German grandmothers have been passing along the kuchen tradition for generations: mixing up sweet yeast dough to form coffee cakes filled with fresh fruit of the season and rich, creamy custard made with real cream.
If authentic kuchen, which is a German word for “cake,” has been a common thread weaving through your family for generations, you probably won’t appreciate this recipe. The only kuchen my family eats comes to our table as a gift from an expert peach kuchen-maker who works with my husband.
The simplicity of this Quick Apple Kuchen recipe caught my attention as I browsed through an old cookbook I inherited from my mom’s extensive library. The book is so old that it refers to margarine as oleo. Up until 1952, U.S. law required margarine producers to label their product “oleomargarine.” But the book is not so old that bakers couldn’t find cake mix in their grocery store.
Yes. Cake mix. Kuchen made of cake mix will be considered sacrilegious to many. Since I don’t have a recipe that’s been handed down through the ages, I thought it was worth a try.
It took minutes to combine dry yellow cake mix with butter and flakes of coconut to form a crust. While the crust bakes alone, a rich mixture of sour cream, eggs, sugar and cinnamon gets mixed together. Poured over apple slices that have been arranged over a slightly baked crust, the lightly sweet and creamy mixture bakes to a pudding-like consistency.
My kuchen-clueless family devoured the impostor. They especially loved the crust that became crunchy with a slight caramelized flavor. The filling of apples and custard is not too sweet, with just enough cinnamon to remind you it’s autumn.
If you don’t know better, you’ll love this German dessert in disguise. If you do know better, just give it a try. And call it Quick and Delicious Apple Dessert.
Quick Apple Kuchen
Slightly adapted from a recipe in Thou Preparest a Table, a compilation of recipes from the Pekin United Methodist Youth Fellowship in Pekin, N.Y.
1 (18.25-ounce) yellow cake mix
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup coconut
1 1/4 pounds apples, peeled and sliced, about 3 cups of slices
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sour cream
Whipped cream, for serving
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9- by 13-inch baking dish. Set aside.
Blend dry cake mix and butter together with pastry blender or knives, just as you would do for pie crust. Use clean fingers to work in coconut. Press the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.
While crust is baking, beat egg, sugar and cinnamon together until well blended. Add sour cream and blend.
Remove crust from oven. Arrange apple slices in a single layer over the top, covering the crust. Pour sour cream mixture over the apples. Return to oven and bake for about 30 minutes, until crust is golden and apples are fork-tender. Remove kuchen from the oven and allow to cool. Serve slightly warm, chilled or at room temperature with whipped cream.
Makes 8 very generous servings for hardy kuchen-loving appetites or 12 lady-like servings appropriate for a luncheon dessert, or 16 something-sweet-sized servings that would be appreciated at a brunch.
Sue Doeden is a food writer based in Bemidji, Minn. Her recipes can be found on her blog, Sue Doeden’s All about Food. She also writes articles for One for the Table, Amy Ephron’s online magazine that specializes in food, politics and love at www.oneforthetable.com.