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.