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Who loves cinnamon apples? Cinnamon apples on porridge, or covered in glossy toffee on a stick, served with vanilla ice cream or in a crumble – I can’t get enough you guys. My Omi {Oma} used to make *the* most delicious German apfelkuchen which was effectively freshly grated apple, sandwiched between two slabs of vanilla cake and topped luxuriously with glossy white icing. I’ve never quite been able to make it just like her, but the warmth and nostalgia it brings back is magical.

My mum recently told me that she’d had a dream about my Omi so vivid that when she woke, she wondered why she hadn’t visited her mum in all this time. It made sense since she passed away in 2006 but I still remember driving the tree lined streets of Belsize Avenue and turning the corner into her road. I loved to get the silver tea set out and fill it with water so I could serve everyone a cup with a freshly baked slice of cake, or biscuits that had come straight from my Omi’s kitchen. I remember it being dark with only one tiny window for natural light. One fluorescent strip light had been placed on the ceiling – you know, the ones that are bright and clinical. The beige vinyl flooring was speckled like sand and she had a vegetable trolley {who didn’t back then?} that I’d wheel all the goods along the corridor with, to and from the kitchen. I’m sure that vegetable trolley had lace curtains too haha. 

These memories also took me back to dinnertime with my Dad’s parents in Norfolk. I love love love British crumble with warm custard. My Grandad used to eat the skin off the top of the custard. Custard he made to perfection every time. It was his favourite part of dessert, and we’d all wrinkle our noses as he skimmed it off the top and plonked it in his bowl. My Grandma made the meanest apple crumble to pair with said custard, and would insist we all had dessert, even if our belly’s were bulging and we seriously couldn’t fit it in. “A meal isn’t a meal without a pudding” she used to say. We’d then also be expected to sample the other two desserts she’d also made because we were “growing children”.

I wanted to merge a little bit of my heritage into one recipe. Apfel-streusel-küchen sort of does this with its traditional crumb topping and fruity center. You could try this with peach slices, pear slices, halved plums, pitted cherries or stewed rhubarb – they would all be delicious! I believe the Germans would eat this with a dollop of freshly whipped cream laced with a hint of vanillezucker, but if you’re a custard aficionado, then it pairs seriously well with that too. Be careful not to over-bake this cake, as it can easily be dry if you do. I suggest baking it for 50mins, and then keeping an eye on it thereafter if your skewer doesn’t come out clean the first time.

Cinnamon apple streusel cake
{Zimt apfel-streusel-küchen}

For the cake
200g self-raising flour
200g soft brown sugar
1tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
150g unsalted butter
2 large eggs, mixed with 4tsbp whole milk

For the filling
25g butter
4 large apples (I like Pink Lady’s)
2tsp cinnamon

For the topping
200g plain flour
100g soft brown sugar
100g demerara sugar
50g oats
1tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp freshly grated nutmeg
150g unsalted butter

  1. Butter a deep, springform 23cm round cake tin and line with baking parchment, then preheat your oven to 180C/350F.
  2. Peel and quarter your apples, removing the core and thinly slice.
  3. Place the 25g of butter into a large saucepan and heat gently to melt. Add in your apple slices and the cinnamon, then pop a lid on. Leave to simmer for 5-10mins on a low heat, stirring occasionally until the apples have softened slightly.
    N.B. You can check this by sticking a knife through them.
  4. In the meantime, make your cake: combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Rub in the butter using yours hands until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.
  5. Whisk together your eggs and 4tbsp of milk, then add this to the breadcrumb-like mixture and combine thoroughly until a batter/dough forms. Spoon into your tin and level the surface with a spatula.
  6. Your apples should be a little softer by now so remove them from the heat and evenly layer onto your cake. I like to concertina them from the outside-in, spiralling and layering until you have no more apple slices left.
  7. To make the streusel topping, combine the flour, sugars, salt, oats, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. Rub in the butter using your fingertips again to make a course crumble mixture. Scatter this on top of your apples.
  8. Bake for 50-70mins until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Keep an eye on it – overcooking will make it dry, so I suggest checking it after 50mins and if your skewer isn’t yet clean, monitor it every 5 mins thereafter.
  9. Leave to cool in the tin before unwrapping the springform tin. Serve with cream, custard or vanilla ice cream.

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