Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election Day Apple Cake

Or: "The Laziest Baker Finally Gets Around to Making Smitten Kitchen's Mother's Best Apple Cake in the World."
Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It was Evil Cake Lady's turn to choose a project for The Lazy Baker's No Rules Club. She went to prolific blogger SmittenKitchen for inspiration and found Mom's Apple Cake.
Pinknest tried her hand at the apple cake first; then Evilcakelady. Finally, came Melinda's version, which she tarted up a bit with a homemade caramel sauce and a fancy pan she bought in Bruges. Melinda expressed great happiness at beating me to the apple cake punch, but I have finally caught up with the crowd.
This is an easy cake. The only thing that takes any times is peeling, coring, and chopping the six apples. (SmittenKitchen's mom used Macintosh--an odd choice for baking, I thought--and I thought I'd use a couple of those old favorites as a tribute to her mother, but my local grocery didn't even have any.) I used a combination of Yellow Delicious and Honeycrisp.

The batter is thick, made with flour, sugar, oil, vanilla, cinnamon, orange juce, and eggs. I nearly rebelled at the cup of oil. Why can't I use butter? I asked myself. Butter would make it so much more flavorful. But I decided to ignore the Butter-is-better voice and use canola oil because, after all, we are supposed to be making the same recipe.
The cake is layered in a tube pan:
Batter, apples, batter, apples.

If you are wondering what that pink thing on the tube pan is, it's a Rose's Heavenly Cake Strip, which acts as an insulator for a cake pan and keeps the cake from over-browning. I got it from the real Rose herself.

It was a good thing to have because this cake is supposed to bake for 90 minutes, and I was afraid that there would be more than a few burned apples on top of the cake by that time, but I took the cake out of the oven after about 75 minutes and it was fine.

So why did it take me so long to bake this cake--a relatively simple project--when I am normally so obsessive about getting things done promptly? I had a plan for this cake. I really did not want to be faced with an entire cake, and the prospect that Jim and I might greedily devour it ourselves, as we often do with a loaf of bread. This cake called for a potluck. Like, say, an election party. What is more American than an apple cake, after all (except for apple pie)? Surely a substantial amount of cake would be eaten while we were watching the returns, limiting the potential damage to me and my desire to emulate the skinny French women wearing fashionable suits.
It was an exciting night. One of the people at the party declared herself too excited to eat. I personally have never reached such a state of excitement, and, fortunately, it was not shared by others.

We ate the cake. No homemade caramel sauce at this party, but a choice between an accompaniment of cinnamon or vanilla bean ice cream, dished out at about the same time that CNN called Ohio for Obama. The cake would have tasted sweet even if I had forgotten the sugar.
It was a wonderful night. And remainders of the cake were taken into work on Wednesday, where they were happily devoured.
Now, was this really the best apple cake ever? It is comfort cake--cinnamony, moist, and tender, with the apples retaining a bit of texture and with the crunchy counterpoint of walnuts. But I still think it might be better with butter.
In my newfound spirit of nonpartisanship, however, I can generously praise this cake, made without a hint of butter.


evil cake lady said...

erm, I guess I forgot to mention that I used melted butter in place of the oil...
But your cake looks lovely! No burnt bits anywhere. My bottom burned a bit--does Rose make a heavenly cake strip for the bottom?
I too felt last night was a wonderful night. I have hope that I didn't have before!
It seems we have all had a turn being the laziest baker! What's next, I wonder?

breadbasketcase said...

That is too funny! I guess we know which obsessive-compulsive type can't take "no rules" to heart. I wish we could have tried each other's cakes to do a taste test.
I put my tube pan on top of an insulated cookie sheet (a hint I got from Rose) so it wouldn't burn.

Melinda said...

Your cake looks absolutely lovely, Marie. I remember you saying you were going to do it for election night. It is a good idea to share this cake, as it does make a lot of cake. Pairing it with ice cream sounds perfect.
I am very pleased with the election results too! I kept saying to myself, 'He just has to win!' But I was too scared to say it out loud, in case I jinxed him.
I hope he fulfills the anticipation and exceeds our expectations.
(On a side note...aren't his little girls beautiful!)
My older sister works for elections in Oregon. She has been run ragged getting out new voter registrations. She has never seen a turn out like this before!

So. What to do next? I guess it really is my turn.
I wanted to make some Belgian/Dutch cookies cookies called Speculoos/Speculaas. You can use nice shaped molds or just cut them in rectangles.
Of course...when I was in Bruges, I bought some sweet molds to try out! The cookie is also known as Belgian spice cookies. I have a recipe picked out already.
Does this appeal to you all? I am happy to do something else if you the hate spice cookie idea. (I personally love them, and was going to make them anyway)
Tell me what you think.

Cheers, your victory apple cake is sweet!

Anonymous said...

Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard! That cake looks SO good! Must - make - one - now...

Doughadear said...

What a wonderful full cake to bake - good choice! So high and lovely with chopped apples, it reminds me of a cake my mom use to make but hasn't in years. I also saw Melinda's cake in her fancy cake pan - so lovely and high, a real center piece I think. I tried sending a message but it didn't go through, must be doing something wrong, I'm so computer saavy.:( It must have been prefect with ice cream.

jini said...

well it looks wonderful and what a great celebratory cake! i was way too tired to celebrate on tuesday. i worked as an election judge, 6am - midnight this time. altho the polls closed at 8, we still had various chores to complete before taking the results to city hall. I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON, so this long day was not the fun part. however, the results and working at the polling place were definitely fun.
now i want cake!!

breadbasketcase said...

I'm so glad you were cheering Obama on! His daughters are adorable, and the thought of them playing with a new puppy is too cute for words.
I've seen recipes for the Belgian speculoos cookies. It's always reminded me of making speculum cookies, and the association just hasn't appealed to me. But for you, I'll try not to word-associate with gynecological terms. I'll be glad to bake the little specula.

I think you should make one now!

I wouldn't be surprised if SmittenKitchen's mother's apple cake and your mother's apple cake were very similar. I think that Melinda's fancy cake with the caramel sauce may have taken the blue ribbon, but they all turned out quite well. The cinnamon ice cream was especially good with it.

Congratulations to you for working those grueling hours! I'm very impressed. If I had known you were working away in service of your country, I would definitely have wrapped up a piece of cake and brought it to your door.

Anonymous said...

Hello Marie

All of the Lazy Baker's cakes look lovely, and I wanted to suggest another recipe, if you weren't yet sick of apple cakes...

I too was looking for a way to get rid of some apples, and saw smitten's cake, and that's what I was looking for visually (not one of those flat apple cakes) but I wanted to use up even more apples. I stumbled upon this recipe from Susan Chang at NPR. Great story, great recipe.

I left out the pecans (didn't have any, and my daughter would have picked them out anyway), and it didn't seem to hurt anything. Apple chunks were just held together with cake, very moist, but not too sweet. It joined the "recipes for a starving kindergartner" file. Made the house smell cozy too! I used Cortlands.

Chris in RI

Anonymous said...

Wow, Marie, this looks delicious. :-D

Way to use those cake strips, which obviously work well. The sides of the cake are nicely browned but not overdone.

While indeed oil can make for a moist cake, I am firmly with you in the butter camp. Nothing can compare.

Hope you have a nice weekend!

All the best,
Laura in NYC

breadbasketcase said...

I don't know about the cake, but that is a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it. I would include the pecans myself, but I don't have a picky eater left at home.

I was pleased with the cake strip's performance. I only have one, so eventually (next time I make a layer cake), I will do a scientific comparison.
After I posted this, I read a number of web pieces on substituting oil for butter in cakes, and vice versa--some people believe they an be used interchangeably, and others say you can't. I'm pretty sure Rose would have the definitive answer.

Alison said...

I'm pretty sure that the recipe uses oil instead of butter so that it can be eaten in the same meal with meat. It is Jewish, after all. :) But half or all butter sounds really tasty.

breadbasketcase said...

Good point! I did wonder why it was called Jewish apple cake, and now I know.