Frances and I always tell each other what we are making and recipes that we discovered. We send each other photos and our respective husbands drool. So when I heard that Frances was making an apple cake for the holidays, I decided that it sounded like a good idea. Mine is adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman. Frances turned me on to her website about a year ago and she is often a fun read for me when work is less than exciting. I have to admit that I prefer reading her blog than making her recipes, but I already knew that Frances had made this cake with great success. Since I am almost incapable of NOT changing a recipe, I made several tweaks – and one BIG mistake, which turned out to be actually quite a good discovery. Here is my version.
Apple Cake – adapted from Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Yield: 12 – 16 servings
6 baking apples like MacIntosh, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2 to 3/4 inch cubes ( I happened to be at the Farmer’s Market, so was able to purchase some heirloom baking variety apple to use)
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 cups plus 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar (See NOTE below. You can use less sugar if you want. I would think that 1.5 cups is perfect plus the 5 Tablespoons)
2.5 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ (I like Kretschmer’s)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 cup Canola oil
1/4 cup orange juice
2.5 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
2 Tablespoons brandy or cognac
Zest of one orange
4 large eggs
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Confectioner’s sugar for sifting over the top
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and generously butter or coat with nonstick spray a 10 inch tube pan with straight sides (think Angel Food cake pan).
- Peel, core and chop the apples and toss them with the cinnamon and 5 Tablespoons of the granulated sugar. Add the orange zest.
- Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Then add the wheat germ, which won’t go through the sifter. In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, orange juice, remaining 1/4 cup of sugar, vanilla bean paste, brandy and eggs.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones, scraping down the bowl to make sure that everything is thoroughly combined. Stir in the walnuts.
- Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Spread half of the apple chunks over it. Pour the remaining batter over the apples and arrange the remaining apples on top. Bake for about 1.5 hours or until the tester comes out clean. You can learn to smell when baked goods are ready. Set your timer, but try seeing if you can smell when the cake is done. It’s a good skill to learn because every oven is different and timing can be off.
- When the cake is finished, transfer it to a rack to cool completely. When it is completely cool you can flip it out of the pan and then over onto a serving platter with the apples facing down. Dust with confectioner’s sugar. This cake will get moister as it ages. It will last for about 3 days if covered.
NOTE: I have a confession to make. I got distracted when I was making the cake and only realized AFTER I had put everything nicely into the pan that I had forgotten to add the 2 cups of sugar to the batter. I didn’t panic and I didn’t want to lose the good ingredients or time I had already put into it. I suppose I could have taken everything out of the pan and mixed the apples through the cake along with the sugar, but I didn’t. I took 1/4 cup of sugar and evenly poured it over the top layer of apples. I then hoped for the best. The result was delicious apple bread. There was extra sweetness from the confectioners sugar on top. Cake would need to be somewhat sweeter in my opinion, but the texture and look was wonderful. My husband had the great idea of using Frances’ baked French toast recipe using the apple cake in place of the challah and adding 1/2 cup of raisins (no blueberries) to the mix. The point is, stuff happens – even with people who cook and bake a LOT. Don’t panic – think it through. Sometimes the experiment is great – sometimes not.