When apples are in season, there’s nothing finer than a simple apple cake. Although easy to make, this cake is anything but ordinary. It’s bursting with fresh apple flavor and spices, while the crunch of pecan, which places the cake unmistakably in Southern territory, adds just the right bite. And, well, the coat of rich caramel makes this an over-the-moon dessert.—Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock
For the cake
1 cup light-brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 large eggs
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground Ceylon cinnamon (see note)
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 fresh apples (such as Winesap or Granny Smith), peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 cups not-too-finely chopped pecans
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the glaze
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light-brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
Make the cake
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
2. Put the sugars and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl, and beat until very well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and gradually add to the sugar and eggs, mixing just until well blended.
3. Stir in the apples, pecans, and vanilla, and pour into a buttered and 9-by-13-inch baking pan.
4. Bake in the preheated oven until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours (begin checking after 50 minutes). Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the pan while you prepare the caramel glaze.
Make the glaze
1. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add both the sugars and the salt. Stir until blended, and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream, and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
2. Use a skewer or toothpick to poke holes all over the top of the cake, and pour the warm glaze over the surface. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: The quality of cinnamon can vary greatly, and most that you find on supermarket shelves is harsh and hot in flavor. Ceylon cinnamon is the exception and we use it a lot in our recipes. Ceylon cinnamon is best purchased in stick form, kept tightly covered away from sunlight, and ground in a spice mill or with a mortar and pestle for each recipe (we keep a small electric coffee grinder that we use only for sweet spices like cinnamon and clove). Unlike common cinnamon, which is thick, hard and brittle, Ceylon cinnamon is paper thin and crumbles easily in the hand. It is complexly smooth and sweet, and very refined, both in aroma and flavor. We recommend seeking it out, as it makes all the difference in a dish. If, however, for some reason you simply cannot find Ceylon cinnamon, reduce the amount called for in our recipe by half if you are using an ordinary supermarket brand.
Recipe © 2003 Edna Lewis and Scott Peacock. All rights reserved.