Friday, October 8, 2010

Apple Cake with Lemon Sauce

Apple picking! Hooray autumn! Thank bloody goodness. I am practically giddy about the crisp, cool, sunny weather. I kicked off autumn this year with a day of apple picking and baking. Regrettably autumn only lasts about 4 days in D.C., days on which I can stand in the sun in a light sweater and breathe in the sickly sweet smells of rotting leaves, before the temperature drops to 40 or below, and I have to dig out the scarves and winter coats. Inconceivable! I do my best to encourage my own little mental lapses, pretending that autumn is a real season in this swampland. I bake as many spicy, sour-sweet recipes full of pumpkins, cranberries and apples, as I can. (And for the record, my love of autumn has nothing to do with the fact that so many of my favorite seasonal flavors translate so harmoniously into desserts. Pure coincidence). Mostly, each autumn I'm determined to make the season last a little bit longer than it did the year before, mostly.

First up, is another recipe card from Great-Grammie's recipe box. After a few hitches earlier this week with her fig square recipe, I thought I would go with an easy one. (I'm coming back to those fig squares, even if I have to make several batches to get it right!) The original apple cake recipe was a little fuzzy on the details, listing "apple slices" and "lemon sauce" but not including the number of apples or how to make the lemon sauce. (I think the lemon sauce recipe may be lost to the annals of cookery). Honestly, as Great-Grammie's recipes go, a few missing instructions are usually the least of my worries.

I was surprised how great this cake came out. While I was mixing the batter, it seemed a little plain; I was worried it wouldn't have enough flavor. I couldn't have been more wrong. The cake itself was light and bouncy, so much so, it was tricky to get out of the pan, squishing down under the pressure of my spatula and popping right back up when I took the spatula away. The apples were also a surprise. I thought they would be dried out, which they were a little, but they were still crisp and juicy when I bit into them. The cinnamon and lemon sauce gave everything a little depth and moisture, which made me want to lick my fingertips and dab up any stray, sticky crumbs. Now I understand what Mom meant when she said, "This cake never got cold in our house."

Apple Cake
(Adapted from Great-Grammie's recipe)

1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, well beaten
7/8 cup milk (2% or whole)
2 small apples, cored and sliced (I used Jonagold)*
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Lemon Sauce
(Adapted from Bon Appetit, December 1998)

1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 1 or 2 lemons)
2 or 3 teaspoons grated lemon peel

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8-inch baking dish. In a large bowl, cream together butter and 1/2 cup sugar. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder. Mix eggs, milk and dry ingredients with creamed butter and sugar alternatively. Pour batter into greased baking pan. Press apple slices into batter in concentric circles, starting at the outside then moving into the middle. Mix together 2 tablespoons sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over cake. Bake 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Serve with lemon sauce.

*To keep your apple slices from turning brown while they wait to be added to your cake, put them in a bowl of water with a couple of splashes of lemon juice. I cut up my apples last, but, of course, forgot to preheat the oven, so they had to wait a bit before being added to the cake.

Lemon Sauce
In a small saucepan, mix together sugar and cornstarch; add water and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes until the mixture gets thick. Add lemon juice and grated peel. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Spoon over pieces of cake.

Makes about 9 servings.


Cuisine Queen said...

Holy moly! That sounds super fabulous! Good thing I am going apple picking on Sunday because I am DEFINITELY making this. And of course, I'll let you know how it comes out!

Marie said...

So nice meeting you at Carmine's! Hope to see you next month. I love fall and apple cakes btw

Cuisine Queen said...

Well I made an apple cake - not following your grammies recipe - and it was good, but not nearly as good as this one sounds so I will have to try this recipe before all my apples run out!