Showing posts with label Danish Apple Cake. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Danish Apple Cake. Show all posts

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Welcome Guest Author Kathleen Ernst with Danish Apple Cake

Author Kathleen Ernst joins us in the Kitchen today with an intriguing historical recipe and a generous gesture. 

Leave a comment and you are entered to win one of her wonderfully enjoyable Chloe Ellefson mysteries. More details below, but first, please welcome Kathleen!  

~ Cleo

Author Kathleen Ernst
Learn more about
y fascination with ethnic domestic history has shaped my own kitchen traditions.  I write the Chloe Ellefson mysteries, each set at an historic site.  Chloe, a curator, loves discovering stories about everyday women from the past.  (She also discovers dead bodies along the way, but that’s another story.)

The latest book, The Light Keeper’s Legacy, is set on an island off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County, in Lake Michigan.  Chloe has been hired to help restore an old lighthouse.  While living and working in this isolated spot, she becomes fascinated with the women who once lived on the island.  A few worked in the lighthouse.  Many more settled in a fishing village that briefly flourished in the 1800s.  Chloe soon learns that past crimes are affecting modern murder.

I created a fictional Danish immigrant, Ragna Anderson, as a main character in the historical timeline that twines with Chloe’s.  When I asked food historians and Danish-Americans what dish might be appropriate for Ragna’s kitchen, the answer was almost always the same:  Aeblekage—Danish Apple Cake.

The recipes I’ve collected come from treasured family traditions, old community cookbooks, and more modern ethnic collections.  In most versions the cake is not baked, but served trifle-style.

It’s easy to see how this simple dish evolved.  The earliest versions call for only apples, bread crumbs, a little butter and sugar.  I can imagine rural Danish women saucing windfall apples and crushing stale bits of bread to create a treat for their families.

Those who immigrated brought the tradition with them.  My friend RuthAnn, who shared her grandmother’s recipe, recalled:  “I grew up watching Mother make this, as it was Daddy’s favorite dessert.  I started making it myself when I was about 10 years old.  We had our own apple trees, and we always had a jar of dried breadcrumbs from leftover bread.”  Although the recipe had been in her family for generations, RuthAnn had to write it down for me since it had never before been captured on paper.

In its most basic form, Danish Apple Cake —just applesauce and sweetened crumbs layered in a dish—is a quick and tasty dessert. 

Danish Apple Cake

2 cups of applesauce
2 cups breadcrumbs
¼ c. butter
½ c. brown sugar

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the crumbs to that mixture and toast gently, stirring constantly, for several minutes.

In a clear glass dish, layer 1 cup of applesauce, 1 cup of the breadcrumb mixture, 1 cup of applesauce, and 1 cup of the crumbs.

Note:  You can use purchased ingredients or start from scratch.  In Ragna’s honor I chose to make my own sauce and crumbs.

For the applesauce:  

core 4-6 apples (mine were on the small side, so I needed 6 apples to make 2 cups of sauce).  Peeling is optional.  Cut the apples into chunks and place in a saucepan with enough water or fruit juice to cover the bottom.  Simmer over medium heat until fruit is soft and easy to mash with a spoon—about 20 minutes—stirring frequently.  

Add sugar to taste as needed (I don’t add any).  If there is a lot of liquid in the pan, simmer for a few more minutes.

For the bread crumbs:  

layer 8 slices of bread on a cookie sheet and toast in a 200 degree oven until thoroughly dry, about 20 minutes. 

I buzzed mine through a blender to make crumbs.  You can also pulverize with a potato masher or run the bread through a grinder.

You can also embellish the cake as you wish.  Almost all of the recipes I’ve seen call for a layer of whipped cream to cover the top layer of crumbs.  A recipe from 1948 calls for adding half a cup of milk to the crumbs, layering the applesauce and crumb mixture in an angel food pan, and baking “in a moderate oven” until the cake shrinks from the pan.

A recipe handed down in my friend Sally’s family specifies a mixture of graham cracker crumbs and Holland Rusks or Zwieback, and the addition of cinnamon.  Half a pint of whipping cream is beaten with 2 t. powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract for the top layer.  Once the whipped cream is spread on the cake, it is decorated with dollops of crabapple or currant jelly.  Other more modern recipes include oats, nuts, or cookie crumbs.

If any Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen readers have their own memories of (or recipes for) Danish Apple Cake, I’d love to hear how they compare!  And if you enjoy food history too, you might enjoy my earlier posts: 


A final note from Kathleen....

I’m grateful to Cleo and friends for allowing me to be a guest here. And I’m grateful to readers! I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you. Leave a comment, and your name will go into a drawing; the winner may choose any of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries:  Old World Murder, The Heirloom Murders, or The Light Keeper’s Legacy.  For more information see my website,, or my blog, .


To learn more about Kathleen's
Chloe Ellefson Mystery series,
click here.


The Light Keeper’s Legacy is Kathleen Ernst’s twenty-fourth published book.  In addition to the Chloe Ellefson series, she has written many books for American Girl, including the six-book series about the newest historical character, Caroline Abbott.  Several of her mysteries for young readers have been finalists for Edgar or Agatha awards.  

Leave a comment on this post
and you will be entered 
to win
your choice of Kathleen's mysteries!
Contest ends Wednesday evening 9/19 

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Danish Apple Cake

This is a recipe my mom has made for as long as I can remember. She probably baked it before I was born. At our house, it always heralded the arrival of new fall apples and a cold snap in the air. It's not overly sweet, which makes it popular with people who aren't big on cakes or desserts. It's perfect for tea on a cold afternoon. However, it's best served slightly warm from the oven. Don't get me wrong, it's perfectly good cold, but a dollop of sweetened whipped cream on a piece of warm apple cake with one of Cleo's fancy coffee drinks -- yum!

Danish Apple Cake

1/4 cup butter
1 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1/3 cup milk

6 - 8 large apples


1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

The dough can be made by hand, however, it's a breeze in a food processor. Just be sure to use the dough blade.

1. Peel and core the apples, and slice. I usually quarter the apples and cut each quarter into 4 slices. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 425.

For the dough --

3. Cut the butter into four pieces and place in food processor. Add the flour and the baking powder. Pulse until thoroughly mixed, scraping the sides a couple of times.

4. Add the egg and the milk and pulse into a ball. Do not over-process or it will be sticky.

5. Lightly butter a large baking sheet with a lip around the edge. Press the dough into the pan or roll out it lightly. If it's sticky, use just a bit of flour on top to roll it out easily.

6. Place the apples on top of the dough in rows so that they barely overlap one another.

7. Bake at 425 for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the topping --

8. Mix the butter, sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg to a smooth paste. I use a mini food-processor.

9. When the apples have finished baking, remove from oven and turn the temperature down to 325.

10. Drop bits of the paste topping over the apples as uniformly as possible.

11. Return to the oven and bake at 325 for an additional 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the whipping cream and the coffee.

You're on your own for the coffee or tea!

For the cream --

1. Whip 1 cup of heavy cream.

2. When it begins to take shape, add 1/4 cup powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Whip briefly.

Remove the Danish Apple Cake from the oven and let stand a few minutes. Cut into squares, top with a dollop of whipped cream, and enjoy your afternoon!