Dearest readers, a small confession on this Mondayest of Mondays: I lately have not eaten as well I can and ought to eat. I had a pizza for lunch today (the best one I’ve eaten here yet) even though I probably should have ordered a salad. I still covet very intensely those morning cups of coffee. Last week I made a dinner out of bread and cheese and hummus, not one vegetable in evidence. And I’ve mentioned previously a penchant for sweet treats that’s been going strong for almost 7 months now; at this point I’ve fully embraced this particular anomaly that has come with having a child (I swear I mostly gravitated towards the savory ‘before’) and am just riding it out. In my slight defense I have cooked a roasted cauliflower and potato soup for tonight’s dinner, the fridge is full of peas and spinach and fresh favas, and I made myself an enormous bowl of quinoa with cauliflower, avocado, sunflower seeds, and sesame dressing for lunch yesterday. Still …
(I’d blame those toes and that face but it’s not really her fault.)
No — the problem lies in me. Baking is both my comfort and my creative outlet, even if I’m putting together a chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting (though my latest version involved whole wheat pastry flour) that I’ve made much more than twice over. Part of the reason I loved baking wedding cakes, even if I kept them a bit on the ‘traditional’ side, was because I could incorporate a variety of flavors — mostly homemade fruit jams — and sizes and shapes into the finished product. There was so much room for experimentation within that general framework and then to present the results on a much larger and grander scale — oooh, the whole process was delicious. I will often take recipes I love and rely upon and then fool around with them until sometimes they no longer resemble the one I originally started out with.
Case in point: another apple cake.
I’ve written about this apple cake here (RIP Kitchen Window) and here and, oh, also here. It’s so easy to put together and bakes up wonderfully redolent of apples and cinnamon, a classic for fall, winter, spring, or anytime at all (clearly).
So what is there new to say about what is admittedly a very straightforward and no-nonsense bit of fruit cake? Well, a bit, actually.
DW was in Algeria a few weeks ago and on my Friday night, which is really a Tuesday since most weeks I work Monday/Tuesdays, I decided to bake an apple cake after S went to bed. I internally berated myself a bit for the wish to bake yet another thing, especially since I was flying solo that week and had worked all day and wouldn’t it have been nice to flake out on the couch? Ah, cursed inability to rest! And anyway as tends to happen the idea lodged, became impossible to ignore, and thus was soon made reality.
To help a bit in the health department I swapped in whole grain flours, reduced the sugar, used some maple syrup, and subbed half the butter for applesauce. I’d been wanting to try this for awhile; applesauce is often used to lower the fat content in recipes with good results, and the original recipe here calls for, gulp, one cup of butter or oil. In an apple cake, already plummy and rich with apples, applesauce makes sense from a flavor perspective. I honestly didn’t miss the extra butter.
Same goes for the sugar: the original calls for 2 cups of sugar, which has made me quake every time I’ve made it. Using a combination of brown sugar and maple syrup, which is sweet enough that you need less of it, as well as relying upon the natural sweetness of the apples in the sauce and sprinkled throughout the batter, helps with this. And it helps me: though I’ve just acknowledged my raging preference for the sweet I still don’t want it too sweet. I might be a little bit difficult.
Now the problem remains that the cake is all finished, the crumbs wiped away, the peeler neatly stowed. I picked up some more apples yesterday at Les Domaines, probably the last of the cold storage, and while I should save them for swiping with peanut butter for my afternoon snacks I have a feeling they may make their way into yet another one of these beauties instead …
Again: you may use entirely all-purpose flour here, or skip the spelt (use a-p) if you don’t have any one hand. Same goes for the spices; if you don’t have it or don’t care for it, simply swap one teaspoon ground cinnamon for the ground cardamom.
Makes 10 servings
4 large apples, peeled and cored
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
3/4 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
4 large eggs
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup spelt flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a tube pan or a springform cake pan.
Chop the apples into rough chunks about 1/4-inch across. Put in a small bowl and drizzle with the honey, ground cardamom, and ground cinnamon.
In a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed, cream the butter. Add the brown sugar and maple syrup, beating well until they are incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well to combine.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the whole wheat pastry flour, spelt flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add to the butter-sugar-syrup-egg mixture and beat well to combine.
Add the orange juice and vanilla, and continue beating until a smooth batter forms.
Pour about a third of the batter into pan. Layer with one-half of the apples. Repeat for one more layer, finishing with the batter.
Place in oven and bake for about 1 1/2 hours until lightly browned and a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool in pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then turn out onto the rack to cool completely.