All August and September long, I asked boyfriend to take me apple picking. I hinted and joked and annoyingly repeated the request anytime I came in contact with the mere word "apple." Unfortunately, boyfriend was not quite as excited by this idea as I since it involved his driving us *outside* of the city to some non-specific farm place in one of those farmy parts of New Jersey or, possibly, New York. Time passed by, edged along by countless family birthdays and holidays and our mutual reluctance to get out of bed before 3pm on weekends, and soon it was too late to pick our own apples up (or down) in those farmy parts of New Jersey and/or New York.
Though not quiet the spoils I would have gotten from the farm, I've managed to make do with the generous (albeit overpriced) grocery store selection, buying five pounds of them at a time and lugging home on the subway where I sit and think about things to make. On one recent trip home I became inexplicably enamored with the thought of making both an apple cake and an apple pie at the same time. The idea bubbled and formed all the way up the Upper West Side until I finally made it home, popped in a DVD, and promptly got to work peeling five pounds of apples.
Boyfriend got home from the gym to find me and my peeler and two bowls filled with naked apples and peels strategically balanced among the couch cushions. I was deeply engrossed in the movie; one of those films about damaged women starring Catherine Keener.
“What are you going to make?” He asked me while taking off his coat.
“Two somethings with apple in them,” I replied, refusing to offer more information.
I spent the rest of the night kicking him out of the kitchen and assuring him that whatever it was I was making would be ready in time for him to have with his evening tea.
The results were wonderful, and it worked out perfectly as we each picked a different favorite. I fell in love with the moist cake, but he was a bigger fan of the sour apple pie with a cakey crust. Either would make a wonderful autumn dessert, and they are elegant enough to serve on the Thanksgiving table (when perhaps two desserts would make a bit more sense than an average Tuesday night).
The Apple Cake is one that I've been making and remixing ever since college. The original inspiration was from a friend's mother who used to spoil us all by sending her son home from his weekend visits with a tray of wonderful chocolate chip apple cake. I once dared to ask her to share the wonderful recipe, and she was gracious enough to send it. This isn't her recipe; I'm keeping that one a secret like I promised, but this is a version that has evolved from that recipe, buy minus the chocolate chips and with a much spongier cake. To taste the original, you'll have to be invited to one of my parties, but in the meantime here is a just as lovely take:
For the apple filling:
5 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1” pieces
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
For the cake:
2 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup olive oil
½ cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups sugar
¼ cup apple cider or orange juice
1 tablespoon vanilla
Extra cinnamon (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter & flour a 9” springform pan.
Toss the peeled and chopped apples with the lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar. Set aside. (They may start to brown a bit despite the juice, but don’t worry about that since you’ll be baking them into the cake.)
In a large mixing bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk the butter, oil, juice, sugar, and vanilla.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry flour mixture.
Add the eggs, beating them in so that each one full incorporates before you add the next.
Pour about half of the batter into the prepared springform pan and cover with about half of the apples (don’t worry if they sink in). Cover with the rest of the cake batter, and top with the rest of the apples.
Add a sprinkle of cinnamon, if desired, and then bake in the 350 degree heated oven for about 90 minutes or until the apples on top crisp on the edges and a cake tester inserted into the cake comes out clean.