If I feel certain about anything, it’s that my apple cake recipe is a winner. However, as people who know me know, just because something is good doesn’t mean it’s good enough. For this reason, I must continue to try and innovate as much as I can. In this case, it was a recipe that caught my eye called “Apple Cider Donut Cake” that I thought I absolutely had to try. Unlike my other apple cake, it doesn’t use whole fruit, favoring apples cooked in apple cider (I use the boiled cider extract) and then pureed and added to the dry ingredients. For the final step, a shower of cinnamon sugar. I really loved the overall feeling of the cake, even if I found it wasn’t at all donut-like and lacked OOMPH. It was still a hit at parties.
Of all the things people ask me to make, and I oblige, the World’s Best Apple Cake is at the top of the list (second only to the World’s Best Chocolate Cake). Many apple baked goods suffer from a lack of cohesion— apple pies (and their ilk) often feature hard or brittle crusts with soft sugary apples in them. When the crust and pie filling aren’t married (but crash into each other) there is a discordancy that I find highly unsatisfying. On the other hand, the term apple cake brings up the idea of some kind of bad grandmotherly offering– some kind of dry, crumbly thing that has as much apple flavor as a dry martini has vermouth.
On the other hand, this cake has it all– deliciousness, moistness, crunchy yummy streusel topping, and of course, rich and real apple flavor. It comes from the The Cookie Shop and the original recipe is here. Many recipes called “the best” aren’t even close, but this one really takes the cake (:]). Seems like that recipe was adapted from an original Martha Stewart recipe (who got it from someone else) which confirms that everything has been done, but still it’s a great recipe.
However, as always, I found it necessary to make a few tweaks.
I use slightly less cinnamon and more vanilla, salt and sugar.
I only use Honey Crisp apples (in a pinch I’ll use Pink Lady or Fuji, but I try to stay on Honey Crisp).
I added a streusel layer that I added to the bottom, the middle and the top (see recipe below).
I have consistently found that baking time maximum is 75 minutes (the original recipe says 75-90 minutes).
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (the original recipe calls for 1 tablespoon but I can’t fit the tablespoon measure in the bottle of cinnamon, so I just take the easy way out).
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 cups canola oil
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3-4 honey crisp apples (you can substitute your favorite apple, but HCs are the perfect balance of sweet-tart), chopped. [Editor’s note: probably three or four cups of chopped apples is the right amount]
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 12-cup Bundt pan with cooking spray; set aside (you’ll have to empty it out after a while if it pools on the bottom)
In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream vegetable oil, sugar, and eggs; mix on high speed until satiny and lemon-colored, about five minutes.
Add dry ingredients until just incorporated.
Chop the apples by cutting the apple’s sides off and then dicing finely; you should end up with three-five cups of diced apple. (I leave the pieces rather large, but the size is up to you and your knife skills. The apples cook all the way through so don’t worry about crunch factor).
Add apples to batter; mix to combine. Add vanilla, mixing until incorporated.
Pour batter into prepared pan, and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 75 to 90 minutes.
Remove from oven, and cool slightly on a wire rack.
Invert cake onto rack; turn cake right-side up to cool completely on rack
When cool, sift powdered sugar on top. (Cookie shop shows the cake with sugar on top but doesn’t list it as a step or an ingredient; I have been asked to top the cake with cream cheese frosting but so far have refused).
1/4-1/2 cup pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons flour
1/8 cup butter
pinch of salt
1/4-1/2 tsp vanilla
1/8-1/4 tsp cinnamon
Combine pecans, flour, brown sugar, vanilla and unsalted butter and salt, to taste, in the Cuisinart or equivalent.
Grind to till combined, paste-like but not paste.
Lay in the bottom of the bundt pan; pour on batter about 1/3 full. Add another “stripe” of streusel.” Fill the bundt pan with the remaining batter, then top with the rest of the streusel topping.
*This is totally improvisational, and all amounts are approximate. I usually don’t measure at this part, so you’ll have to find the amounts that work for you. I find it hard to get it wrong.
November is to apples what black is to bananas, i.e. nature’s alarm clock telling you it’s time to use ’em or toss ’em. As that siren grew louder, I spied my pile of ever-softening honey crisp apples with despair. Decisive action was necessary. Taking to my trusty recipe network, I found Old Fashioned Apple Cake on King Arthur and got to work. Unlike my signature “Best Apple Cake in the World” which takes lots of time, prep and requires three major kitchen appliances to complete, this was going to be a walk in the park.
Aside from the ingredients already in my pantry (Apples, Flour, 9 x 13 pan), I noted in the comments section of the recipe where people had successfully added carrots and raisins to the cake and cream cheese and boiled cider to the icing. (Boiled cider is on my list of ingredients that I pine for and will likely never have, because I never successfully get to the check out at King Arthur).
My inventory check revealed I had all those things, and I knew I needed to use them. Shockingly,the one thing I was missing was regular orange carrots. I had only baby carrots and a collection of strange colored carrots (white, red and dark red) that are fun to use in salads but have a distinctly different taste, and ergo not right for this project. I usually have a lot of dried fruit on hand, but at the time the only raisins I had were little boxes that I used to throw in my kids’ lunch. (They in turn, were likely hurled at their enemies, but never eaten). I had pecans, which I toasted to a nutty perfection but then did not include BECAUSE I AM NOT GOING TO COOK NUTS TWICE so don’t ask me to do it. They stayed in a bowl and were eaten by passers by who continued to inquire what I was making, and more importantly, when it would be ready. I used roasted, but untoasted pecans in the cake.
King Arthur advises you to “frost the cake while the frosting is still warm,” but I regarded that as Voodoo that results in runny frosting and ruined cake, so I opted for the “chill first” method. The comments in the recipe noted that cooling the frosting allows you to get a better handle on how sweet it will taste, and this is true– the first night the frosting tasted only a little sweet—despite being made almost entirely of two kinds of sugar. As the days wore on, the frosting did start to seem like it was too sweet, and perhaps we would have been better glazing the cake instead of a full, pile-on frosting.
Frosted or not, this is a nice little cake that thanks to the ginger and nutmeg has a great fall taste profile and is a worthy of use of apples that have been rejected due to softness or lack of crisp appearance. And remember, nature wants you to make cake. Why else would she turn bananas black or the calendar to November?
Old Fashioned Apple Cake
2 1/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
2 tsp or 1 tblsp vanilla
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
3 large apples (this was about 4+ cups)
1 large carrot or 4 baby carrots, shredded
~1/2 cup raisins, craisins, currants or dried fruit of your choice
1/2 cup diced pecans
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 oz cream cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Prepare a 9″ x 13″ pan. I used parchment paper and PAM. You can grease and flour if you like.
1) Mix the dry ingredients (except the sugar) in one bowl. Mix the sugar, butter and eggs and vanilla (in that order) in a stand mixer until satiny.
2) Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Just combine (don’t OVERMIX). Then add the apples and carrots. Just combine (don’t OVERMIX!). Chop and add nuts.
3) Spread the batter in the prepared pan.
4) Bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
5) Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely; don’t remove the cake from the pan.
To make the frosting:
1) Melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts.
2) Add the milk, bring to a boil, and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.
3) After 10 minutes, stir in the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar and vanilla. Taste and add salt. Beat on high; if the mixture appears liquidy, add more confectioners’ sugar. If too crumbly, you can add more milk or vanilla. Chill frosting in mixing bowl. This will give the frosting a chance to cool as well as the cake. This is good for everyone.
4) Frost the cake. Keep a light touch; the frosting is very sweet.