Apples? Again? I know, I know. In the fall, I seem to have a near constant appetite for apples, but come spring I am always dying for other kinds of fruit to start appearing at the market. Did you know that apples have been growing in Ireland for at least 3000 years? Early monastic records show that apples were served to monks with their meals and Brehon laws (originating between 2000 and 1000BC) included harsh punishments for cutting down apple trees. Eating, cooking and cider apples are all still grown in Ireland and much research has been done to find varieties best suited to Irish growing conditions. There are all kinds of apple varieties in Ireland that I’ve never even heard of; Discovery, Orange Pippins, Howgate Wonder, Greensleeves, James Grieve, Charles Ross...the list goes on and on. The most popular type of apple in Ireland is called a Bramley’s Seedling, or Bramley, which is mainly grown in Armagh, Louth, Meath and Dublin. Bramley’s are usually used for cooking due to their sour flavor.
While I would love to try some Irish varieties, there are so many apples here in the States that are great for both eating and cooking. The other day I was buying a bag of Honeycrisps at the grocery store and the guy at the register was a wealth of knowledge about the history and origin of Honeycrisp apples. He knew exactly when and where they were developed (at the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station's Horticultural Research Center at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, released in 1991), and more details than I can remember about their meteoric rise to the top of the apple hierarchy. He really would have made a very good lobbyist, if Honeycrisp apple growers needed a lobby.
Honeycrisps are sort of like peaches to me, so good raw I almost feel bad cooking them - but then, they are great in baked goods as well. Because my kids are always looking for a reason to get out the apple corer-peeler, I decided an apple cake would make a nice birthday cake for my father-in-law this year. The kids poo-pooed this idea because they wanted something chocolate and frosted with layers. I had to point out to them that Grandpa never has those types of desserts at his house and instead favors fruit desserts - pies, strudels, etc. Despite his desire to help with the apples, Emmett was disappointed with the prospect of apple cake. He proclaimed a boycott of all cake eating festivities that evening but proceeded to peel my apples anyway (until Isla came over and demanded a spot on the chair to finish the job).
As tempted as I was to make Dorie Greenspan’s amazing French apple cake, again. I decided to try something different and make Teddy’s Apple Cake, another long-time favorite of the New York Times’ food section and its readers. I’ve seen the recipe countless times in the past several years and always planned on trying it one day. Well, carpe diem. This cake was super simple to throw together - and made the house smell delicious. I served it with custard and to everyone’s surprise, especially his own, Emmett LOVED it!
Teddy’s Apple Cake
adapted slightly from the New York Times
- Butter for greasing pan
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
- 1 ½ cups vegetable oil
- 1 cup sugar
- ½ cup maple syrup
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups peeled, cored, and thickly sliced sweet and tart apples like Honeycrisp or, tart apples like Granny Smith
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Bird’s custard to serve (you can find a how-to on that here)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour a 9-inch tube pan or 2 6-inch cake pans. Beat the oil, sugar and maple syrup together in a mixer (fitted with a paddle attachment) while assembling the remaining ingredients. After about 5 minutes, add the eggs and beat until the mixture is creamy.
Sift together 3 cups of flour, the salt, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir into the batter. Add the vanilla, apples and walnuts and stir until combined.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan before lifting out. Dust with powdered sugar and serve at room temperature with custard, if desired.
The original recipes calls for 2 cups of sugar and a cup of raisins. I reduced the sugar and subbed some maple syrup for a portion of it because maple syrup screams fall to me and because I was using Honeycrisps instead of super-tart apples. I also omitted the raisins because I thought they might make the whole thing too sweet and because I never know when the kids will refuse to eat something due to the presence of raisins. I stop catering to the tastes of others when it comes to nuts however, and I’m glad I kept those in.
I made two of these cakes in my 6-inch cake pans. One of them was gone post-breakfast the following day and I’m quite happy to know that the other one is well-wrapped in my freezer for a future “NEED CAKE NOW!” kind of day.