I love apple cakes. A lot. My grandmother’s version is fantastic and lasts about five minutes whenever it’s around. The combination of sweet soft cake, spices, and apples is impossible to resist. And you know what? I’ll say it. I'm not even choosey with my apple cake. If it's there, I'll eat it, and I'll probably enjoy it :). I mean it's really hard to mess up an apple cake. Even bad ones are pretty good.
This past weekend I was actually going back and forth between two ideas (most weekends I can barely come up with one). The first was a bit of an experiment (I guess they all are) and the other was an apple cake, recipe to be determined. You know that episode of the Simpsons where Homer is trying to pick a winner to the Springfield film festival and his dilemma is that “Barney's movie had heart, but ‘Football in the Groin had a football in the groin”? That’s similar to the internal debate I was having. The first recipe was new and a bit different, but apple cake is apple cake. Unlike Homer, I couldn’t argue with that kind of logic.
This particular recipe is from the awesome Smitten Kitchen where I also acquired the sharlotka recipe from a few weeks ago. Though not the same type of “cake,” my somewhat tepid response to the sharlotka (i.e. my changes) made me a bit hesitant to play around with this apple cake too. I spent much of my time during the Celebrity Apprentice (so ashamed) making a list of what I wanted to change; only to rethink it, and then rethink that. Decisions like this are made even more difficult when the original recipe is described as “the best.” But in the end, I just can’t help myself.
In order to make this a "coffee cake" it needed to be rectangular and “no fork compliant” (trust me, it's the official definition). To accomplish this I halved the recipe and used a square cake pan. Although this was a drastic change, the most significant one I made was to remove the oil and replace it with melted butter. An unusual move for me as I typically seek out recipes that use oil because I'm unwilling to spend the time to melt butter (no microwave) or I don't have the foresight to let it soften. Sometimes though you just feel like butter, and this was one of those times. I also removed the orange juice in favour of milk, slightly increasing the amount due to there being less fat in the butter (than oil).
With regards to my other changes, I think it's time to make something official. I have mentioned it a few times in the past, but I feel it is sometimes overlooked.
There are three very important rules when dealing with apples:
1) Keep them away from light
2) Don't get them wet
3) Don't feed them after midnight
Wait, that’s not right... I mean:
3) Brown sugar
There we go.
Cinnamon is obvious and included in most apple recipes. Let’s face it; it should be criminal to bake using apples without cinnamon. I switched the sugar in the batter to brown, reducing the amount, but used white sugar on the apples themselves. In regards to nutmeg, I think I realized something after the sharlotka. Nutmeg is a spice that needs to be "activated," working best when part of a batter. This is unlike cinnamon which can be sprinkled on things after the fact. In the case of the sharlotka I added it directly to the apples and didn’t feel it added anything. This time I added it to the batter. However, I am willing to accept that this may all be in my head.
If you want a cake with a crispier top, eat it on the first day. Experience told me that the flavours would be better on day two and so I waited. And wow! This cake was ridiculously good; honestly, amazing. For the second recipe in a row I'm going to say outright that I wouldn't change a thing. The sweetness combined with the warming notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, coupled with the flavour of the apples was wonderfully balanced and worked together perfectly. The cake was insanely moist and soft. The top layer creamier, almost filling like; whereas the bottom layer was a little more cakey and soft; which was all offset by the slight crispness of the apples. As far as apple cakes go, or at least of this type, it’s hard to want anything more. I quite literally have not stopped thinking about it since I baked it.
One quick note about the apples. You can see from my images that the layers of apple are not packed, and it may seem that there is not enough apple for the cake. Let me assure you that it was the perfect amount. Although depending on the size of your apples you may have a bit more or less.
When I made the sharlotka I ended with saying that something was missing, unsure as to what it was exactly. It lacked “punch” in some way. This recipe was the exact opposite. As an apple cake it was everything you could want and perhaps a little more. It will pair amazingly well with coffee; morning, afternoon, or night; or should you prefer, a glass of milk, and dare I say vanilla ice cream? Regardless of how you choose to enjoy it, bake it now and be happy. However, I am worried that if my recipes continue this trend, I’m going to need some new hyperbole to describe things :)
Apple Coffee Cake
Adapted from Smitten KitchenApple Layers:
3 medium Granny Smith Apples
2 tbsp sugar (28g)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/4 cups + 2 tbsp flour (180g)
1/2 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fresh grated nutmeg -- 1/4 tsp if using ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup packed golden yellow/light brown sugar (165g)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted (113g)
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 tbsp milk – I used 1%
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat oven to 350F and line the bottom of an 8” square baking pan with parchment paper, and grease pan.
Core and quarter apples. Slice each quarter in half. Then slice apples width wise into half inch pieces. Add sliced apples to a bowl with the 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Mix well together, and set aside.
In a medium bowl add flour, baking powder, nutmeg and salt and whisk to combine.
In a large bowl add brown sugar, butter, milk and vanilla, and whisk until completely combined.
Add eggs one at a time, stirring until incorporated (the original recipe does this after adding the dry ingredients, I neglected to notice that, but again, I wouldn’t change a thing).
Add dry ingredients to wet, stirring until completely incorporated.
Evenly spread half the batter into prepared pan then layer half the apples on top (it will be a thin layer of apples). Pour remaining batter over apple layer and spread evenly, then top with remaining apples.
Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean (this took me 47.5 minutes).
Allow to cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes before removing to cool completely.