Apples are our ingredient of the season. We started with a healthy juice, and today we’re indulging in a simple and delicious cake that comes together in minutes – perfect for a dose of mid-week baking!
Nothing makes my day more than a request for a baked good from Calder and A.Max. This weekend they discovered the big apple tree that’s a few doors down from our house and heavy with ripe apples. The request: turn these apples into something, anything… Calder and I got to picking while Alex sampled.
Hidden within that request is Calder’s preference for baked treats that don’t include cinnamon. It’s not his thing and he thinks it’s often overused. I can’t get enough and may have a heavy hand, so we don’t necessarily see eye-to-eye, and I’m prone to add cinnamon at any chance I get. It’s especially hard for me to honor his request when a recipe calls for cinnamon because I always want something to take its place. With a little research I came across the cinnamon-free German Apple Cake in Rustic Fruit Desserts. The recipe gets its subtle flavor from the apples, lemon zest, and a touch of vanilla extract.
I made a few modifications to the recipe, and the results were delicious, but slightly less than perfect. When the outside of my cake was done, the top of the middle was still slightly undercooked (the problem). So I’m tossing this ball into your court, because it’s a recipe worth sharing, but also worth playing with. When I mixed the batter following the book’s instructions, it didn’t fill the bottom of my 9-inch pan. So I mixed up a second batch, producing a thicker cake (possible cause #1). The original recipe called for apples cut into sixths and scored to cook thoroughly, placed around the top of the cake with some space in between. I love an apple cake with thinly sliced apples, so that’s what I did, and then packed them around the top of the cake with little room in between(possible cause #2).
I’m sharing my modified recipe below, and, as I mentioned the only differences between this and the published recipe is the doubling of the batter and then slicing of the apples.
- 1 cup of butter (2 sticks)
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- zest from 2 lemons
- 4 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 apples peeled, cored, and sliced
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 350F and butter a 9-inch round baking pan.
- Cream the butter, sugar and zest in an electric mixer with a paddle attachment for about 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl with each egg and then stir in the vanilla.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this mixture to the butter mixture all at once and mix on low speed until just incorporated.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Spread the apples across the top of the cake.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Richardson mentions that sometimes the batter around the apples looks slightly underdone, but that it’s just the moisture from the apples. My cake was definitely underdone in the middle, but there’s no way I wanted to keep it in the oven longer because it was completely done around the edges and across the bottom.
As I mentioned above, the baking problems could have been from the thicker cake due to doubling the batter, but there was no where near enough batter when I followed the book. So I think I’ll keep this change the next time I bake the cake. I think that the way I loaded the pie with apple slices may have been more of a problem, and that possibly just putting few slices in the center would have allowed it to bake more evenly.
Another note on picking apples. These apples came from a random neighborhood tree. It’s not sprayed for pests and there seems to be little if any pruning done. As a result, the tree is beautifully overgrown and full of ripe apples that all have a worm hole or two, but I’ll gladly take a worm hole over chemicals any day. If you come across a tree like this in your neighborhood, don’t be deterred. It’s so easy to work around the blemishes, and the rest of the apple is perfectly delicious, especially if you’re going to bake it into a pie, cake or crisp!