Each summer I delight in the ease of baking up a delicious treat because you don’t have to do a whole lot to June strawberries or peaches in August to make their flavors sing. Quick crumbles, cobblers and pies are my go-tos.
However, in the wintertime, I find myself wanting that slower, longer experience of drawing out the flavors of the season in my baking projects. I look forward to dirtying every bowl in my kitchen, covering my fingertips with butter to grease a pan and digging through the spice drawer to find just the right combination.
It’s not only savoring the delicious bites of hearty meals and treats in winter but preparing them that feeds and nourishes me. Lately I’ve been craving something from my childhood growing up in Philadelphia’s suburbs – Apple Cake.
This past Sunday morning after a cold market the day before, I picked up one of my favorite cookbooks – Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook for inspiration. Armed with a solid recipe and our region’s best ingredients, plus a dash of creativity, I was ready to embrace the soul-warming experience of baking my own apple cake.
The following is my recipe and method, adapted from The Smitten Kitchen. The changes aren’t dramatic but I did reduce the sugar and add ginger to make it more acceptable to eat for breakfast. If that’s more your style than a post-dinner treat, I recommend enjoying it with a cup of strong coffee or hot cider infused with fresh ginger root.
-Nicki Passarella, Market Manager
- 6 apples, about 2.5 pounds (I used a mix of Pippen, Gold Rush and Braeburn from Kiyokawa Orchards and La Mancha Ranch)
- 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ cup white sugar
- 2 tbsps. grated fresh ginger root (during certain times of year both Groundwork Organics and Gathering Together Farm grow some of the best I’ve tasted!)
- 2 ¾ cups flour (I used 1 cup all-purpose flour plus 1 ¾ cups of Lonesome Whistle Farm’s delicate whole wheat pastry flour)
- 1 tbsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 cup dark brown sugar
- 1 cup neutral-flavored oil
- ¼ cup apple cider (I used Draper Girls Country Farm’s cider)
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- ¼ cup ginger liquor, divided (I used New Deal Distillery’s)
- 4 local chicken eggs (I used some vibrantly-orange yoked eggs from Pine Mountain Ranch)
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped (optional, but I highly recommend walnuts from Raymond Kuenzi Farm and Oregon Walnuts)
For the glaze
- 1 cup apple cider
- ¼ cup confectioners’ sugar
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Butter a 12-cup Bundt pan.
- Peel, core and chop the apples into ½ inch chunks.
- Toss with the cinnamon, white sugar, 2 TBSP of the ginger liquor and grated ginger. Set aside.
- Sift flour, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the oil, apple cider, brown sugar, vanilla, 2 TBSP ginger liquor and eggs.
- Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ones until well incorporated.
- Stir in the walnuts, if you chose to use them.
- Pour enough batter into the bottom of the prepared Bundt pan to cover. Place a thick layer of apples on top and repeat two more times, finishing with a layer of batter.
- Bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean (a few small crumbs are okay).
- Cool the cake completely before flipping it out of the pan. As you can see from the photo, I did not do this and the result is a crumbly cake that isn’t perfectly formed. Oops.
To prepare the glaze:
- Heat the cider in a small saucepan over medium heat at a slow boil.
- Continue to cook until the cider reduces to about ¼ cup (watch closely at the end to avoid scorching). This will take 15-20 minutes.
- Once the cake is cooled, invert it onto a serving platter.
- Pour the glaze over the top and let it drip gently down the sides.