If I could bottle and sell the fragrance that permeates my kitchen this afternoon, I'd be a rich woman. It is a sweet trio of apples, cinnamon, and hyacinth. Not a combination one would necessarily expect on a beautiful spring day. What business do apples and cinnamon have consorting with hyacinths anyway? None that I would have anticipated. But somehow, they seem to be making lovely bedfellows, as least as far as scent goes.
The hyacinths, while a charming accompaniment to my morning's baking adventure, don't really have anything to do with today's recipe, except perhaps for the fact that their very presence keeps reminding me that it's April now and not October--hyacinth season, but not apple season.
Despite the reality that apples are technically out of season, there are still some pretty nice ones to be found in produce markets. How they accomplish this--they being those mysterious entities who store and distribute fruit--I haven't a clue . . . and I'm not altogether sure I want to know. But, since this time of year is sort of an awkward in-between period as far as extremely fresh fruit goes, I've found myself reverting lately to apples, as I await and long for Michigan's summertime harvest.
Apples, after all, tend not to become horrendously expensive, and certain varieties always seem to be reliably firm and tasty. So, after tossing around four or five good-looking apple cake recipes I finally settled on the one that I baked today. Fellow bakers, I think I may have hit the apple-cinnamon cake jackpot.
Torn from the October 2009 issue of Redbook magazine, this cake is one fine creation. The original recipe was, in my humble opinion, almost perfect from the get-go. Fairly simple and not too time consuming to prepare, this cake is moist, but not too moist. Neither too sweet nor too tart. Nirvana when served warm, with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream.
The only adjustment I made to it was to increase the amount of cinnamon by almost 100 percent because, frankly, I'm kind of a cinnamon maniac. (Yeah, I'm always up for a healthy bout of cinnamon shopping. And cinnamon sticks? You kidding? I love those things. So cute the way they curl up, don't you think?)
Of course, I reworded the original recipe's directions and added in my own commentary. Oh, and if you don't want any nuts in it, I see no reason why you can't leave them out entirely; chopped pecans help form the bottom crust, as it were, but there are no nuts at all in the batter.
Listen to me: Try this cake if you're crazy about apples and cinnamon . . . you may just love it.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray with baking spray, or grease and flour, a 10-cup tube pan with a removable bottom (I don't advise trying to substitute a standard springform pan with the tube insert; this cake might rise higher than the sides of the pan).
3/4 finely chopped pecans (I toasted mine in the oven for a few minutes first)
3 cups All-Purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. & 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 large baking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thinly (I used Granny Smiths)
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
4 eggs, large
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly over the bottom of the prepared pan.
In a large bowl (not your mixer bowl), whisk together 2 Tbsp. of the flour, 1/4 cup of the sugar, and all of the cinnamon. Add the apple slices into this and toss them until they're well coated.
In the bowl of your mixer, mix the remaining flour and sugar, along with all of the baking powder, salt, eggs, oil, butter, orange juice, and vanilla extract. Mix on medium-low speed for about two minutes or so, until the mixture is smooth.
Pour half of the batter over the pecans in the cake pan (the batter will be sticky and thick). Spread it evenly with a spatula.
Top this with half of the sliced apples. Try not to let the apples touch the sides of the pan or the tube.
Then spread the other half of the batter over the apples evenly. On top of this, place the rest of the apples, arranging them in a fan design if you like. Again, take care to keep them from touching the sides of the pan or the tube.
Bake the cake for about one hour (the original recipe says to bake it for 80 minutes, but I believe my cake would have been dry, too crusty, and significantly over-browned if I'd let it go that long), until a toothpick inserted deeply in the center comes out clean. If the top of the cake is browning too quickly, lightly cover it with foil about halfway through the baking time.
Cool the cake on a rack, in the pan, for about 30 minutes. Run a knife along the sides of the cake, and under the bottom of it, to loosen.
Carefully invert the cake onto a flat plate, but reinvert it back onto its serving plate (it'll still be warm) or onto a cooling rack to finish cooling completely. The arranged apples should be visible on the top; the pecan layer is the bottom crust.
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Jane's Sweets & Baking Journalwas born of my ever increasing desire to learn more about the baking and pastry arts, and of my love for anything and everything related to baking. Just as food is meant to be shared, so is knowledge among bakers and among those who enjoy delicious foods prepared from scratch. So, please partake, and feel free to share your thoughts and comments. I'd love to hear from you.
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Glazed Black Cocoa Brownies
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Fluffy pumpkin muffins . . .
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Cream Cheese Blondies with Milk- and Dark-Chocolate Chips, and Honey Roasted Almonds . . .
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This one has a crust that's fragrant with herbs and garlic . . . it's easy, reliable, and really tasty.
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Marble Mint Milano Cake
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All year long, lazy mornings require . . .
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Espresso Chocolate Chip Pound Cake . . .
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Dutch apple cake . . .
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JANE'S FAVORITE BAKING BOOKS
About Professional Baking: The Essentials, by Gail Sokol. This is a textbook, but not one that's intimidating. It contains lots of useful info, including interesting personal profiles of professional chefs.
All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Another winner of the IACP award. Loads of good looking cookie recipes with lots of very appetizing photos. (Don't you love cookbooks with tons of pictures? I do.)
All-American Dessert Book, by Nancy Baggett. Wonderfully detailed, with very reliable recipes, Baggett does it again in this valuable cookbook. Definitely worth your time!
Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet. This large Gourmet Cook Book Club Selection is a feast for the eyes. I love the page layout, the photos, and the author's reassuring tone. Recipes range from the quotidian ("classic sugar cookies") to the ridiculous ("Moroccan-spiced sweet-potato tiropetes") to the absolute sublime ("duo-tone chocolate pots de creme"). Worth acquiring.
Baking and Pastry: Mastering the Art and Craft, by the Culinary Institute of America. This is a heavy duty textbook, not for the faint of heart. Intimidating, sure, but also kind of fascinating if you're an obsessive bake-a-holic like me.
Baking with Julia, written by Dorie Greenspan and based on the PBS series hosted by Julia Child. Yet another hefty and dazzling coffee-table-worthy cookbook. Wonderful to have around. (My copy was autographed by Julia herself!)
Betty Crocker's Picture Cookbook, published in 1950 and available in a facsimile edition, holds a special place in my heart. This is the book my mom primarily used, or so it seemed, when I was a kid. The photos are such period pieces, and the little notations that accompany recipes are pricelessly cute and corny. I have an ancient copy that I still use. Every girl needs a copy of this in her house, for good karma if nothing else.
Bitter Sweet -- Recipes and Tales From a Life in Chocolate, by Alice Medrich. Much more than just a cookbook with a focus on fine dark chocolate, this is also a memoir of sorts from a legendary chocolate-dessert creator. Medrich is often credited with awakening American tastes to the finest aspects of superior chocolate. Very interesting read!
Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes,by Jeffrey Hamelman. An indispensable book for anyone who is seriously interested in learning to make fine yeast breads, Hamelman shares far more than just technical knowledge. Like fellow bread guru Peter Reinhart, his warmth of spirit and deep love for the tradition of bread baking shines through on every page.
Breakfast Book, by Marion Cunningham. Not to be confused with the character of the mom on Happy Days, the real Marion Cunningham has a long list of writing accomplishments, the most well known being that she completely revised The Fannie Farmer Cookbook. A contemporary of the late James Beard's, she is still held in high esteem.
Cake Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum. Rose is really into the science of baking, which can be helpful in some respects and off-putting in others. Like gardeners who talk mostly about soil components without conveying their joy in the plants themselves. Maybe I'm too sensitive? Probably so, as many consider this to be an invaluable classic. Despite my reservations, I wouldn't part with my copy. One of several highly detailed books by Rose. Her latest book, Heavenly Cakes, is much more down to earth, loaded with photos, and truly beautiful.
Cake Book, by Tish Boyle. I've called it a treasure trove before and please allow me to say it again here. This book is jam packed with wonderful stuff that's well explained. I used the Sacher-torte recipe in the fall of '09 for a culinary school project and it didn't let me down. I can endorse this book without reservation. I love it.
Complete Book of Pastry Sweet & Savory, by Bernard Clayton, Jr. When this book appeared in 1981, famed food editor Craig Claiborne praised it in the NYT as "one of the most important cookbooks of this year, if not of this decade." No photos, but don't let that dissuade you.
Craft of Baking, by Karen DeMasco & Mindy Fox. In 2009, some great new cookbooks were published and this was one of them. Down to earth, straightforward without being condescending, this smart guide offers creative and simple twists on dozens of diverse and well-proven "cakes, cookies, and other sweets."
Dessert University, by Roland Mesnier. As the White House executive pastry chef for over two decades, Mesnier has a lot of wisdom to impart. He does so well in this book, which is designed specifically for home bakers. A good book!
Grand Central Baking Book, by Piper Davis and Ellen Jackson. Readers are welcomed into these pages with a tone of warmth and familiarity. The photos alone will have you scribbling a grocery list. Try the berry kuchen recipe--simple and scrumptious.
Hershey's Chocolate Treasury, published in 1984 by Hershey Foods and chock full of old reliables. The recipe for Black Magic cake is one I've used again and again--invaluable!
How to Bake, by Nick Malgieri. The writing style is matter of fact and fairly informal. That's one of my favorite things about Malgieri's books.
Magical Art of Cake Decorating, by Carole Collier. Sometimes at a used book sale you find an old gem like this. Published in '84, I found it very encouraging when I first began decorating cakes. The recipes are rock solid reliable.
Maida Heatter's Book of Great Chocolate Desserts, by Maida Heatter. Famed baker (apparently her "Palm Beach Brownies" are known far and wide), whose work has centered on wondrous chocolate desserts, Heatter received a James Beard award for this book, one of many she's published over several active decades.
Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook, by Martha Stewart. Beautiful photos, but I must admit I've come to have reservations about the reliability of some of the recipes. Is it just me? Though I love flipping through the book for ideas, I'm a bit on the fence with this one when it comes to actual usage.
Martha Stewart's Wedding Cakes by Martha Stewart. Talk about a stunning and inspiring book! Chances are you may never decide to actually make one of the cakes from this glorious volume, but it's enough just to page through the gorgeous pictures and interesting recipes. Expensive? For sure, but worth it.
Passion for Baking, A by Marcy Goldman. If you're curious about how professional bakers manage to make things come out nicely every time, you'll appreciate this book. Goldman, in her highly approachable style, divulges many of their simple--but enormously helpful--tricks and techniques, and shows readers how to implement them throughout the wondrous array of down-to-earth recipes that pack this great book. Loads of enticing photos, too! I love this book!
Perfect Cakes, by Nick Malgieri. Can't say enough about Malgieri's books. Absolutely worth using, versus just reading! The white and dark chocolate cheesecake is to die for; I've made it a few times, along with many other recipes from this book, and it is superb.
Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Everyday, by Peter Reinhart. This book is a revelation for anyone who approaches yeast recipes like a vampire approaches the dawn. Talk about down to earth, encouraging, and flexible! This guy knows how to talk to rookie breadmakers. Well worth reading, and using, this volume will find a comfy place in your cookbook collection--a worthwhile purchase, undoubtedly!
Professional Cake Decorating, by Toba Garrett. I get the impression that this book is perceived as the most thorough and comprehensive text available for serious students of cake decorating. This is the text that we used for my culinary school Beginning Cake Decorarting class (which means I finally own my own copy!).
Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine. Almost too pretty to use, but use it anyway! This big book is so appealing, and the photos so remarkably enticing, you'll want to pick it up like a sandwich and bite right into it. Fine recipes for updated classics, well explained, from the famous Manhattan bakery. Worth buying. (You'll love it!)
Secrets of Baking, by Sherry Yard. A must have, bakers! This cookbook's forte is the way it's organized; master recipes are presented with full explanations of how they can be used, and related recipes follow, section by section. An exceptional manual to refer to. Get your own copy!
Sky High: Irresistible Triple-Layer Cakes, by Alisa Huntsman and Peter Wynne. Huntsman is the professional pastry chef behind this beautiful book, filled with many tempting recipes, all designed specifically and scaled perfectly for three layers. I've made the Devil's food cake thus far, and it was exceptional--it rose well, was very moist, and had great depth of flavor. I'll be using this book more in the future, without a doubt. Love the photos also!
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I Pledge . . .
. . . to never endorse a product of any kind on Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal that I do not believe in. I've never done so thus far, and I vow never to do so. If I tell you I think something is great, or that I think it is worth spending real money on, then I mean it, rest assured. I promise. And, if I ever talk about a product that I've been given to review or try out, I will disclose that in the post.
I'm a mom with two great sons (both now in college), and a really nice husband. I left a long editorial career in reference publishing a few years ago and I've had nary a regret. I recently finished (after four part-time years!) a Baking & Pastry Arts Certificate program in the Culinary Studies Institute at a local community college. It was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and I am so glad I did it. These days, I do a lot of freelance editorial work, something that I really enjoy.
"Jane's Sweets" was the name of a very small baking enterprise that I started in late 2007. It bloomed a bit, for a little while, with encouragement from my husband, my aunt, and my first cake decorating teacher, Cindy. Because my Aunt Lydia was my most ardent female supporter in this baking endeavor (she was a lifelong independent business owner herself), this blog is dedicated to her memory. If heaven is real, then I know she's there with my mom, baking up a storm. Like Lydia said one day, just before her 80th birthday, while she and my mom and I were baking in my mom's kitchen, "It's been a fun ride. I'd do it all over again!"
If my house were on fire, I'd grab my family, then I'd grab my KitchenAid mixer.
Copyright 2009-2015, on original content and photos, Jane's Sweets & Baking Journal. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for permission if you'd like to reuse any of my photos or my content. Please consider informing me if you link to my blog--I'd love to know. --Thanks for visiting!