Monday, October 10, 2011

My mom's apple cake

She used to make the apple cake. She also made the plate.
It has happened. I have become self-conscious about my blog. I don't know what to do about it except confess, forge ahead, and apologize in advance if I sound more stilted than usual. I'm supposed to be doing a lot of Twitter, Facebook and other squirm-inducing self promotion/book promotion, and somehow my blog has gotten mixed up with all this in my mind to ill and inhibiting effect. I've done so much cooking in the last week, had so many subjects I wanted to write about -- Marcus Samuelsson's rack of lamb (now known forever by us as hack of lamb), Nigel Slater's Tender, the tempting new cookbooks at Omnivore, cottage cheese pancakes, my day with Layne  -- and yet whenever I sit down to the computer it's like sitting down to write a college application essay.

Here goes.

Last week I decided I was going to make Smitten Kitchen's mother's apple cake, as I love recipes that come from mothers. But the very day I was going to bake that cake I got an email from my own mother's friend Ellen. She wrote:

"Jennifer - I've been thinking of Checka so much lately and when I found out I had to bring dessert to  my book club meeting, I suddenly thought of Apple Dapple Cake which is in a cookbook your mother recommended. She wrote little notes about some of the recipes and this one she said was "fantastic." I've made it before and knew it was delicious and I just finished baking it."

I remembered apple dapple cake! But like so many things associated with my mother, I spent years distancing myself, which now seems very silly and sad. If you have a mother with a powerful personality it is understandable and forgiveable if you distance yourself. Distance may be necessary if you ever want to become your own person, and I would probably do it all over again. But it still seems silly and sad, now.

I am definitely my own person now and instead of Smitten Kitchen's apple cake, I baked apple dapple cake. It is my caloric undoing, this incredible cake. It is moist and appley, which is baseline good, but what pushes it over the top is the diabolical glaze of melted butter, cream, and brown sugar that you pour over the cake and which soaks into the crumb and at the same time forms a super-sweet, brittle caramel crust. I highly recommend apple dapple cake. It has vaulted into my top ten cakes, right up there with cardamom cake and Laurie Colwin's nutmeg cake. For perspective, the Orangette/Nigel Slater plum cake I mentioned a post or two ago is merely in my top 50 cakes. I should really keep a ranked list.

The recipe is barely adapted from the San Francisco A La Carte cookbook published in 1979. The book omits an oven temperature; I went with 350, always a safe choice. You will cringe when you see how much oil and sugar the recipe calls for, but steel yourself and make it anyway.


2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups neutral vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups finely diced, peeled apples
2 cups chopped pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1 cup brown sugar (light or dark)
1/4 pound unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 350.
2. Combine sugar and oil and beat well. Add eggs one at a time.
3. . Sift dry ingredients together and stir into the egg mixture.
4.  Beat in apples, nuts and vanilla. Pour into a greased, floured tube pan (angel food cake pan) and bake for one hour or more, until a slender knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. (This is a deep cake and a toothpick doesn't reach far enough.)
5. When the cake is almost ready to come out of the oven, combine the glaze ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let boil for 3 minutes. Reserving 1/3 cup, pour over the hot cake, still in the pan. Cool, and remove the cake from the pan. Just before serving,  pour the rest of the glaze over the cake.

Makes a lot.

On another subject, I had never heard of kiwiberries until they turned upin last week's CSA box. I hope they catch on because we loved them a lot. 
No fur, no fuzz
I persist with my aggravating CSA, because I like being surprised like this. You can't really tell from the photo, but these cute fruits are about the size of olives and they are essentially tiny kiwis, but with smooth edible skins so you can pop a whole one in your mouth, no wet, onerous peeling required. They were gone in an hour.


  1. I had a mom with a huge personality so I completely understand what you mean about the distancing yourself. The cake and the plate both look wonderful as does your book. Please be kinder to yourself, you are going through a lot. The blog is great as always.

  2. Awesome new site design! And, I think all your blog readers are excited about your book so don't feel bad about the self promotion. I just pre-ordered my copy!

  3. No self-consciousness visible from here. Keep it going. You cannot be unnatural. impossible.

  4. I have an old recipe like this one for pumpkin bread. with so much oil and sugar I can barely stand to mix them in ...but - ditto! - it tastes so good!

  5. Could you post the recipe for cardamom cake? I am intrigued!

  6. I am hoping to buy your book from our local mom and pop bookstore, but if they don't have it I will buy it at Walmart. I am that excited.

  7. I want those kiwi berries.

  8. Kiwiberries. I am envious and agree: these are the reasons we stay with our CSA. In our east coast climate, though, the biggest "surprises" have been ground cherries (which I thought were tomatillos; maybe they are tomatillos, who knows) and sorrel.

    I adore the NYTimes apple cake but this is worth switching for.

    Thanks for steeling yourself and getting back to the blog. You've had so much going on. Please promote yourself back east, we'd love to see you!

  9. I am prone to exaggeration, but this is not an exaggeration: I am delighted (DELIGHTED!) when I see that you have updated your blog. I found you online after reading an excerpt of your story about killing a chicken in The Week.

    I have read every blog word you've written since. You make totally kickass sentences that I read out loud to my husband. He neither cooks nor writes very much, but he is now also an RSS subscriber to your blog. We love you in our house.

    I read a lot of blogs because I must... I have a blog that is part of the CrossFit-paleo diet community. I read many blogs every day about CrossFit and paleo diets and all of the bajillion things I could be doing to make myself a better person.

    I read your blog because I love it. Because it makes me feel stuff. And because your passion for food and the love it can represent shines through in a way that's practical and endearing.

    You are awesome just as you. Don't fret too much about Twitter and such. (If you want to shoot me an email, I would be happy to help with some tips. My dayjob (yuck) is in online marketing, and I've found some ways to do my own Twitter/Facebook junk without totally grossing myself out. if I can be of any assistance. Least I can do to repay all the happy reading you've been giving me.)

  10. Melissa -- That is one of the nicest notes I've ever read. A great way to start my day. Thank-you.

  11. I made your cake yesterday! So old-fashioned and good. I think it may become my go-to apple cake.

  12. Tricia -- I'm so glad you liked it. Very naughty cake.

  13. My copy of "SF a la Carte" gives 325 degrees as the oven temp for the apple dapple cake. I've never made it, but I will now.

  14. Steven -- It must have been corrected in later printings.

  15. Yes, please, rank the cakes! Ranking the chocolate chip cookies was terrific, and I also hope you'll compile a list of your "notebook" recipes.

  16. Can applesauce be substituted for some of the oil? Thanks!!

  17. Can applesauce be substituted for some of the oil? Thanks!!

  18. Superb article with sweet cake recipe. Nice.
    Best Lines For Mother

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