: It was hard to slice through the apples, so each slice fell apart. Next time, I’ll peel them and cook them longer. Nevertheless, the cake is as delicious as always. The crumbs were just the right size, and just the right amount of spice. I served each slice with whipped cream (using almond instead of vanilla extract), and garnishing with blanched almond slivers.

Testing 4½″ square baking pan, 12/30-31/19: Used ¾ Granny Smith and ½ golden delicious apple, as both were fairly large; otherwise made as before, except cooked the apples longer: in pan at 11 AM; out at 11:40, about 40 min. At 11:42, into oven to bake at 325°F; out at 12:08 PM for 26 min; set pan on rack to cool. Result: Too sweet for my taste; either the golden delicious was sweeter than I thought, or I accidentally used too much sugar in apples and/or crumbs. Much easier to sliced, tho some of the crumbs are loose. Otherwise it is delicious. In Ingredients list, above, I updated the Rapadura in the apples to ½ – 1 Tbsp; did not change the Rapadura in the crumbs.

NOTE: because of the amount of sugar in the recipe, I highly recommend using lots of cream or unsweetened whipped cream to keep sugar cravings to a minimum, after eating the dessert.

Æblekage Recipe, using Apple Pie Filling

As Mom got older, she looked for convenience in all things, including cooking. So she started using canned apple pie filling. In my opinion, it doesn’t save that much time and the end result isn’t as good as starting with fresh apples.

Commercially-canned apples are usually flavored with cinnamon, so you only need to add nutmeg and cardamon to the apple filling. But you need all three spices for the crumbs.

This recipe makes one 4″ x 8″ loaf.

Ingredients:

  • Apple Filling:
  • 1 can apple pie filling
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cardamon
  • Crumbs:
  • 1 box Zwieback, or 1 loaf of homemade rusk
  • ½ – ⅔ cup sugar (or ½ tsp powdered stevia extract)
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp cardamon
  • 5 Tbsp melted butter
  • Equipment: 
  • 2 medium bowls
  • cookie sheet (if making your own rusk)
  • 4″ x 8″  or 4″ x 9″ loaf pan

Procedure:

  1. Prep:
    1. Preheat oven to 325°F
    2. Butter the loaf pan
  2. Filling:
    1. Dump can of apple pie filling into medium bowl
    2. Add spices and stir well.
    3. Set aside while you prepare the crumbs.
  3. Prepare crumbs:
    1. Grind rusk or zwieback, using the medium blade of a grinder.  Crumbs should not be too fine.  Place in medium bowl.
    2. Add sweetener and spices and mix well with a fork.
    3. Add melted butter and toss with fork until crumbs are coated.  The crumbs should almost hold together when squeezed in a ball.
  4. Assembly:
    1. Pat ⅓ of the crumbs into the bottom of buttered loaf pan.
    2. Spread half the apple filling evenly over the crumbs.
    3. Top with another ⅓ of the crumbs and pat down with fingers or a fork.
    4. Spread remaining apple filling over;
    5. Top with remaining crumbs and pat down with fingers or a fork.
  5. Bake in preheated 325°F oven until lightly browned, about 20-25 minutes.
  6. When done, remove pan from oven to cool in pan on a rack. This allows the crumb layers to set before slicing and serving.
  7. To serve: turn pan upside down to drop the aeblekage onto a plate, then slice ½″ – ¾″ thick, and place each on a dessert plate. Top with whipped cream. If desired, garnish with a few sliced, blanched almonds (as they are, or chopped).

Serving Suggestions (either recipe)

Cut into slices.  Lay each slice on its side on a dessert plate, and top with a dollop of slightly sweetened whipped cream.

References:

  1. Recipes adapted from Anne Haug’s recipe collection
  2. Forvo.com, pronounce Æblekage: forvo.com/word/æblekage
  3. Swedish Food.com recipe: swedishfood.com/swedish-food-recipes-desserts/166-apple-cake
  4. Three Clever Sisters (blog) recipe: threecleversisters.com/2011/12/22/danish-apple-cake-aeblekage
  5. Fifth Floor Cookbook recipe: fifthfloorcooking.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/danish-aeblekage
  6. Healing with Food:
    1. healwithfood.org/substitute/is-date-sugar-healthy.php
    2. healwithfood.org/substitute/how-to-use-date-sugar-in-baking-and-cooking.php
  7. walmart.com/ip/Chard-No-10-Cast-Iron-Hand-Grinder/29340134
  8. amazon.com/Revel-CCM101CHL-110-volt-Grinder-Chrome/dp/B06XGR35RZ/ref=sr_1_11?keywords=revel+grinder&qid=1576863921&sr=8-11, or search ASIN B06XGR35RZ on Amazon
  9. prettysimplesweet.com/how-to-slice-apples-for-pie/

About Cat

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