A Decadent Norwegian Apple Cake
Eplekake, or apple cake, is as Norwegian of a dessert as they come. Americans have their apple pie, Norwegians have their apple cake. Moist, rich and juicy like a pound cake, it is stuffed with tart and sweet apples often from the baker’s own garden and flavored with a dash of cinnamon sugar and sprinkled with sliced almonds. Simple, yet one of the most satisfying of cakes our country has to offer. I have a million different recipes for eplekake. Some use sour cream instead of butter in the batter, others elect to add some heavy cream. I find that butter is best here, as the sour cream and heavy cream make it a bit too rich and does not give me the texture I’d like when paired with tart apples.
As we are moving into fall soon, my mind instantly goes to apples and all the delicious recipes I intend to make, both sweet and savory. Apple cake was the first thing that naturally popped up in my head – I don’t think one could visit Norway without having a taste of eplekake if visiting someone’s home. A staple in every house, I have very few bad examples. If there is one thing Norwegians are good at, it’s baking! Fall arrives much sooner in Norway than in the U.S. – in fact, the colors may be changing and the leaves may have started falling off the trees already as I’m writing this.
A beautiful shot of autumn in my hometown of Sykkylven, captured by Lars Arild Rokseth:
When I was younger, I used to hate that time of year because it was a sign that the long, dark and freezing cold winter would be right around the corner. Growing up, getting six feet of snow was not unusual and we only saw about 4-5 hours of light per day from the beginning of October until late March. A very long winter indeed. After nearly 20 years in this country, I have finally been able to look forward to the autumn with its glorious colors, and not to mention cooler weather. Fall has become a relief from the hot and humid summer days. I never thought I would look forward to saying good bye to summer and be appreciative of the change of seasons! Things do change! Back to my cake…
In this recipe I wanted to experiment some more, and decided to make a delicious vanilla pastry cream and add into the apple cake. The creamy, sweet vanilla mixed in with the refreshing, tart apples is a match made in heaven. I never buy packaged custards or pastry creams as I don’t like all the additives in these products, and although it is easy to whip up, the taste in a home made cream is ten thousand times better. The best part only 4-5 ingredients go into it and I know what they are! Doing some research, I’ve discovered that adding vanilla cream in apple cakes are now becoming more common and popular.
I used a mixture of Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Gala apples in this recipe, but you can choose whichever apples you like the most. I would recommend using a mixture of firm, very tart and very sweet apples, for me this has proven to yield the best results. In Norway, some apple types include Gravenstein, which has been the main variety since 1970, but is now number two following Aroma, which originally hails from Sweden and has become the most important kind of apple in Norway. As its name implies, the apple is very aromatic and is incredibly sweet and delicious. Gravenstein apples are big and very juicy, with a tart and fresh taste. Gravenstein is perfect for baking but is also a nice apple to eat on its own. Åkerø is a third variety which has a long history in Norway. Not an ideal apple to store over longer period of time, it is best as an apple to snack on.
Photo from aperitif.no
Including honey in an apple cake is another idea that would make this cake extra special, and Norwegian honey is probably the best honey I have ever tasted (and I’m not just saying that because I’m from Norway!). Otherwise, try to pick up a nice honey at the farmer’s market.. so much better than the store bought kind! Just a tip for another batch
Below is the recipe for my apple cake with vanilla pastry cream. Eplekake is delicious served with lightly whipped cream or vanilla bean ice cream. A great cake that can also be frozen and saved for a future occasion. Because I love this cake, this recipe is intended for a large cake pan to be shared with your entire family, friends and neighbors… (if they are nice).
I hope you will be tempted to try this one out! It’s a rich cake but won’t taste like it… and definitely worth every single calorie!
NORSK EPLEKAKE MED VANILJEKREM (Norwegian Apple Cake With Vanilla Pastry Cream)
500 g (18 oz or roughly 1.1 lb or 4 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
500 g (1.1 lb) granulated sugar
3 tsp vanilla sugar (or vanilla extract)
3 tsp baking powder
500 grams/1.1 lb all purpose flour
8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
2 cups (5 deciliters) vanilla pastry cream *
5 tbsp granulated sugar
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
80 grams (3 oz) sliced almonds
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 Celcius).
Line a 12 x 16 inch baking pan (30 x 40 cm) with parchment paper.
In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder and vanilla sugar, set aside.
Combine the 5 tbsp of granulated sugar and 2 tbsp of ground cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside.
In a stand mixer, whisk the soft butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time. Slowly add in the flour mixture on low speed until well combined. Add in the flour mixture until the batter no longer has lumps. Do not over mix the batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan. Place the sliced apples on top of the batter in a nice pattern, place dollops of the vanilla cream on top.
Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture on top and finish with the sliced almonds. (Feel free to omit the almonds.)
Bake the cake in the middle of the oven for about 40-50 minutes (be sure to check with a cake tester to check when cake is done).
Let the cake cool in the baking pan before carefully lifting out of pan and slice into squares and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or your favorite vanilla ice cream. “Nam!” as we say in Norwegian!
VANILJEKREM (Vanilla Pastry Cream)
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla sugar or 1 vanilla bean stick
100 grams (3.5 oz) confectioners sugar
5 egg yolks
45 grams (1.5 oz) corn starch
Combine the whole milk and heavy cream in a small pot and heat up on stove until almost boiling.
In a separate bowl or in a stand mixer, whisk the egg yolks together with the vanilla sugar/bean and confectioners sugar until light and fluffy. In Norwegian, we call this “eggedosis”.
Carefully pour in a couple of ladles of the hot milk mixture into the eggs to temper it. Pour the egg mixture into the pot and whisk over low to medium heat, constantly whisking until it thickens. The mixture should look like a thick cream. Remove from heat and let cool – placing the pot in ice water helps cooling it down faster.
Transfer to a clean glass container and place in fridge. The cream /custard will last for about one week in the fridge.