Friday, November 12, 2010

recipe: Not Quite Mom's German Apple Cake

Halloween may have super-sneak-ninja attacked me this year, but I had Fall all figured out. The day that the scent of cinnamon brooms battered me at my first step into my local grocery store, I bought some Granny Smith apples, went home, and apropos of no greater occasion than the season made this version of my mom's German apple cake.

cake topped with chopped apples, with a wedge cut out

If you wanted to be proper about it, you'd use all white flour and all white sugar in this cake to achieve the sweetest richness, and you'd slice the apples thin-thin-thin for galette-style decoration and chewy caramelization. My modifications yield an earthier, more everyday cake for those of us who don't own a mandolin and have come to comfortable terms with the fact that we'll wind up eating leftover cake for breakfast, and will feel better about it if there's a bit of whole wheat flour involved.

Dense and buttery with a bright, tart kick from the apples and a warming touch of cinnamon, this cake is Fall comfort. Unmodify it for a fancy party treat, or try my relaxed version for a laid-back, party-optional sort of thing.

Not Quite Mom's German Apple Cake
Serves 8-12 people.


3 granny smith apples
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup sugar
half a lemon, de-seeded as best as possible

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

2/3 cup white granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/2 vanilla bean, scraped)
2 tbsp bourbon, if you've got it


Peel & core your apples, slice them into wedges, and chop the wedges into roughly equal-sized chunks. As you go, place the resulting applebits in a medium bowl, tossing them with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning each time you add a batch. Once all 3 apples are chopped, add the cinnamon & sugar and toss/stir/muss about with your hands to coat the apples. Set aside to macerate (i.e., soak & soften) while you prepare:

A pan! V. important to the cake-making process. I used a 9-inch springform for the cake in the photo, but a larger round or square should work so long as you shorten the baking time. Butter and flour your pan of choice and set aside.

Set your oven to 350 degrees F.

Measure your dry ingredients out into a medium bowl and whisk gently to combine.

In a larger bowl, with an electric mixer on medium speed, cream together your butter and sugar for ~3 minutes or until the mixture has lightened in color and texture (indicating that cake-buoying air has gotten into it). Add the eggs, vanilla, and optional bourbon and beat for another 2 minutes to combine thoroughly.

Add your dry ingredients to you wet ingredients and stir with a spoon/spatula/other nonelectric device to combine. The batter should be shiny and smooth (keep stirring if it's not). Pour it into your prepared pan and wiggle the pan to distribute evenly.

Drain most of the liquid from your apples (they can be wet but shouldn't be dripping) and scatter the pieces across the top of the batter, pressing them in just slightly.

Pop the pan in the oven and bake for 60 minutes. Well, check it around 50 minutes. You're looking for the sides of the cake to be deep golden and pulling away from the pan, for the liquid between the apples to be sizzling merrily, and for little bits of batter to be poking up between the pieces of fruit.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan until said pan is handleable, then either remove it from the springform, carefully flip it out of your non-springform pan (using a plate to flip with instead of a wire rack), or simply slice and serve the cake from where it is. Seal tightly and refrigerate any leftovers, which should keep for a week.

*If you leave it in the oven too long, no worries: you can abuse this cake and it'll still come out okay. As long as it's not actually charred, just stick it in the fridge in a tightly covered container overnight and it'll be lovely and moist the next day. When you eat it for breakfast. Because that's what responsible adults who have used whole wheat flour do.

[I previously posted an iteration of this recipe done with pears instead of apples, which is lovely if you have heathens friends who dislike cooked apples.]

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