Austrian apricot cake is a wonderful combination of a simple cake base, with a touch of lemon, with large pieces of tender apricots nestled on top. It's a popular choice during the fruit's season alongside coffee, and makes a delicious anytime treat.
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Apricots are a fruit that seems to be slightly overlooked in many places, like the US. They seem to be forgotten a little against peaches, but it's a shame as they are truly a lovely fruit. Yes, they make a good jam (and taste particularly good in my lower sugar apricot jam) but they are good for more than that.
As with a number of fruits, getting a good ripe (and ideally local) one makes all the difference to snack on. But even less perfect ones can work well in cooking. That bit of heat brings out the flavor which gets a chance to shine in cakes like this one.
Marillen or Aprikosen?
Even if you are a German speaker, the name may not be familiar. "Marille" (plural Marillen) is the Austrian and Bavarian word for apricot, known as Aprikose (pl Aprikosen) in other German-speaking areas.
While apples are certainly the most grown fruit in Austria, apricots are also popular. They are particularly famous in the Wachau valley where you'll find stalls selling them on the street during their harvest. In fact, the Wachau region's apricots have EU protected origin status.
Some are made into jams, juice or schnapps, as well as being enjoyed fresh. I always remember being so happy to see them in the market when we visited Austria when I was a child. Austria also has a few traditional recipes to celebrate them, like apricot-filled sweet dumplings and this cake.
You'll find apricot cake in a number of areas of Germany as well, but the Aprikosenkuchen in Germany is often made with almonds. In Austria, this relatively simple Marillenkuchen is the more typical style.
A simple, lightly leavened cake base
As with many German and Austrian cakes, particularly those with fruit, the cake base here is less sweet than what is more typical in American baking. Actually that goes for most European cakes, to be honest - I have always found US cakes very sweet compared to what I am used to.
The cake also only has a relatively small amount of leavening in it. Some cakes, including versions of this, actually only use the eggs to give any lift. This one has a small amount of baking powder for a little extra lightness.
Pretty much all versions of this add some lemon zest to add a nice brightness to the cake's flavor. Many also (as I have) add some vanilla. The typical way is with vanilla sugar but if you can't find any you can also use vanilla extract. Other than that, it's a really simple cake batter.
Tips for adding the apricots
In case it wasn't obvious, the apricots are the star of this cake, so a few pointers on how to add them. First, pick apricots that are ripe but not too ripe for this. A little underripe will work too, though they will be a little more tart.
Cut the apricots in half following the natural line between the two sides along the thin edge of the stone. This way, the stone comes out easily and the halves are flatter. There's no need to peel the fruit for this, just wash well before cutting.
Once you have the batter in your cake tin, just rest the apricot halves on top - don't push them in. You might worry that they won't be properly in the cake but don't: the cake rises up around them. If you press them in, they may end up covered over which would be a shame as you would no longer see them.
I recommend sitting the apricots cut side up as this means any juice that comes out of the fruit sits on top in the stone's cavity and goes back into the fruit. If upside down, the skins may become dry and you can get uneven moisture in the cake.
If they fruit becomes dry, some people like to glaze the top of the cake with a little apricot jam after baking. Just gently warm the jam and brush over the top of the whole cake. Another way to finish the top is to add a dusting of powdered sugar, though it is also good just as it is, of course.
This cake, as with most, is best on the day it's made but will keep well stored covered at room temperature for a couple days.
This Austrian apricot cake is a simple combination of a light cake base and bright fruit nestled on the top. It's easy to make and lets the fruit's flavor shine. It's not overly sweet, and not too heavy. And perfect with a cup of coffee or really any excuse.
Try these other tasty fruit-filled cakes:
- German plum cake
- Apple snack cake
- French pear cake
- Plus get more Austrian and German recipes and snack recipes (both sweet and savory) in the archives.
I used one of these 9 inch square baking tins for this recipe which worked well (plus comes with lid for storage).
Austrian apricot cake (Marillenkuchen)
- 8 apricots (or 6 if large)
- 3 eggs
- 115 g unsalted butter 8 tablespoon (1 stick)
- 113 g sugar ½ cup plus 1 tbsp
- 2 teaspoon lemon zest (from around ½ - ¾ lemon)
- 185 g all purpose flour 1 ⅓ cups, plain flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 packet vanilla sugar or ¼ teaspoon extract plus 1 tablespoon extra sugar
- 1 pinch salt
- Wash and cut the apricots in half, following the natural line between the two sides, and remove the stones. Set aside. Line a 9 in (23cm) square baking tin (can also use 8in/20cm square) with parchment and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.
- Whisk the egg whites until they are white and form soft peaks.
- In a separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and mix in then mix in the lemon zest. If you don't have vanilla sugar, also mix in the vanilla extract at this point.
- Add the flour, baking powder, vanilla sugar and salt to the butter-sugar mixture. Mix the baking powder into the flour slightly to help it be better distributed, then mix all together so it is combined, but try not to over-mix.
- Fold the egg white into the main batter and mix through. Try to more fold rather than mix out all of the air, but you also don't want any white streaks in the batter.
- Pour the batter into the lined baking tin then spread the batter to the edges and smooth the top.
- Top the batter with the apricot halves, cut side up so they have a little gap between them but are relatively close. Don't press the apricots in, just sit them on top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for around 35-40 minutes until the cake is golden on top and cooked through (you can test with a skewer in the middle of the batter, it should come out clean). Allow to cool a few minutes before cutting - you may find it easier to remove the whole cake using the paper edges as handles first.
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