Saturday, September 9, 2023

Washington Apple Cake

This is not a fancy-looking cake. Its rustic humility belies its alluring, delicious appeal.

Who doesn't love apple season?
There are almost 7500 unique apple varieties in the world. Here in the United States, we grow about one 
hundred. And we love sweet apples, unlike Europe which treasures apples we have never tasted and which tend to lean on the "herby" side. Difficult to explain. England had some of the best apples I ever tasted ... Many were like sipping a cool crisp glass of Chardonnay. The closest I can think here are Winesaps. What a great old apple. Here in the mountains of North Carolina, some dear souls still tend to the old trees. A bowl of fresh Winesaps will fragrance a room ... And one or two in a pie will make it unique and special!

I love my local farmers market!

Europeans tend to let the apples do the talking in their recipes, so they don't overload them with cinnamon and spices. I know it sounds strange, but it works. Here, we love our apple pie spice. Extra cinnamon. Nutmeg. And lots of sugar. The apples kind of get lost.

I honestly don't know where I got this recipe, but I make it often. It's like a walk through the woods in the autumn. It's fun to change up. Originally, it called for walnuts; but, when I can find them (afford them!), I do love black walnuts and what they add to any apple recipe.

I avoid cakes made with copious amounts of oils. Seed oils, in case you haven't heard, are bad for you. Very bad. They are greasy and you can often feel it on your tongue. Instead, I half the oil with melted butter. And be sure your oil is fresh, not on the verge of going rancid.

This is a dense cake that reminds me of autumn bark on oak trees. The corners and end pieces are almost like brownies. But that's what I love about it. And the pure, clean layer of apples on the bottom. I rarely frost this ... a light coating of powdered sugar will do. Melty vanilla ice cream is good, too ... or a nice English custardy sauce. I could also see a cinnamon or maple-glaze frosting.

I usually half this. Store leftovers, covered, in fridge, and bring to room temp before devouring ... or nuke a bit to have with your morning cuppa ... People say it freezes well.

The original recipe calls for two cups of sugar, but many find that too sweet and use 1.5 cups. I stick with two cups for that "brownie" effect.

  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil (I use 1/2 cup melted butter and 1/2 cup oil)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon (I use apple pie spice)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I like the combo of 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon almond extract. You do you.)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional. I like black walnuts
  • 4 cups peeled, thinly sliced apples (about 5 medium)
Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter or spray a 9 x13-inch pan or dish. If making half a recipe, use a 6 x10 or 8 x 8 pan or dish. I prefer glass/pottery.

Spread apples neatly and evenly in rows over the bottom of the pan.

Beat eggs until thick and light. Combine sugar and oil or oil-butter mixture and add to eggs. Beat in just until combined.

Stir together flour, cinnamon or apple-pie spice, soda and salt. Add to egg mixture and beat in. Add vanilla.

If using, stir in nuts.

Please note: batter will be very thick!

Dollop spoonfuls of batter over apples and, using an off-set spatula or butter knife,  carefully spread to create an even surface, being careful not to disturb the apple layer.

Bake for one hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

If desired, frost with icing of your choice. I think it's just fine plain with a sifting of confectioner's sugar.

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