When fall sidles in with armloads of plums and bright warm days, it is easy to overlook that October has arrived and apples are at their crispest.
Of course, apples will stay with us for a while, resignedly softening in cool cellars, faithfully, to accompany us through the bleakest winter months. We’ll be grateful — if perhaps a little weary — for those last wrinkly fruits as we await spring.
A small part of me always wonders whether it wouldn’t be best to hold out just a little while longer before biting in, to prolong the novelty a few weeks more. But the truth is that I long for apples already in the summer, I miss them in August; something about the comfort of a familiar companion amid attention-grabbing summer harvests.
Apples are remarkable fruit, and I love all the gnarly varieties (though I can never remember which is which). Smaller ones, tart and sweet, barely bigger than a large apricot are ideal to bite into — the perfect, well-packaged snack on the go. Bigger apples are less fussy when baking, and so versatile! Is any other fruit equally ideal in cakes, tartes, crumbles, and pies, but also able to stand deliciously independently, simply baked in the oven stuffed with raisins, nuts, and cream, or stewed into spicy compotes?
This weekend I jumped into apple season with this perfectly lovely, easy cake that I discovered a few years ago and make regularly. The recipe, which I found on David Lebovitz’s blog, is originally by Dorie Greenspan. I love this cake because it feels very ‘French,’ in that it is un-fussy. While exported French cuisine is elaborate, French home cooking is usually quite straightforward, and, as Dorie Greenspan writes in her introduction to the cake, skilled French home cooks often don’t use recipes, even when baking. Also, the generous addition of rum is completely essential for this cake — we French do like a good dash of booze in our desserts.
Apple cake by Dorie Greenspan via David Lebovitz
Here is the recipe, doubled, because I always seem to be feeding a crowd! I’ve reduced the sugar ever so slightly, and added a squeeze of lemon so the apple pieces don’t turn brown.
1 cup (225g) butter plus a little extra for the mold
1 1/2 cups (220g) flour (I usually use white spelt flour, which seems perfectly interchangeable with all-purpose white flour)
1 1/2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp sea salt
7-8 large apples (mix of varieties — once the apples are incorporated in the batter, there should be practically more apple than batter)
Juice from 1/2 lemon
4 large organic eggs
1 1/4 cup (250g) soft brown sugar
5 or 6 Tbsps dark rum (but no less, this is what makes the cake!)
1 tsp real vanilla extract
I’ve made this cake in round springform pans, as the recipe suggests, but also in long rectangular loaf tin, and, here, in a fancy bundt mold that I found this summer while scrounging through my grandmother’s old kitchenwares.
So … choose the desired mold (or two) line it (them) with parchment paper and butter the paper generously. [Parchment paper was impossible with my crinkled mold so I buttered it excessively and added a dusting of flour.] If using a springform pan, place it on a baking sheet, as it may ooze while baking.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
Melt the butter and let it cool to room temperature.
Peel and core the apples, then cut each wedge into roughly 1/2 inch (1cm) chunks. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the pieces of apple so they don’t turn brown.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a larger bowl, whisk the eggs until foamy, add the sugar gradually, still whisking, then the rum and the vanilla.
Whisk in half of the flour, then half of the melted butter. Add the other half of the flour and finally the rest of the butter.
Use a spatula to stir in the apples, mixing until they are well coated. There will seem to be more apple than batter.
Scrape the batter into the cake pan. Tap the pan gently on the table to even out the batter, and smooth the surface with the spatula. Slide into the oven for a good 50 minutes to an hour. Test (as usual) with the tip of a knife or skewer that should come out clean. [The cake may pull away from the sides of the pan, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is overcooked, first check with a knife!]
Let cool to room temperature before turning onto a serving plate.
I prefer to serve fruity cakes with crème fraîche or clotted cream, but by all means ice cream would be fine too.