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Apple trees and old German apple cake

30 Jun 20

by Andrew Muirhead

Andrew is a Climate Champion volunteer with the Living Lighter Project.

There is an apple tree behind our house. The variety is old and these are cooking apples, much sweeter than Bramleys. The tree yields variable crops but there is usually enough to provide ample cooking apples for at least 6 months of the year. It is much harder to buy organic cooking apples than eating apples, so this is a welcome resource.

The pictures above show the tree in flower and some early fruit a few weeks later. I used to think that apples had to be stored on shelves or frozen. I now know that bruised fruit should be cut up and frozen, but undamaged fruit can be washed, dried and put in plastic bags. They must be checked regularly, but often last 4+ months in a cool garage. The frozen fruit usually lasts us 2 or 3 months. Cutting up apples in large quantities is time consuming and when it is the only preservation method used, usually overwhelms the freezer.


Old German Apple Cake

My mother’s best friend was Barbara von Gontard. Her apple cake recipe has not, to my knowledge, been published before. The recipe was developed when there were food shortages in Germany and the result is delicious but also climate friendly, using only modest amounts of animal products.


  • 1 kg apples 
  • 2 cloves
  • 25g to 150 g sugar depending on taste and apple type (Bramleys need the most).
  • 1 piece of lemon rind
  • 100 ml water


  • 150g butter or margarine
  • 75g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 12 oz self-raising flour
  • Pinch salt

Stew the apples, with cloves, sugar to taste, lemon rind and water. Allow to cool.

Beat butter (or margarine) and sugar into a cream, add egg, then flour and salt, until mixture forms a soft dough. Grease a loose bottom baking tin 20-25cm wide. Use most of the dough to line the tin, then add cooled apples. Flatten remaining dough between your palms and cover the apples then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Gaps in the covering fill in with cooking. Bake at gas mark 5 (180 degrees C or 170 degrees in fan oven) for 30-40 minutes. Eat hot or cold as a pudding.


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