I’ve been in a bit of a bind with this blog thing lately. I’ve got about 14 half written posts that make no sense. I’ve got potentially great recipes that I can’t quite perfect and even better ideas I haven’t had a chance to make. My files are a half-thought out, note filled disaster. I’ve got miscellaneous ingredients and dated dairy spilling out of my refrigerator and a freezer full of good things with the potential to be great things. What I don’t have right now is time. I know, cry me a river. It’s a repeating theme lately and a situation I promised myself, while relaxed and happy deep in the French countryside, that I wouldn’t get myself into again. Yet here I am. With the holidays approaching, it’s only going to get worse. So what do I do in these situations? Make cake.
Let me explain. Last week I helped out my friend Farmer Pete, at an event benefitting a worthy cause. He made a deconstructed apple tart and I helped serve, bringing my sparkling wit and personality to the table. OK, I scooped gelato. Whatever. At the end of the night, there were leftovers – mainly the salted caramel gelato. It was Jesse’s from Black Dog Gelato. Damn straight I took it. There was also a pot of apples that had been slow simmered in cider. Sliced such as they were, they may have looked like French fries but they were too delicious to throw away. That would have been a downright shame so of course I took those too. Although I didn’t get home until 10pm, I decided to deal with them right then and there. A cake it was to be. Who needs sleep when there’s an opportunity to bake a cake?
Because time was of the essence, I did a quick search and turned up this one. It looked perfect – quick, easy. If you’re not familiar with Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks, check her out. She does great things with whole grains, vegetables and delicious healthy things we should all be eating. Now then, let’s just say her cake was perhaps a bit healthier with whole-wheat flour and not quite as much sugar but other than a few tweaks, I pretty much stuck to the recipe. I had a bottle of pumpkin pie spice that was just staring at me so I used it, but cinnamon or whatever strikes your fancy would work just as well. I also added a glaze because I just love a little extra sweet crunch on these types of cakes so I whipped up an easy one up with powdered sugar, cider and a little touch of that spice.
The cake came together quickly, was made with ingredients I had on hand and was moist and utterly delicious. It fit the bill perfectly and was downright tasty with a scoop of that gelato. And I didn’t have to think about it too much or stay up too late. If only the rest of my to-do list was this easy.
STRESS THERAPY BAKING FACTOR: A NO-THINK WONDER. Whip it together in no time and you’ve got delicious snacking for days. Autumn in a cake pan right here people.
UPDATE 10/31/11: A quick word on apples. A “sweet crisp apple” is any variety that you like that will hold together well during baking. While a McIntosh is great for applesauce, it tends to break down during cooking making it a poor choice for this cake. A Red Delicious is not so delicious and should be avoided at all costs. This is an apple I simply do not understand. Good choices that are readily available are Granny Smiths, Golden Delicious, Gala or even a Honeycrisp if you’re feeling rather flush.
SIMPLE APPLE CAKE
Makes 16 2”x2” pieces
For the cake:
2 cups sweet, crisp apples, peeled & cut into ¼” cubes
2 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or ground cinnamon)
½ cup dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
3 Tablespoons large grain sugar, like Sugar in the Raw
for the glaze:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons apple cider
1/8 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (or ground cinnamon)
- Preheat the oven to 400°F and put a rack in the middle of the oven.
- Line a 9” square baking pan with parchment paper in both directions, like a sling, then spray with cooking spray. Set aside.
- For the cake: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, brown sugar and salt. If there are any brown sugar lumps, rub them between your fingers to work out.
- In a smaller bowl whisk together the eggs and buttermilk then gently whisk in the melted butter.
- Pour the liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and stir with a spatula until just combined – do not over mix.
- Gently fold the apples into the cake batter.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, spreading it out evenly toward the edges.
- Sprinkle the top with the large grain sugar.
- Bake for about 25 minutes until cake is just set and golden brown.
- Set on a wire rack to cool completely.
- For the glaze: in a medium bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, pumpkin pie spice and cider until smooth and pourable.
- When the cake is completely cool, drizzle the glaze over the top and let sit until completely set.