Æblekage is an old fashioned Danish apple trifle, formed of layers of soft vanilla-infused apples, sweet crunchy crumbs and some whipped cream on top. It's a simple and deliciously comforting combination, that makes a tasty, easy dessert.
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Between being from the UK, and living in New England, apples are very much a fruit I grew up with. I love that more and more varieties are being enjoyed these days, too, as the flavors are so much better than some of the bland ones I remember from childhood.
Denmark has some similar produce to the UK, such as berries in early summer and apples later on, though enjoyed year-round. This traditional dessert is a delicious yet simple way to enjoy apples in a different way than you may be used to.
What is Æblekage?
The name "æblekage" (sometimes transcribed as aeblekage) literally translates as "apple cake". Confusingly, apple cake, in the normal sense, also goes by the same name. However this traditional dish is probably what most people in Denmark think of first, and is more like a trifle, parfait or even crumble.
The origins of the dish are unknown, but it's one of those dishes most people think of as being made by, and passed on by, their grandparents. And hopefully, it's a tradition that continues as it's both tasty and so simple.
Traditionally, the layers of apples are separated by layers of toasted, sweetened breadcrumbs, as I have used here. A more modern (and granted easier) twist uses Danish macaroon cookies, which are a crunchy almond cookie. You just crush them up to make crumbs.
What kind of apples are best?
The apple layer is essentially a thick, slightly chunky apple sauce, and cooking apples are probably the most traditional choice. They are relatively tart but mash down well when cooked.
I'd suggest maybe a mix of apples to have a nice flavor. You don't use many additions in with the apples, so you will taste them. A mix of eg Granny Smith or Bramley cooking apples, with one of Gala, Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Fuji or Cox would probably be good.
While cinnamon might be the more common flavor-pairing for many apple dishes, vanilla also goes really well.
Top tip: use vanilla beans
I recommend using a vanilla bean if at all possible to get the best flavor, and those lovely seed flecks. Yes they can be expensive, but it does make a difference. Since you are using minimal ingredients, you want to taste the vanilla, not the liquid used to make extract.
If you can't find pods, then vanilla paste would be your best alternative. It, too, usually has the seeds and has a flavor that is better than extract for this.
Making the crumbs
As I said, you can use crushed Danish macaroon cookies for this, but I do like the traditional style with breadcrumbs, and it's easy enough to make.
You need to use plain, toasted dried breadcrumbs for this which you can either make yourself, or buy. Just make sure they aren't seasoned as the flavor will be off - remember you are going to sweeten them.
One of the other great things about this dish is that you can prepare the components in advance then assemble them when you are ready. Both the apples and whipped cream can be prepared ahead and stored in the fridge. The sweetened, toasted crumbs should be stored in a sealed container at room temperature. Then just layer everything up and serve.
You don't want to put the layers together too far ahead of eating as the crumbs will soften. But it's quick and easy to do, so it's minimal last minute prep.
Æblekage might not be that well-known beyond Denmark, but this Danish apple trifle is a delicious treat that's well worth enjoying. Easy to make, with simple tasty flavors and a nice mix of textures, it's one comforting, delicious dessert.
Try these other tasty apple treats:
- Apple snack cake (a lovely easy, buttery and gently spiced cake with chunks of apple)
- Classic apple tarte tatin (the well-loved French upside-down apple tart)
- Apple and bacon cornmeal scones (these might sound an unusual combination, but believe me they are really tasty!)
- Plus get more Nordic recipes and fall recipes with apple, pumpkin and more in the archives.
Æblekage - Danish apple trifle
For apple sauce
- 1 lb apples approx 2, see notes
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- ¼ vanilla pod (or larger piece if small)
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 2 tablespoon water
For toasted crumbs
- 2 tablespoon butter
- 2 oz toasted breadcrumbs plain, unseasoned (2oz is approx ⅔ cup)
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoon whipped cream or more, to taste
- Peel the apples, remove the core and dice the apples into relatively small pieces. As you go, place the apple pieces in a pot/pan and drizzle with a little lemon juice. Toss to coat and help keep them from browning too much. Repeat with peeling, removing core and chopping rest of apples.
- Split the vanilla pod along one side to open then scrape out the seeds and add them to the pot with the apples. Add the sugar and water to the pot as well then place over a medium heat.
- Warm the apples and stir now and then to help dissolve the sugar. Once the mixture has come to a simmer, cover, reduce the heat and leave to cook for around 5 - 10 minutes until the apples have softened. The exact time will depend on the apples and size of chunk so check every few minutes.
- Once the apples are soft, mash them to give you a coarse apple sauce. Once the mixture is relatively smooth, remove from the heat and allow to cool. You can make the apples ahead of time.
- For the crumbs, melt the butter in a skillet over a medium heat and once melted, add the breadcrumbs and sugar. Cook for a couple minutes, stirring regularly, so that everything is well mixed. The crumbs should be crisp but take care that they don't burn. Remove from heat.
- To assemble, make a layer of crumbs at the bottom of two serving glasses, then add a layer of apples, more crumbs, more apples, then a final drizzle of crumbs. Try to smooth out the layers as you go so they are relatively even. Top with a dollop of whipped cream and serve.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
I've drawn on a few recipes in creating this, including this one from Denmark.dk.