My mom made this apple cake often. But oddly enough, my most distinct memory of it comes from our first Lyon apartment, perched atop an Italian restaurant in a plaza whose fountain burbled no more. Whenever someone waxes rhapsodic about the glamor of France, my mind drifts to uneven wooden floors that groaned and sighed with age. Ornate open fireplaces in every room: the unwitting accessories, along with the single-paned, wood-edged, decade-old windows, to the coldest winter of my life. It had never occurred to me before that central heating was a great American luxury. My classmates and I came home together after school one chilly day. I can’t remember the exact premise. A project of some sort? The only thing I really remember is that my mom served us this apple cake. As we ate, one of my classmates, an Ecuadorian who once called Bolivia home, turned to me. “Wow, that’s a lot of alcohol.” Then he nodded his head up and down with pleasure and continued eating.
My international school classmates were big fans of alcohol.
This cake doesn’t actually have that much alcohol. The boozy apple cake from our 2eme arrondissement apartment was the result of a small kitchen mishap. Like the boozy taste though? Up the rum and compensate with some more flour.
Adapted from Francois Payard’s Simply Sensational Desserts. I think it’s simple enough of a recipe to further adapt. The recipe that follows is what I used when I made the cake pictured, but next time I would probably add another tablespoon of rum. I think a honey glaze would be nice as well. And if you want to Americanize this recipe, add a teaspoon of cinnamon.
1/3 cup raisins (I used golden, because I like them. And they’re tangier.)
3 tbsp dark rum
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
8 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 large eggs
2 apples, peeled and cored (choose apples that will retain their moisture when baked)
1/4 cup apricot jam + 1 tbsp water for the glaze
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Butter and flour an 8.5 x 4.5 x 2.5-inch loaf pan.
- Bring a small pot of water to a boil, add the raisins, and boil for one minute. Drain and repeat. Drain the raisins well after the second time and combine with the rum. Stir and set aside.
- Sift together the flour and baking powder.
- Beat together the butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed. (With your paddle attachment, if you’re fortunate enough to own a stand mixer.) Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after every addition. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a spatula and mix in the raisins and rum. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until blended.
- Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth into an even layer.
- This step is up to your personal interpretation. I followed Payard’s instructions pretty closely, but if you want to arrange the apples in another way, have at it. I’m sure there are other more aesthetically pleasing options out there. Cut one apple into 10-12 wedges and arrange them over the batter down the center of the pan so the domed side of each wedge is on top. Pour the rest of the batter over the apples and smooth the top. Cut the other apple into 6-8 wedges, then in half again crosswise. Arrange the wedges along the long sides of the pan so that the center-cut sides are pressed against the side and the tips are pointing toward the center. Gently push the apples into the batter, leaving the tops exposed.
- Bake the cake for 60-65 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
- Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes or so. Do not try to dump out your beautiful loaf before it cools for a bit. This cake is soft and it will probably fall apart in your hands.
- Meanwhile, prepare the apricot glaze. Heat the apricot jam and water in a small saucepan over low heat until the water boils and the jam dissolves. Pour the glaze through a strainer to strain out any apricot chunks.
- Unmold the cake and turn it upright. Gently brush the apricot glaze over the top of the cake while it’s still hot. Allow the cake to cool completely before slicing and serving. It tastes even better the next day.
To everyone who bothered to read this far: BONUS PICTURE!
Bad nighttime lighting? Check. Weird sheen on the table? Check. Large pumpkin taking center stage? Check. Much thanks to my dear sister and friends for arranging apple slices and steeping tea and moving background objects away and holding pillows to reduce glare and eating the ugly slices while I squatted by the table in my workout attire, hair falling out of my ponytail, complaining about how hard it is to be a food blogger.
I am a glamorous food blogger. Fake it ’til you make it. Aww yeah.