Last night I was busy perusing through recipes I might try for today. Because I knew we had a few apples stored in the crisper since Christmas 2011, there was the frantic need to get rid of most of it, or else the lot might just go rotten. I thought about perfecting my apple pie, since my first attempt at pie didn’t turn out so well. Then I thought about cupcakes, but since we didn’t have any cupcake liners left, I scratched that out as well. Then I thought about poaching the apples in liquor, and I was dead-set on doing it. But the nagging feeling that today would be the day I would bake my first cake kept bothering me until I caved in and well….made. my. first. cake. And yeah, this far from a chocolate cake.
The original recipe didn’t call for shredded apples in the batter. I looked at the recipe and I was afraid that the cake would turn out plain without anything to up the batter’s ante. Well, that’s just my excuse so I could use up all the Granny Smiths we had. But I thought adding shredded apples was genius.
This is a really dense cake. Probably because the recipe didn’t call for baking soda and vinegar. But it was still really good. This has essentially three layers: the cake, the apple topping and the streusel.
The recipe had me at streusel. Because I haven’t perfected frosting a cupcake, let alone a cake, a streusel is a good, probably even better alternative. Instead of buttercream or cream cheese frosting, I like topping cupcakes with streusel, which is a mixture of flour, butter, sugar and sometimes nuts. It forms a light, sweet, crusty topping that complements the flavors of the apples. Sure I might pounce on frosting in the future, but right now it’s streusel, baby.
Although I’m a butcher that lacks the finesse of peeling and removing the apple cores, I think I did a pretty good job at the apple topping. But the funny thing is, the streusel covered all of it up. I made a mental note of drizzling, not dumping, it with streusel next time.
I did run into a hitch though: because the cake is dense, the wax paper along the sides couldn’t support the whole thing while I was trying to lift it up. Now I was stuck with the problem of removing the cake from the pan without ruining it. I did eventually coax it out by slicing the cake then individually removing the slices with a spatula.
But I have to admit, that for my first attempt, the end product does look pretty darn good. Really good. (Are you out there? Do you agree?)
What really gets me fascinated about the process of cake-making is how different proportions and techniques yield different results. Because this is a dense cake with a tight crumb, I’d like to explore the possibilities with different recipes. Yes Virginia, I’m a nerd, really.
I had more apples than I can use, so I thought about caramelizing the remaining slices with pineapple juice. It was a great accompaniment to the cake. Take that, whipped cream.
One final important note:today I doubled the streusel recipe and I got more than enough crumbs to top the cake with. Hence, a thick streusel layer. I suggest you start with the recipe given below, then double the ingredient proportions for the streusel if you think it’s not enough.
“Let them eat cake!”
Apple Cake with Apple and Streusel Topping + Caramelized Apple Slices (adapted from Joy of Baking; serves 8 – 10)
- 1/2 cup (65 grams) all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons (40 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/4 cup (70 grams) brown sugar
- 2 cups (260 grams) all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon iodized salt
- 1/2 cup (112 grams) (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) milk
- ¼ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 large Granny Smith apple, coarsely shredded using a cheese grater
- 2 large Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thin (1/8 inch) slices for topping, submerged in a bowl with pineapple juice (240ml/1 can) Slice an apple in half lengthwise, then cut each in piece in half. Continue the process until you arrive at 1/8th inch slices.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C). Grease (with butter or shortening) a 9 inch pan and line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper. Grease the lined bottom and sides as well.
- Streusel Topping:
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour and ground cinnamon.
- Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or fork until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the brown sugar. Set aside while you make the cake batter.
- Cake Batter:
- In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer (I used a hand mixer), with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy and smooth.
- Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.
- Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated. Add the allspice and ginger.
- Add the flour mixture, alternately with the milk, and beat only until combined.
- Spread the batter into the bottom of the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a spatula.
- Evenly arrange the apple slices on top of the cake batter and then sprinkle with the streusel topping.
- Bake for about 45 -50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool slightly.
- Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream or softly whipped cream.