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A quick and delicious treat - the apple meringue cake
Without any exaggeration, I can safely say this cake is hands down my favourite dessert EVER. There’s nothing better than baked apples with a hint of cinnamon, coupled with a smooth vanilla cream and silky meringue. The combination is a match made in Heaven and it is as simple as it is delicious. This recipe calls for the most simple ingredients that can be found in everyone’s pantry. It is a quick and inexpensive dessert that’s guaranteed to make everyone ask for a second serving.
The first time I had this apple meringue cake I was but a ‘wee bairn’ (little baby) when my aunt and grandma whipped up this special treat just for me. Since then, I continued asking for it again and again, never getting bored of it – because it’s just so good! I’ve asked for this cake so many times that the recipe now rests in my family’s recipe book as “Hanelore’s apple cake”.
How to make a lovely and light apple cake
We all love a good treat, and we all certainly love one that’s also quick and easy to make! Well, this recipe needs minimal preparation and little to no technical skill.
Let’s break it down for you.
The biscuit base
This is the easiest part, as the base is just crushed biscuits. As I live in the UK, my favourite biscuits to use are either McVitie’s Original Digestives or Petit Beurre. For anyone in North America, the closest equivalent would be graham crackers like these.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t really matter what type of biscuit you use as long as it’s plain and not too sweet. Any type of crunchy and plain biscuit will work perfectly. I would advise against using biscuits that are too crumbly, such as shortbread, as they would become too soft under the apples.
The reason we don’t add any butter to the biscuit base is because the apples will soak into the biscuit base. This will make the base much softer, almost like a cake texture. I told you, minimal effort for maximum return!
Sweet apple and cinnamon
In this recipe I haven’t used any added sugar, because the apples are already so sweet. For instance, using naturally sweet apples such as Gala or Pink Lady will give you a tasty dessert without unnecessary sugar. This means the dessert comes out extremely tasty, but we are also mindful of calories.
I prefer red apples, but you can also use green if they’re sweet enough.
Adding a touch of cinnamon will make the flavour of apples pop even more. However, if you’re feeling adventurous you can add more flavours such as: nutmeg, ginger, allspice or star anise. For the Christmas holidays I definitely recommend going more rustic with the spices!
Silky smooth vanilla cream
There is no big secret to making the perfect vanilla cream. As long as you follow the recipe and have patience, the custard cream will come out perfectly.
The steps are very simple:
- Heat the milk below boiling point. Here is where you can infuse it with real vanilla bean if you have it.
- Separately, mix the egg yolks with the sugar.
- Add in the flour and mix well to prevent lumps.
- Pour the hot milk over the yolk mixture and whisk vigorously to prevent lumps.
- Cook the mixture over low heat until it thickens. If the mixture feels too thin, simply cook it longer, but do not add more flour.
- Optional: add some vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste.
This is my favourite part of the recipe, as I absolutely adore meringue! You can use either a hand mixer or even better, a stand mixer.
We are using a French meringue technique here, as the apple meringue cake will be baked. Baking the eggs is essential as this will make them safe for consumption. However, baking the meringue will also make it less creamy, more like a mousse texture. If you would rather have a softer meringue, use either a Swiss or Italian meringue.
French meringue technique
Start off by whipping your egg whites until they get frothy, then add your sugar in 3 parts. Adding all the sugar in one go might destabilise your meringue, so a little patience is needed. Keep whisking until all the sugar has been added and the meringue is at medium-hard peaks.
Baking the perfect apple meringue cake
What makes this apple meringue cake great is the fact that it needs minimal baking. Above all, it’s important to remember that this cake needs baking twice.
Firstly, the apples need cooking a little longer. This is why we bake the cake for 15-20 minutes after adding the apple layer, to caramelise the apples. If we were to bake everything in one go, the meringue would become too hard and crunchy.
Secondly, we need to bake the cake again after the vanilla creme and meringue have been added. As I have said earlier, this makes the meringue safe for consumption and adds a thin layer of crunch. The second baking shouldn’t take longer than 10 minutes.
Chilling makes perfect
I know by this point the smell will become so unbearable that you will want to dig in. However, trust me, young cricket, patience is a virtue! The apple meringue cake needs to cool down, then chill in the fridge for at least 1-2 hours before serving. This will make the vanilla custard firm up and the flavour of the apples become more intense.
If the meringue forms some amber-coloured droplets on the surface, don’t worry. This is perfectly normal and it won’t change your apple meringue cake at all.
I hope you really enjoy this recipe! Don’t forget to let me know below or on social media if you’ve made this apple meringue cake.
1 pack digestive biscuits (graham crackers in the USA), around 200g
1.5-2 kgs sweet red apples
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
Vanilla custard / crème pâtissière
2 tbsp cornstarch
4 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)
4 egg whites
Butter at room temp
- Pre-heat your oven to 170°C with fan (340°F). Prepare a 35 x 25cm (14″x10″) ceramic or glass tray by greasing it with room temperature butter. Be generous with it.
- Place the biscuits in a ziplock bag and crush them using a rolling pin. Place them at the bottom of the greased tray, levelling them with your hand. Set tray aside.
- Grate the apples or chop them in fine pieces. Mix with cinnamon and place over the biscuit base. Level them out with a spatula to get even layers.
- Place the tray in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Start preparing the custard and meringue in the meantime.
- In a saucepan, start heating up the milk for the vanilla cream over medium heat.
- In a large bowl, whip the egg yolks with the sugar until frothy and pale.
- Slowly add the flour and cornstarch in 3 parts and incorporate well with a whisk until there are no lumps. If the mixture becomes too dry, add a few teaspoons of the heated milk.
- When the milk starts to bubble up before boiling point, take it off heat and pour it over the yolk mixture. Whisk continuously to prevent lumps.
- Place the mixture back in the saucepan and cook over low-medium heat until it thickens up (around 4-5 minutes). Once thickened, take off heat and add the vanilla, mixing well to incorporate.
- To prepare the meringue, using either a stand mixer or hand mixer, whip up the egg whites until frothy. Start adding the sugar in 3 parts, mixing the meringue until you get medium-hard peaks.
- Once the apples have baked, remove tray from the oven and pour over the vanilla cream. Level out using a spatula.
- Pour the meringue over the vanilla cream and smooth out the top with a clean spatula.
- Place back in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the meringue starts becoming a pale golden colour.
- Let cake cool for 30 minutes and preferably chill in the fridge for a few hours before serving.
Using a glass tray will make it easier when levelling each layer. Since the apples have no added extra sugar, use sweet red apples such as Gala or Pink Lady. I prefer using full fat milk for the vanilla cream, but semi-skimmed works just as well. If the vanilla custard is too soft, refrain from adding any extra flour whilst cooking and just cook longer until thickened. This recipe calls for a French meringue, which needs baking in order to make it safe for consumption. If you prefer a creamy meringue instead, skip the baking of the meringue and use an Italian meringue instead.