November 21, 2011

Apple Cake

Many years ago, I worked at a place where a group of us took turns hosting breakfast every few weeks. Most of my memories of these breakfasts involve the people and conversation.

But one breakfast stands out for the food. The apple cake, to be specific. It was so simple. So moist. And

I still don't know why I didn't request the recipe right on the spot. But years have passed and I've long since lost touch with the woman who made that apple cake. And yet I haven't been able to it out of my mind.

I've tried many apple cake recipes over the years and none have come close to my memory (which, at this point, has probably exaggerated the deliciousness of that apple cake well beyond reason). But for all my attempts, I've ended up with apple cakes that are too dry, too heavy on the cinnamon, or lacking in real apple flavor.

This recipe is the closest I've ever come. It's not a perfect match to the apple cake I had all those years ago. But it aspires to the same principles: moist cake, tender crumb, apple flavor front and center.

This recipe is more apple than cake. In fact, it's mostly apples bound by the bare minimum of moist crumbs. The apple flavor isn't overpowered by cinnamon or nutmeg or any other spice. And the cake is delicate and moist, almost custard-like in its taste and texture.

This would make a beautiful addition to your Thanksgiving table, a nice but not drastic (for Thanksgiving traditionalists) departure from apple pie. Serve it warm with some freshly whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Or, if you've got a houseful of guests for the long weekend, serve this cake with a morning cup of coffee or on a brunch buffet.

Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.

In another bowl, beat the eggs until foamy.

Add the sugar, rum, and vanilla and whisk until well blended.

Alternate adding half the flour and half the melted butter and mixing after each addition. The recipe said to whisk the mixture but I ended up having to switch to the beater blade to mix the thick batter.

Now prepare your apples. It's nice to choose four different apples if you can, to get a nice variety of tastes and textures in the cake. I used Fuji, Granny Smith, Braeburn and Cortland.

Peel and core the apples.

Then cut into chunks or slices.

Gently fold the apples into the batter. It will look like there is barely enough batter to coat the apples.

Pour batter into a buttered springform pan and press down with a spatula to even out the top.

Bake for about an hour, until the cake is golden brown.

Remove the sides of the springform pan and let the cake cool.

Serve simply with a dusting of powdered sugar. Or with a dollop of whipped or ice cream.

Apple Cake

Barely adapted from a recipe by Dorie Greenspan

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/16 tsp cinnamon (not in the original recipe, this will add just the tiniest hint of spice to the cake)
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar (I only used 1/2 cup and I thought it was sweet enough)
3 Tbsp dark rum (this sounds like a lot but the cake doesn't taste boozy)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract 
8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled

1.      Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it.

2.      Whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt together in small bowl.

3.      Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks. (I cut the apples into slices instead of chunks.)

4.      In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter.

5.      Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it's coated with batter. (It will looks like very little batter for the amount of apples.) Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it's evenish.

6.      Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

7.      Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren't any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment or wax paper, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.

Notes: The cake can be served warm or at room temperature, with or without a little softly whipped, barely sweetened heavy cream or a spoonful of ice cream.

The cake will keep for about 2 days at room temperature. However long you keep the cake, it's best not to cover it — it's too moist. Leave the cake on its plate and just press a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper against the cut surfaces.

Serves 8

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