The autumn season is all about apples and pumpkins, golden falling leaves and football. I love this time of the year as not only do I have just harvested garden goodies to cook with, but freezers filled with seafood, fish and moose. I also have more time to spend in the kitchen enjoying preparing the fruits of summer’s labors into something delicious. It’s time for life to slow down and be enjoyed in a different way.
When I first arrived in Homer, I assumed there wouldn’t be a local apple to be found in Alaska, but was I wrong. Homer farmers grow apple trees in addition to others, such as cherry and pear. Each day on my drive into town I pass four apple trees. This year they are all just loaded with big apples.
Every year for the last 36 years during spring, I wait with anticipation for a special tree to come into bloom located a short way out of town on East End Road. Once it is in full bloom, I take the time to stop and admire that gorgeous tree with its white and pink blossoms so beautiful it takes my breath away. The tree has small red apples on it right now that look like they are adorning the tree with Christmas ornaments.
Growing up in Wisconsin, we had an Italian plum tree in the backyard. The blossoms on that little tree were white and heavenly smelling. The plums it produced were sweet and kid size, just perfect for my little sister and me to eat. The tree is long gone, but the memory of it never will be.
When we visit Wisconsin in the fall, many different varieties of apples are displayed for sale at farmers markets and roadside stands. My favorite thing to do is to get close to a bushel of apples and inhale the heady, sweet apple aroma. There is nothing like the fragrance of fresh home-grown apples.
This summer’s warmth and sunshine produced beautiful big apples up here in the north. I was excited to have dear friends share some of their apples with me and went right home with them to make this French apple cake.
French Apple Cake
One 9-inch (23 cm) cake
The directions for this cake indicate to use a variety of apples. I don’t know what kind mine were, since they were picked from my friend’s tree and I just used them in this recipe. They were green with a red blush on their skin in places. A quality dark rum is really important for the taste, and the cake would be not as interesting without it. I took an empty jam jar with me when I went to get the apples and bummed some rum off my friends, as we didn’t have any. I don’t know what kind it was either, but the aroma of it was out of this world. When I was mixing the cake up, I spilled some onto the counter and the whole kitchen smelled amazing for a long time. I thought a dollop of sweetened whipped cream alongside this piece of homey cake would be a perfect accompaniment. There was a little bit of rum left in the jar, so I drizzled it over the top of the cake once it was out of the oven.
3/4 cup (110 g) all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
4 large apples, a mix of varieties if you have them
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup (150 g) white sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (115 g) butter, salted or unsalted, melted and cooled to room temperature
1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC) and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven.
2. Heavily butter an 8- or 9-inch (20-23 cm) springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.
3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
4. Peel and core the apples, then dice them into ½ – ¾ inch pieces.
5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until foamy then whisk in the sugar, then rum and vanilla. Whisk in half of the flour mixture, then gently stir in half of the melted butter
6. Stir in the remaining flour mixture, then the rest of the butter.
7. Fold in the apple cubes until they’re well-coated with the batter and scrape them into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top a little with a spatula.
8. Bake the cake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan and carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, making sure no apples are stuck to it.
Serving: Serve wedges of the cake just by itself, or with sweetened whip cream or vanilla ice cream.
Storage: The cake will keep for up to three days covered. Since the top is very moist, it’s best to store it under a cake dome or overturned bowl.
*Notes: The cake was very moist and not too sweet. The rum definitely added a lot to the taste.
When I made the cake, I cut the apple pieces too large and they did not get tender enough for my preference. I shared a piece with a co-worker, and she said it reminded her of pie and cake.
If you don’t have a variety of apples ,don’t let that keep you from making this yummy apple cake. It came together quickly and was a sweet way to end a nice dinner of moose steak and gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans tossed with smoked blue cheese and a glass of an excellent cabernet.