your heart will never lie to you, that’s your brain’s job ~
We moved our son to college a couple of weekends ago — a transition precipitated by a mix of exhilaration, procrastination, frantic preparation, high emotions and laughter. Happily, lots of it.
Humor is a great alleviator and one of the things that kept my son and I entertained in the days leading up to his departure was the persistent and highly targeted marketing we were receiving from his school (granted its been a long time since I attended university but the business aspect is all new to me) — everything from the necessity of buying from the school’s linen program (because no other sheets will fit the dorm beds) to the importance of signing up for a multitude of care packages to be delivered to our freshman throughout the semester (this is to avoid being the only parent who disappoints their child by not showing them how much you love them…). I’m not kidding!
We voluntarily took the bait on the linen program (keeping in mind that it’s a school fundraiser and all) but I wasn’t going to be handled into signing up for the care packages (besides, I had already assembled my own). My son scanned the linens and picked out a fine looking “basic” package, which already included quite a few bells and whistles, but every time he tried to checkout and pay for the set, a bubble would appear offering him an upgrade for just-a-wee-bit more money — a higher thread count on the sheets; an extra foam liner; a collapsible linen basket; a shower caddy; a bed buddy? (got to admit that one had us intrigued). Every time we thought we had accounted for all the offers another one would pop up, it was like playing an overzealous game of whac-a-mole.
When all was said and done and it came time to say goodbye, we decided to head outside for some fresh air and space. But the scene was busy and didn’t feel quite right so we made our way down to the underground parking where our car was for some privacy (always a bit tricky for a band of introverts to find their spot).
As oddities would have it, just as we were settling in to share some final words and a hug, a parking lot attendant appeared beside us from out of nowhere and began engaging us in friendly conversation. We exchanged a few niceties and, by way of trying to move things along, let the gentlemen know that we would look after our parking payment right after saying goodbye to our son. But that didn’t seem to prompt him to depart. Instead, he stood there smiling and watching over us asking a few more questions about what program our son was in and how long he would be away from home, and so forth. My heart was already firmly lodged in my throat and I’ll admit that I felt a bit flustered and maybe even mildly annoyed but I wasn’t about to ask this man to leave. He was an older gentlemen with a kind disposition who was genuinely enjoying our moment and strange though it may sound, his presence was somehow comforting.
The unexpected moment also, though not immediately, gave my son and I something else to smile about (the stranger who really wanted to be part of our goodbye).
Of course, I don’t really believe in strangers. In the end, we’re all in it together. And on that day, a group hug is probably what we all needed.
Now this cake… the first thing I have to tell you is that I’ve made it about 12 times (there may have been a little baking therapy going on) but I also legitimately experimented with several different types of flour and butter/sugar combos before settling on my favorite (more in the Notes section of the recipe card).
This is a moist and delicious apple cake infused with maple and cinnamon that comes together easily and delivers delicate caramel notes. It’s one of those swoon-worthy desserts that will fill your home with the aroma of fall while inhabiting your tummy with comfort and warmth. As much apple as it is cake, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy one of the season’s best.
The appearance of this cake is lovely too – the surface is dotted generously with apple chunks baked to a golden hue. The assembly involves a few simple steps and once you’ve made this dessert the first time, you’ll know the drill for the next time (and the time after that).
This recipe was inspired by (though departs quite a bit from) Dorie Greenspan’s apple cake featured in her work Around My French Table which I spotted over at my friend Sally’s.
I hope you enjoy this delicious autumn offering ~ there are few things that remind me of fall and back-to-school quite as much as apples.
Be sure to have a read through the Notes in the recipe card below for best results and options.
- ¾ cup brown rice flour
- ¼ cup almond flour
- 2 Tbsp tapioca flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 4 large apples of choice, peeled and chopped into approximately 1" cubes
- ½ cup salted butter, melted and cooled to room temp
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar (or coarse sugar of choice)
- 1 + ½ tsp cinnamon (or to taste)
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup pure maple syrup
- ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
- Heat oven to 350 F.
- Melt butter and allow it to come to room temperature.
- Place apple chunks in a generous sized bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice, brown sugar and cinnamon - toss to coat (I use my hands for this).
- In a separate medium sized bowl, sift together: brown rice flour, almond flour, tapioca and baking powder 3 times or so (until all the lumps are worked out) - you can also use a wire whisk for this.
- In a large mixing bowl whisk eggs until they are light and fluffy'ish.
- Add maple syrup and vanilla to the eggs and whisk again until combined.
- Add half the dry ingredients to the mixture and whisk a few times until combined and then half the butter mixing again to combine. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients and butter.
- Using a spatula, fold apple chunks into the batter (being sure to scoop out all the yummy wet ingredients).
- Pour the apple cake mixture into a well greased 8" spring-form pan (being sure to grease the bottom as well as the sides). The mixture will be lumpy and bumpy owing to all the delicious apples - some may poke up without being fully submerged in the batter and that's perfectly fine.
- Use your spatula to make the batter uniform'ish (it will not be flat). Tap the cake pan against the counter a couple times to allow the batter to settle and air pockets to dissolve.
- Bake for approx 50-60 minutes or until cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Allow the cake to cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before running a flat knife along edges of the cake and very delicately unlatching the spring-form pan to avoid sticking.
- Allow the cake to cool again until it is just warm or room temperature (the flavors really gather as it cools).
- Slice and enjoy the cake on its own or with your favorite accompaniment - we enjoy cream.
Type & Size of Pan: if you don't have a spring-form pan you can use a simple cake pan (I strongly recommend lining it with parchment for ease of unmolding/release) for size, I encourage you to stay with 8" -- if you use a larger pan (even 9") you can expect a flatter cake.
The Flour: I experimented with many different flours and combinations of flour for this cake. The original recipe from Dorie Greenspan calls for all purpose flour and you can certainly use that (if you do just skip the tapioca - no need when working with a gluten grain). Whole grain spelt also produced good results (again no need for tapioca) and I would favor it over WG wheat (which tends to be heavier/denser). Something to keep in mind with the WGs generally however is that the cake may brown sooner in the oven so you may wish to tent with a loose foil around the halfway mark to avoid over-browning.
Gluten-Free: I ultimately decided to go with a combination of brown rice and almond flour here - both naturally gluten-free - the crumb holds together nicely with the help of tapioca but still retains some textural resilience which I love and which sets it apart from traditional cake.
Tapioca: If you choose to go with the proposed recipe, I encourage you to use tapioca as suggested (tapioca is a starch extracted from the root of the cassava plant). It plays an important role in the thickening/binding element that supports texture and prevents the cake from turning into a full blown crumble. A bag of tapioca is not expensive and I use it quite a bit in my kitchen not only for GF baking but also as a sauce thickener (either in place of corn starch or whenever something is a little soupier than I would like - for example a crockpot meal - 1 or 2 Tbsp of tapioca whisked in can save the day!).
Butter & Sugar: I did make a couple of versions using ⅓ cup of butter and ⅓ cup maple syrup - the taste of the cake was good but it did change the texture and moistness of the cake as well as the look.