Thursday, April 15, 2010

Springtime Apple Cinnamon Cake . . .

If I could bottle and sell the fragrance that permeates my kitchen this afternoon, I'd be a rich woman. It is a sweet trio of apples, cinnamon, and hyacinth. Not a combination one would necessarily expect on a beautiful spring day. What business do apples and cinnamon have consorting with hyacinths anyway? None that I would have anticipated. But somehow, they seem to be making lovely bedfellows, as least as far as scent goes.

The hyacinths, while a charming accompaniment to my morning's baking adventure, don't really have anything to do with today's recipe, except perhaps for the fact that their very presence keeps reminding me that it's April now and not October--hyacinth season, but not apple season.

 Despite the reality that apples are technically out of season, there are still some pretty nice ones to be found in produce markets. How they accomplish this--they being those mysterious entities who store and distribute fruit--I haven't a clue . . . and I'm not altogether sure I want to know. But, since this time of year is sort of an awkward in-between period as far as extremely fresh fruit goes, I've found myself reverting lately to apples, as I await and long for Michigan's summertime harvest.

Apples, after all, tend not to become horrendously expensive, and certain varieties always seem to be reliably firm and tasty. So, after tossing around four or five good-looking apple cake recipes I finally settled on the one that I baked today. Fellow bakers, I think I may have hit the apple-cinnamon cake jackpot.


Torn from the October 2009 issue of Redbook magazine, this cake is one fine creation. The original recipe was, in my humble opinion, almost perfect from the get-go. Fairly simple and not too time consuming to prepare, this cake is moist, but not too moist. Neither too sweet nor too tart. Nirvana when served warm, with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.

The only adjustment I made to it was to increase the amount of cinnamon by almost 100 percent because, frankly, I'm kind of a cinnamon maniac. (Yeah, I'm always up for a healthy bout of cinnamon shopping. And cinnamon sticks? You kidding? I love those things. So cute the way they curl up, don't you think?)

Of course, I reworded the original recipe's directions and added in my own commentary. Oh, and if you don't want any nuts in it, I see no reason why you can't leave them out entirely; chopped pecans help form the bottom crust, as it were, but there are no nuts at all in the batter.

Listen to me: Try this cake if you're crazy about apples and cinnamon . . .  you may just love it.

Springtime Apple and Cinnamon Cake

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with baking spray, or grease and flour, a 10-cup tube pan with a removable bottom (I don't advise trying to substitute a standard springform pan with the tube insert; this cake might rise higher than the sides of the pan).

3/4 finely chopped pecans (I toasted mine in the oven for a few minutes first)
3 cups All-Purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. & 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 large baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly (I used Granny Smiths)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs, large
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan.

In a large bowl (not your mixer bowl), whisk together 2 Tbsp. of the flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and all of the cinnamon. Add the apple slices into this and toss them until they're well coated.

In the bowl of your mixer, mix the remaining flour and sugar, along with all of the  baking powder, salt, eggs, oil, butter, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Mix on medium-low speed for about two minutes or so, until the mixture is smooth.

Pour half of the batter over the pecans in the cake pan (the batter will be sticky and thick). Spread it evenly with a spatula.


Top this with half of the sliced apples. Try not to let the apples touch the sides of the pan or the tube.

Then spread the other half of the batter over the apples evenly. On top of this, place the rest of the apples, arranging them in a fan design if you like. Again, take care to keep them from touching the sides of the pan or the tube.

Bake the cake for about one hour (the original recipe says to bake it for 80 minutes, but I believe my cake would have been dry, too crusty, and significantly over-browned if I'd let it go that long), until a toothpick inserted deeply in the center comes out clean. If the top of the cake is browning too quickly, lightly cover it with foil about halfway through the baking time.

Cool the cake on a rack, in the pan, for about 30 minutes. Run a knife along the sides of the cake, and under the bottom of it, to loosen.

Carefully invert the cake onto a flat plate, but reinvert it back onto its serving plate (it'll still be warm) or onto a cooling rack to finish cooling completely. The arranged apples should be visible on the top; the pecan layer is the bottom crust.

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