Simple Pleasures.

Simple Pleasures.
Irish soda bread on its way up North with Noah.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bake it Again....Ma'am

I know I've urged you to make this apple cake before. But I'm going to bug you again. That's because NOW--at the height of the apple harvest-- is the perfect time to make perhaps the best thing I bake. If the fact that I've been making it for years and years and that everyone who tastes it goes berserk about it isn't enough to sway you, then maybe you'll be swayed by the fact that Ladies' Home Journal recently published a piece I wrote about this recipe and THEIR readers are writing in about it. Not that LHJ is the final arbiter of good taste on the cake front, but I'm just sayin'.

Dorky name-dropping aside, I really can't recommend this recipe enough.  It's moist, perfumed with cinnamon, buttery, and keeps like a dream. It calls for granny smiths, but I use any firm, tart apple I happen to have hauled home with me from Upstate picking escapades. Kids love this cake, grownups swoon for's perfect for a fall dessert or can even stand in for a coffee cake at brunch. And it's practically foolproof. The only person who can't seem to pull it off is my mom. But then again, her oven runs about 150 degrees cooler than it's supposed to. Other than having an oven that works, there's really only one trick to this cake: Once you turn it out from the tube pan onto a plate, you're supposed to place your actual serving plate on top, and then flip it back over so the cake is right side up. For years, I didn't do this, nor did I realize I was serving this cake upside down. If you don't feel like taking the risk of a flip, forget this step: Serve it as it comes from the tube pan and let your friends and family flip for the cake instead.

All-Time Best Apple Cake

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsps. Ground cinnamon
1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. Salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 tsps. Vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
4 cups apples (3 to 4 large apples), peeled, cored, and cut into ½-inch cubes

1 tsp. Cinnamon mixed with 1 tbsp. Sugar (turbinado ideally for some crunch) for topping.

Confectioners Sugar Glaze (highly optional, to drizzle over finished cake in order to dress it up a little. You'll need about 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar, stirred up with enough milk to make it drizzly, yet still thick. That's very little, s0 start with about a teaspoon and keep adding milk slowly until you reach the right consistency.)

Special Equipment Alert:  10-inch tube pan with removable bottom. If you don't have one, go ahead and get one at BBandBeyond or your local hardware store, or hell--just come over and borrow mine. These pans come in handy and take all the stress out of getting tube cakes out of the pan. And this does need to be made as a tube cake.

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 10-inch tube pan with a removable bottom with butter or vegetable oil. I make life easy and spray the pan with Pam for Baking, which combines flour and oil in one simple squirt.
2. Whisk together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Cream butter, oil, sugar, and vanilla in a medium-size mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until the ingredients are blended, about 2 minutes. Stop to scrape the bowl twice with a rubber spatula.
4. Add the eggs one at a time, and mix on medium-low speed after each addition until blended, 10 seconds. Scrape the bowl each time. Once the eggs are added, mix again for 10 seconds.
5. Add half the dry ingredients and blend on low speed for 15 seconds. Scrape the bowl, add the rest of the dry ingredients, and mix on low speed until blended, about 5 seconds more.
6. Add the apples with a few turns of the mixer or by folding them in by hand with a wooden spoon.
7. Spoon the batter into the pan and sprinkle with the cinnamon-sugar over the top. Bake the cake on the center oven rack until the top is firm and golden and a tester inserted at the cake’s highest point comes out dry, about 1 hour 5 minutes. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes.
8. Invert cake onto large plate. If desired, place actual serving plate on top of cake. Flip over. Allow to cool completely.
9. Drizzle with confectioners sugar glaze, if desired. Devour and win raves.