I kept seeing it everywhere. This recipe for, “Dorie Greenspan’s Apple Cake.” Always referred to as a 4-word title. There it was in our local paper, tied to her book review on Amazon.com, traveling the virtual airways by Twitter, Facebook, Blogs. Hard bound and in print on page 432 of her new cookbook, Around My French Table. And even on AM Northwest, there was Dorie Greenspan making her Apple Cake. My curiosity was piqued…and as I’ve shared before, I’m not one to bake much.
Before giving it much thought, I tossed out the following statement to the virtual world by means of my La Pomme de Portland Facebook page, “Feeling a little sad to have missed Dorie Greenspan at the Heathman last night but went to Powell’s today and bought her new cookbook, Around My French Table. If I make the apple cake, anyone want to come over and try it out with me?? I can’t eat a whole cake by myself….seriously.”
The response was a resounding, “Yes.”
Then, I started to panic….a little. “I know it’s Dorie Greenspan and all but what if I make the cake and it’s not something I would want to serve to other people?” So, after finally making it to the liquor store for dark rum, I whipped up a trial run of Dorie’s apple cake (which, by the way, is called Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake in her cookbook.) And, as I pulled away the sides of my springform pan to admire the final product, I thought to myself, “This looks like a cake that Dorie Greenspan would make. It’s petite, sophisticated, elegant. And the rum….wow!….you can’t miss it.” I sliced it up and passed around pieces to the family. I wondered, for just a moment, if I should be worried as I saw my 11-year old all wide-eyed going back for seconds. He, like me, who doesn’t usually like baked goods.
The next morning, I carried slices next door, where my neighbor and I analyzed this final product over cups of coffee. I was curious what she thought…. she being a baker and all. Delicious, absolutely, but we couldn’t help chuckling as we wondered if this was more of a “5 o’ clock” cake. Of course, that didn’t prevent us from eating each rum-laden bite.
After leaving my neighbor’s, I came to the conclusion that this cake truly looked and tasted like something darling, sophisticated Dorie would serve to guests in her home. The cake reminded me of her…based on the brief amount of time I’ve spent around her. But for me, someone who spent her most formative years on an island in the Puget Sound, I needed something a little more provincial.
I hauled out my over-stuffed recipe box and whipped up an Apple Cake recipe I had copied down years ago. Too much oil. I pulled out cookbook after cookbook searching for Apple Cake recipes. Too many add-ins. I combed the internet for apple cake, apple bread, apple crumb cake, apple anything. Too much sugar. Finally, in a fit of frustration, using 4 or 5 different recipes as guides, I whipped up my own apple cake.
With Corinne Bailey Rae’s rendition of “River” playing in the background and the first flakes of the season gently falling outside, I sat down with a slice of my apple cake. As I tasted that first spice-laden bite, I thought, “Yes. Now, this is something I would serve guests.” A bit rustic but still pretty with the dusting of powdered sugar on top. I would serve it warm, with a cup of tea and possibly even a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side. Funny how even the food we set down for friends and family can say something about us.
And in the spirit of setting down food for family and friends, I wish you a most wonderful Thanksgiving wherever you may be, whatever you may be serving.
Apple Cake with a Provincial Flair
This cake isn’t overly sweet which is how I like my baked goods but if you tend to go for cakes and cookies on the sweeter side you could add up to another cup of sugar. For the apples, I used a mixture of Honeycrisp and Granny Smith but any baking apple would work fine. Also, I didn’t put any nuts in this cake since I have a kiddo with nut allergies but if you aren’t in that same situation I’m begging you to put walnuts or pecans in yours. I just know it would be fantastic and would round out the flavors.
2 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c butter, softened
1 c sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c applesauce
4 c apples, diced and peeled (approx 3-4 med apples)
Optional: 1 c chopped nuts, walnuts or pecans
Powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan and set aside.
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside
In a large bowl, cream together your butter and sugar. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Stir in your vanilla and applesauce.
Slowly add your flour mixture to your butter mixture, bit by bit. Mix well to make sure all of the flour is absorbed. Fold in your apples (and your nuts). The mixture will seem to be heavy on the apples but not to worry.
Pour your mixture into your prepared Bundt pan and bake for one hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes. Then, invert onto rack and cool to room temperature. Once cool, sift a light dusting of powdered sugar onto the top.
Slice. Serve with a cup of tea and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side, should you desire. Enjoy.
All original text and photographs copyright: Carrie Minns 2009-2010