For the past few year, Portland has gotten these beautiful “Indian Summers” with warm sunny September weather. This September, however, is already shaping up to be a wet one. We still have about another week of summer left, but fall already feels like it is in full swing here. I love it! I’m so ready for Autumn, the changing leave colors, fresh apples, and drizzly days. It’s my favorite time of the year.
Beyond just enjoying those first few rain storms after a hot, dry summer, I get really excited for cooking come fall. While heating up the oven for baking or slaving over a hot stove can feel downright oppressive in the summer months, it’s a cozy, much-welcomed relief from the grey weather once the rain season hits. It’s also the best time for apples, and farm fresh apples are one of my absolute favorite foods. I often don’t bother eating apples the rest of the year because I get so disappointed by the mushier, out of season, store-bought ones, so fall is my time to eat my year’s worth. (No joke, last year I picked about 90lbs of apples from a farm to get me through the year.)
I first came across this apple cake recipe on the Orangette blog about five years ago and fell in love. It’s dense in texture with out feeling heavy or too rich. Plus it is loaded with apples and reminds me more of a tart than a traditional cake. (In my personal opinion, it makes an amazing seasonal breakfast and would be a great addition to a fall brunch). It’s become not only a fall tradition, but also my go to food for my very mellow Rosh Hashanah celebrations, which usually consists of just me and my roommates eating apple cake. In the years since, I’ve adapted it to include some of my other favorite flavors. I recommend using fresh, locally sourced apples if they are available in your area, but the cake will still be delicious with store-bought apples too (I’ve found the tarter Granny Smith variety are the best easy-to-find apples for baking with).
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. nutmeg
5 Tbsp. cold unsalted butter (cut into pieces)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (the real stuff)
1 large egg
3 large apples—peeled, cored and sliced thinly (I recommend Granny Smith or another green/tart cooking apple)
All spice (for dusting)
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted but slightly cooled
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 large egg.
Pre heat oven to 350° and prepare a 9-inch springform pan with butter and flour. (I often just butter the bottom and forget to flour it without much trouble as I often do not remove the cake from the bottom of the pan, using it as a serving plate).
Using a food processor, combine most dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder, nutmeg. Mix lightly on the pulse function. Add butter and pulse until completely incorporated, leaving no large chunks. Add vanilla and egg and blend well. Dough will have the texture cornmeal or just slightly wet cornmeal (just so it sticks together, should not be as liquid as a traditional cake batter). Place dough in the springform pan, gently pressing it around to cover the bottom of the entire pan with a slight curve at the sides (resembling a crust). Lightly sprinkle with all spice. Cover with apple slices in a round, tightly packing them in. It’s a lot of apple and it might seem like it won’t all fit, but keep squeezing the slices in till none are left.
Bake for 45 minutes.
While cake bakes, prepare topping by combining all ingredients in a small mixing bowl. Whisk with a small whisk (or fork) until it is all well blended. Once cake has baked for 45 minutes, pour topping over the cake evenly. You can either spoon it over the top or (as I often do) pour and tilt around the springform pan to spread the topping. Be sure to hold the pan with an oven mitt while doing this, as it just came out of the oven and is very hot! Return cake to oven and bake for another 25 minutes or until topping is set (for me it’s almost always set at 25 minutes mark, but if your topping isn’t quite set yet, leave in oven checking every 2 minutes until the topping is set). Transfer to wire cooling rack and let cool for 20 minutes. Take a knife around the edges of the pan to release and sticky bits from the side before removing the springform pan.
Tips: I think this cake is best at room temp and it keeps very well. I usually bake the night before I plan on eating it. I actually let it sit over night to completely cool after removing from the pan and then just cover wth foil or plastic wrap to keep if fresh.
GRETCHEN IS A WRITER-BASED IN PORTLAND, ORE. SHE GOT HER START AS A JOURNALIST WORKING ON THE SUSTAINABLE FASHION AND RESTAURANT BEAT BEFORE MOVING INTO COPYWRITING AND ADVERTISING WORK. SHE CURRENTLY BLOGS AND WORKS AS A FREELANCE WRITER.