I have a long standing thing for apples. A giant old round fruit crate label with a big green three-apple group portrait, front and center, hangs on my kitchen wall. When I had a garden, I planted two special dwarf rootstock apple trees- a Cox's Orange Pippin, and a Westfield Seek-No-Further. Passing my old place, I always check to see how the trees are doing, before glancing at the house behind. Every year when the Honeycrisp apple season arrives, I go a little crazy acquiring and consuming them in unreasonable numbers. It is fair to say that I'm crazy about apples.
I am also a sucker for all kinds of apple cakes and pies. There are traditional apple cakes on both sides of my family. I didn't get those recipes from the family cooks who served them to me, and they are both long gone now. But I have managed to duplicate both cakes with a reasonable degree of authenticity. They have sentimental value for me, which adds to their simple charm. You can find them here, and here.
There is no better dessert than a classic tart tatin, and a slew of other apple tarts and pies have their way with me from time to time. They all have their individual virtues and lures. And I am always hoping to find a quintessential apple cake.
So, although it is entirely unseasonal, I have taken some time in the midst of strawberry jamming, to try yet another one. The platonic apple cake to which I aspire is not a bakery product, but a humbler, home cooked item. These are my standards: It should be be simple to make; it should taste distinctly and primarily of apples, rather than supplementary flavors; and it should be good to eat the next day. Because I don't want to waste it or to eat it when all flavor and texture has fled.
A lot of otherwise excellent baked goods are, IMO, greatly diminished by sitting overnight. They may look the same, but their soul has flown away, and only a sad carcass remains. I live alone, and am sadly aware that it is best if I do not consume, alone, in one day, entire pies and cakes. Thus, I favor cakes which either stay the same for a bit, or are good stale and toasted- brioche, pound cakes, kugelhopf, and so on.
This recipe is from Patricia Well's Paris Cookbook, and it is very nice indeed. I am not sure if I would call it a cake or a sort of pie, or, perhaps, a flan. She reports having begged it from her produce market apple vendor, hence the name. It is custardy, and tastes pretty good, though a bit different, the next day. I used Golden Delicious apples, because I had some left from a tart tatin. This is an apple which is, IMO, useless for out of hand eating, bland and entirely uncrisp, but which miraculously develops a mellow caramelized sweetness when cooked. I would definitely recommend using only one apple variety , a sort you especially like, as the apple taste is prominent.
It is not quite the apple cake of my dreams, but it is very good, and I will be making it again. This is what you need:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs. baking powder
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 cup whole milk
4 baking apples (about 2 lbs. total), cored, peeled and cut into thin wedges (I use golden delicious)
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
Equipment: 9-inch springform pan
This is what you do:
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Butter a 9-inch springform pan and set aside
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and sea salt and stir to blend. Add vanilla extract, eggs, oil and milk and stir until well blended. Add the apples and stir to thoroughly coat them with the batter.
Spoon the mixture into thhe prepared cake pan. Place the pan in the center of the oven and bake until fairly firm and golden, about 25 min.
Meanwhile, prepare the topping: In a small bowl, combine the sugar, egg and melted butter and stir to blend. Set it aside.
Remove the cake from the oven and pour the topping mixture over it. Return the cake to the oven and bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when presses with a fingertip, about 10 minutes.
Transfer the cake pan to a rack and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Then run a knife around the sides of the pan, and release and remove the springform side, leaving the cake on the pan base. Serve at room temperature, cut into wedges.
Note from Patricia Wells - "When you make this cake, you will be surprised by the small amount of batter, the quantity of apples. In effect, this is more of a crustless pie, in that the batter is just there to hold the apples together. What I love most about this recipes is that it allows the full flavor of the apple to shine through."