Autumn apple-plosions call for applesauce…and cake.
More specifically, cake made with applesauce, to make it taste a little lighter and to make the crumb lovely and moist. It’s such a wonderful balance, I can’t believe that after 16 years of apple gluts I’ve never bothered trying to make applesauce OR baking with applesauce. I think it’s because I associate it with unspectacular-looking vegan recipes that declare that it’s the equivalent to using eggs in a recipe. I have nothing against good vegan recipes, but some of the claims can get a little out of hand. Anyway, when I saw Deb’s post about Gourmet’s applesauce cake, I was intrigued. Desserts are often, for me, all about balancing naughty and nice. Not only because they often taste much better and you can eat them until the cows come home, but because I really like baking, and if I were to constantly bake heart attack cakes, it’d conflict quite badly with my desire to eat healthy and not feel like crap after a sweet treat.
The only problem with the aforementioned recipe was that it was still a bit rich at the end of a 29C day. Also, don’t judge me, but I am a bit bored of apple and cinnamon, or spiced apple things in general (I admit this is probably just to do with the hot autumn we get). I wanted tangy apple meets cake, and that was all. Simple enough though – I just omitted the spices, and used half oil and half butter to make the cake even softer. The result was a very simple and plain sort of cake, but with a hint of a toffee-ish note from the brown sugar, an echo of apple, and the perfectly soft and moist texture I’m so fussy about. I can’t wait to try varying the topping for this. The original cinnamon cream cheese icing will be wonderful when winter knocks around, and caramel would be stunning with this cake. The lime and passionfruit curd I picked up on my holiday. Vanilla custard, vanilla ice cream, vanilla and verjus syrup (thanks for that Ro!). In the end though I topped mine with Jules’ super simple, no-ice-cream-maker or stirring-every-hour-required lemon ice cream*. Hit the spot quite perfectly. The males loved it, even though there was no chocolate involved. What do you know?
*Our freezer is running low on the space front, so I’ve set myself a rule to use at least 1 thing from the freezer for every meal!
While it may sound like a lot of effort, I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m too lazy to peel my apples, so making applesauce takes about half the effort. The thing is, you can’t taste the skins in the final product, and after 30 minutes of stewing, they just disappear into the final product texture wise, but you can still see a few flecks. Since apple skin has plenty of extra nutrients, this little shortcut is just about the biggest win ever.
I feel kind of silly giving a recipe for applesauce, it’s that simple. Just chop your apples up into chunks, add enough water so that it just peeks up under the top few layers of apple, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and stew on low heat for 30 minutes (I covered with a smaller lid so some steam could escape). Use half that amount of water if you don’t want syrup at the end, and make sure to cover your apples. You can add sugar (about 1/4-1/8th the amount of apple) and a thick shred of lemon peel, or a stick of cinnamon, or a little lemon juice, but only if you want to or have those things. If adding sugar then lemon juice would be a good idea (I used lemon juice + sugar). Then you can drain about half the water out to use as an appley syrup for my oatmeal, and puree the remains with a stick blender, regular blender or food processor. I recommend pureeing if you left skins on. For a chunkier applesauce, use a potato masher, but I’d avoid doing this if you left skins on. Following this general sort of guide lets you play with amounts.
Basic applesauce cake
adapted from Gourmet
makes an 8″ square cake or thinner 9″ square cake or 10″ round cake – by the way, you can make this a good size to take to a potluck but still keep some cake for yourself by just cutting the edges off, then cutting off two sides. The middle bit will be all pretty and flat (not sloping), and it’ll be a sensible size for potluck-age! Or you could make two cakes and two different toppings.
- 2c plain flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 113g butter, softened (if using unsalted, you’ll need about 1/4 tsp salt)**
- 1c packed brown sugar (I used 1c white sugar + 1/2 tsp molasses)
- 1 tsp vanilla (good stuff – otherwise don’t use it)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 1/2c unsweetened applesauce (reduce sugar amount to 3/4c if using sweetened)
** I used 70g butter and the rest was cooking oil. This makes the cake softer and even moister, and I find it stays that way for longer. However, it still has that glorious buttery aroma to it.
Preheat oven to 175C (350F), with a rack centred. Butter an 8 or 9 inch square pan (or a 10″ round cake tin).
Beat butter (and oil if using) and sugar until fully combined. Beat in eggs one at a time, then beat in apple sauce until fully combined. Sift over dry ingredients and fold in.
Bake 30-45 minutes (mine only took 25 minutes using butter & oil), until a knife inserted in the centre comes out mostly clean (it should have a liiittle wetness but half the inserted bit of the knife should be clean). Cool in the pan 15 minutes before running a knife around the edges and inverting onto a plate, then on to a rack to cool completely. I served mine warm with the ice cream, but if icing, then cool completely before doing so.
PS. I want to say something meaningful about the earthquake in Japan, but I can’t think of anything to write that won’t depress me, other than to point out the obvious and urge people to donate whatever they can (not necessarily money if there’s something else you can do, even just to show that you care). EDIT II: A lovely idea from couchsurfing – a group has been set up that lets you offer accommodation to people displaced by the quake in Japan.
EDIT: Having said that, I should probably say *especially* not necessarily money – see the press release from the Japanese Red Cross, saying they are not asking for funding. Thanks to Danyl for the heads up, and also this article for prompting some thinking about it.