Similar to our German plum cake, this German apple sheet cake is a solid favourite around this time of year. A lightly sweetened yeast cake base is topped with plenty of thinly sliced apples and a sweet streusel, for a delicious coffee cake.
Sweet dough is surprisingly easy to work with, especially in recipes like this that require virtually no shaping. If you've ever made cinnamon rolls, you can make this cake! (It's even easier.)
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Yeast: to use fresh yeast, it’s half a cube (21 grams) and it can be crumbled into the milk mixture at the same point in the recipe that dry yeast is added.
- Make it dairy free: use vegan butter and non-dairy milk.
- Topping: the streusel topping is optional, but very common on apple cakes like this one. You can leave it off if you're worried it might be too sweet.
- Cinnamon: optional, and can be exchanged with other spices (cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves are all great).
Step 1: heat the milk, then add to the butter and sugar. Add the yeast, then whisk in the eggs.
Step 2: add the dry ingredients and mix until a shaggy dough forms.
Step 3: knead the dough until soft and smooth.
Step 4: set the dough aside to rise until doubled in size.
Step 5: roll out the dough to fit a large baking sheet.
Step 6: peel and thinly slice the apples, then arrange over the dough.
Step 7: top with an even layer of streusel topping.
Step 8: bake until golden and cool before serving.
- Make sure ingredients are warm: Use all room temperature ingredients to ensure proving isn't delayed. Any cold ingredients like eggs or flour will make for a longer rising time.
- Choose the right apples: tart baking apples are ideal for this cake. Sweet apples are fine, but something with a bit of bite is best.
- Refrigerate your yeast: all yeast should be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for the longest shelf life. If you're not sure that your yeast is still active, test a little in some warm water before starting the recipe.
The rising time may vary slightly based on the temperature of your home and the type of yeast used. Older yeast, even if it's still active, will have a longer proving time. Fresh yeast (not dried) will be faster.
If the yeast doesn't bloom at all after being added to the warm milk mixture, it's dead, either from being too old or the liquid being too hot. Make sure the milk is just warm to the touch, not hot, before adding the yeast.
Use either traditional or quick yeast. Since the yeast is bloomed (added to the warm milk) they can be used interchangeably in this recipe.
How to Store
Storage: this cake is best the day it's baked, but can be stored in a sealed container for a day or two. Refrigeration will make it dry out.
Freezing: transfer slices of fully cooled cake to an airtight container for up to a month. Note that it will be slightly dry when thawed.
What apples are best for cake?
A tart baking apple is best for baking cake. In Germany for this cake we most often use something like a Boskoop but in North America you'll be more likely to find Braeburn as a good option.
What is German apple cake?
There are several different types of apple cake made in Germany, with either baking powder, egg whites, or yeast as the main leavening agents. One type of German apple cake is the precursor to American apple pie.
Should apples be peeled for cake?
Not always - remember the peel contains most of the nutrients - but most often it's best in terms of texture to peel your apples before adding them to a cake.
If you make this German Apple Sheet Cake recipe or any other bread recipes on the Baked Collective, please take a moment to rate the recipe and leave a comment below. It’s such a help to others who want to try the recipe. For more baking, follow along on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube.
German Apple Sheet Cake
- Measuring cups and spoons or a digital kitchen scale
- Small saucepan
- Mixing bowl
- Wooden spoon or spatula
- Parchment paper
- Tea towel
- baking sheet
- ¾ cup full-fat milk
- 3 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast
- 2 ¾ cups white all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup white all-purpose flour
- ½ cup sugar
- ¼ cup softened butter
- Pinch sea salt
- 3-4 large apples peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan until just simmering.
- Add the milk to a large mixing bowl, then whisk in the sugar and butter until melted.
- Check the temperature with the tip of your finger. The mixture should be just warm to the touch. Add the yeast and stir to combine.
- Set aside for the yeast to bloom for 15 minutes. It should be visibly expanded - if not, see tips below. Once the yeast has bloomed, whisk in the egg and egg yolk.
- Add the flour, cinnamon, and salt to the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until a shaggy dough forms, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until a soft, smooth dough forms.
- Return the dough to the mixing bowl and cover with a tea towel. Set aside to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
- Once the dough has risen, line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
- Make the streusel. Add the flour, sugar, softened butter, and salt to a mixing bowl. Use your hands to blend into a crumbly mixture, then set aside.
- Roll the dough out to a large rectangle (about 30x40cm or 12x16 in.). Place it onto the prepared baking sheet. Top in an even layer with the prepared apples.
- Top with an even layer of the streusel.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the edges are a dark golden and the top is a pale gold. Cool for 15 minutes on the tray before removing and slicing.
- Leftovers keep for a day or two in a sealed container, but the streusel will soften. This cake can be frozen, but it's best fresh.