Friday, November 18, 2011

Heirloom Apple Cake

A few weeks ago I went to the cupboard, pulled out the battered notebook of recipes my mom gave me some years ago, and hungrily flipped right to the one recipe I have to make every fall: my Great Aunt Tootie's Apple Cake. Aunt Tootie used to bring it to our family gatherings this time of year, and now that she has passed away and can't share it with us anymore, my mom and I seem to have taken it upon ourselves to make sharing it with others an essential part of the autumn season. (Of course, you'll be luckiest if you get a piece from one of my mom's cakes, but I like to think mine are getting a little closer to real good each year.) So far this season I've made four apple cakes--to share with the folks working on our barn, with my husband and his coworkers, with my stepson who came for a visit, and with various others who have dropped by our house at the right moment. My mom has probably made at least half a dozen apple cakes by this time.

This cake seems to taste extra sweet when it is baked with apples we've picked ourselves at a local apple orchard. Having moved from Ohio earlier this year, we almost missed the 2011 North Carolina apple season: by the time I started thinking the harvest might be ready, the picking was almost done! But we did make it in time to an orchard about an hour north of Charlotte, where (as always) we went right past the trees near the front of the field and headed straight for the last apple trees in the rows. The Granny Smiths (my favorite) were already "done," but there were still come Golden Russets and several lovely varieties of red. We ended up (again, as always) leaving the field with much more fruit than we could comfortably carry. But that's one of the joys of harvest time, isn't it? Being loaded down so heavily that your muscles ache even as your mouth waters.

I've since made apple turnovers, fried apples, apple sundaes, and apple crisp. But nothing compares to Aunt Tootie's Apple Cake. As you can see from the recipe below, it is a not a complicated concoction--no spices, no fancy baking techniques. Just one big bowl, a sturdy spoon, and simple ingredients. Maybe it is that simplicity that allows it to so deliciously showcase our sweetest fruit of the fall season. Enjoy!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Blend together:
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup oil (I sometimes use up to 1/2 cup applesauce, and you could use more or less.)
  • 2 cups sugar.
Add and mix in well:
  • 2 1/2 cups self-rising flour.
Stir in:
  • 2-4 medium apples, chopped (I always err on the side of more apples; use your own judgment.)
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (My mom uses walnuts; I use pecans.)
Pour into a greased and floured bundt pan (or, if you don't have one, a tube pan). Bake for 1 hour. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan and then invert onto a cooling rack.
After the cake has cooled completely, drizzle over it the following Caramel Topping.

Caramel Topping
Heat in a medium saucepan, stirring constantly:
  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk. 
Bring this mixture to a boil and (still stirring constantly) let boil for 3-5 minutes. How long you boil it will depend on how thick you like the topping to be. I think Aunt Tootie boiled hers to the soft ball stage (test by dropping a bit from the spoon into ice water and check to see if it forms a easily pliable ball). My mom makes hers thicker and spreads it on the cake instead of drizzling it. I shoot for somewhere in between.

No comments: