Baking cakes is tough work. Bake them for too long, and they turn out dry. Too little time in the oven? The center is dense and mushy, two words you never want associated with your baked creation. That’s what makes this cake stand out from the rest of the pack – with all of the moisture from the apples, it’s practically impossible to overbake. The finished product has a reliably perfect crumb, one that is light, moist, and flavorful with every bite.
To get started, pick your apples. I like to use a couple of varieties to create a unique flavor and texture – pick apples like Empire, which have a soft, pudding-like effect in the cake. Add a few apples that keep their structure – Braeburns, for example, to create tender apple chunks throughout the batter. Mix the chopped apples with something sweet and flavorful, like sugar and cinnamon, and you have a delicious filling.
For the cake batter itself, feel free to play around with the proportion of white to whole wheat flour. The whole wheat makes the overall flavor more complex, and your apples mean that there is no need to worry about a dry or dense cake. Assemble the cake by alternating batter and apples, and you can pretty much guarantee that the fruit will settle evenly into every slice.
Can’t finish the cake in one night? Rest assured. Unlike most cakes, it only gets better the next day.
Apple Cake Recipe (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
- 1.5 cups all purpose flour
- 1.25 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup canola oil
- 2 cups + 5 tbsp granulated sugar
- 6 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into chunks (I used a mixture of Empire, Braeburn, and Macoun)
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 10 cup bundt pan (or a tube pan is preferable, if you have one).
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, and salt.
- Prepare the apples. In a medium bowl, combined the apple chunks with the cinnamon and 5 tbsp of sugar. Stir to coat the all apples in the sugary mixture.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil and 2 cups of the sugar. Once the mixture is smooth, add the orange juice, eggs, and vanilla. Whisk for a minute or so, until the wet ingredients are one uniform color.
- Add the wet ingredients to the large bowl with the dry ingredients and stir to combine, being careful not to over stir.
- Assemble the cake. Start by pouring 1/3 of the cake batter into the bottom of the bundt pan – this will ensure that your cake lifts out easily and does not stick. Then, add half the apple mixture. Top with another 1/3 of the batter, smoothing out as much as possible, and the remaining apples. Add the final layer of batter and place the cake in the oven. Let bake for 90 minutes or so – this is a very moist batter, so slight overbaking will rarely result in too dry a cake. Stick a toothpick into the center of the cake to check for doneness.
- Cool completely; invert the bundt pan to unmold the cake, and serve.
Despite being knee deep in October, plums are still bountiful at my local farmers market. This unexpected harvest inspired me to try the recipe below, shared long ago by the NY Times and now a mainstay in many home cook’s kitchens. This plum dessert makes a surprisingly great neighbor to your other fall favorites, pairing nicely with the season’s pumpkin breads and apple pies.
After trying this recipe, there’s no wonder why it continues to rage in popularity. The batter is practically effortless – the entire recipe can be prepared in one bowl, should you decide to sift the ingredients directly into the batter. The preparation process takes less than 10 minutes, and the majority of your time will be spent salivating at the smells coming out from your oven.
While the original recipes calls for a springform pan, I didn’t have one of those in hand. Instead, I pulled out my handy non-stick cake pan, lined it with parchment paper, and gave it a good coating of butter. This method worked seamlessly, and my cake popped out without a crumb. If you don’t have a springform pan either – there’s no reason to write off this recipe!
For the topping, lay the plums neatly on the top of the torte. They should be side by side, with little space in between. This will prevent the plums from moving around and sinking into the batter unevenly. There’s no need to push the plums in, though – they collapse naturally into the batter once baking.
Plum Torte (adapted from the NY Times)
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 cup sugar, plus extra for dusting
- 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 eggs
- Pinch of salt
- 10 plums
- Cinnamon for dusting
- 1/2 a lemon
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a 9 inch cake pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and butter again (you can skip this step if you have a springform pan).
- Cut plums in half and remove pits.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
- Using a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on medium speed until smooth and light in color, about three minutes.
- Add the dry ingredients and eggs to the bowl. Beat on low to medium speed until just combined.
- Pour batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with plum halves, skin side up. Dust with sugar and cinnamon and squirt with lemon juice.
- Bake for 45-50 minutes and let cool completely.
One of the things I love most about summer is the sudden appearance of fruit desserts. I’ve seen them pop up just about everywhere, from the fanciest of restaurants to my friend’s laid back weeknight BBQ. The varieties are endless, beginning with berries in June and transferring over to peaches and other stone fruits as the season progresses. Even the toppings differ, ranging from streusels to sweet puffy biscuits.
My personal favorite fruit dessert is the crumble, a simple dish of baked fruit with oats in the topping. The oats compliment the already delicious combination of flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon, adding a touch of crunch to each bite. If you’re curious about the distinctions between summer fruit desserts, like what makes a crumble different from a crisp, check out this article via the Huffington Post.
There are a few options for the filling. Purists will stick with one fruit, but I always prefer two (and a touch of zest, if you have it!). This particular crumble features strawberries and rhubarb, balancing tart and sweet flavors. Both fruits are on the watery side, however, so add corn starch to the mix if you prefer a thicker filling.
From start to finish, crumbles should take no longer than an hour to prepare. And don’t forget – while you’re waiting for the fruit to bake, run out and buy a pint of vanilla ice cream. You’ll thank me later.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Recipe (adapted from William-Sonoma Essentials of Baking)
- 6 stalks of rhubarb, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
- 2.5 cups strawberries, hulled and quartered (if large)
- scant 1/2 cup sugar (I used a bit less)
- juice and zest of half a lemon
- 1 cup of flour, spooned and leveled
- 1/3 cup white sugar
- 1/3 cup light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup rolled oats
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a square Pyrex dish (about 8 x 8)
- In a large bowl, mix together fruits, white sugar, and lemon juice. Stir to combine and pour into the prepared dish.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, white sugar, brown sugar, and oats. Slowly add the melted butter and stir until small clumps begin to form.
- Spoon crumbs onto the fruit mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top crumbs are golden brown. Let cool and serve.