apple cake

Baby in the Apple Cake

My sister made an apple cake for Mom's 82nd birthday.There was a baby in the apple cake.

The most surprising thing about the baby in the apple cake was that I never knew about the baby until now.  I have Grandma Flora's recipes, her precious gold thimble, her linens, her chocolate set, and the list goes on.  So why did I not know about the cake baby?

My sister said that Grandma Flora gave it to her decades ago with a little note saying that HER mother had baked the little black metal baby into birthday cakes.  Again, WHY DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS?  I adore tradition and fun games and family history so the baby takes the cake (pun intended)!  I am so happy my sister held on to the baby all these years through her world travels and multiple lives, to bring it out and celebrate our mom's birthday.  And now that baby is out, nobody is going to put baby in a corner.  Baby is invited to all the family occasions.  At least until I find it in the cake!

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We don't know much about the origins of the baby.  It is about the same size as the plastic Baby Jesus that is baked into a Mardi Gras King Cake, but it looks different.  More like a baby and less like Baby Jesus.  And it must be rather old because it is metal, very heavy metal, with fine details including a nicely curved buttocks!  Mom remembers that Grandma baked it into birthday cakes too.  And between my sister and Mom, they recall that Grandma told them the one who found the baby in the cake had good luck for a year.  Whatever the intent, the baby has been reborn and will now have a new life as part of our family celebrations.  I am happy about that.

The baby could be baked into any cake but my sister baked it into her go-to recipe for apple cake.  It is simple and delicious.  The perfect cake to introduce baby to the family again.

"Tradition does not mean that the living are dead, it means that the dead are living." -Harold MacMillan

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Baby in the Apple Cake

3/4 cup all-purpose flour 3/4 teaspoon baking powder Pinch of salt 4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds) 2 large eggs 3/4 cup sugar 3 tablespoons dark rum 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled preparation

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.

Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks.

In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it's coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it's evenish.

Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.

Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren't any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. 

Credit:  This recipe is from Dorie Greenspan, known as Marie-Helene's Apple Cake.

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Sheridan's Favorite Apple Cake

Baby Girl loves her sweets.Starting from the bottle, if we tried to water down her apple juice, she would throw it across the room like it was poison.  One day when she was about three or four years old, my Brother Bill came for dinner and brought me a box of See’s chocolates, wrapped from the store in festive paper.  I placed them on the counter so we could have them after dinner.

We had other family and guests and a bit of time passed before we were sitting down to dinner.  Baby Girl didn’t come to the table when we called so I sent her sister to get her.  She came back saying she wasn’t in her room so we all set off to look for her.  Our home, an old Spanish-style hacienda, had been outfitted with door and window chimes to catch escaping children so we were not worried she had run outside somewhere.  But where was she?  We called and called to no avail and I went back to her room to look closer.  Under the bed, behind the curtains, in the reading bath-tub (yes, the girls had a pink, unplumbed, pillow-filled, claw-foot tub for reading in their room!), and finally, in the closet.

There she sat, torn paper on the floor, box in her lap, chocolate all over her face and hands and discarded half-eaten candies scattered about.  Apparently, although she loves sweets, there were fillings in some of them that didn’t meet her expectations so she discarded those and continued to work her way through the box.  It had been a long enough period of time that she managed to make her way through most of the one-pound box by the time I found her guilty little cherub-face looking up at me from the closet floor.

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Baby Girl matured over the years and even though she still loves sweets and is quite discriminating as to which she indulges, she no longer steals them from me.  In fact, she quite often is the one baking and always the one suggesting we whip up a little dessert.  Back to her days of apple juice, she has a serious addiction to the apple cake that entered our home when she was about ten years old. The recipe came from my Mother-in-Law Nancy, given to me on a photocopied piece of paper with a number of different recipes that Nancy thought the kids might like including M&M cookies, lemon bars and poppyseed butter cake.

The first time I made the cake we were spending the summer in a rented beach house on Sandyland Cove in Carpinteria, California.  The kids were in grammer school and junior high, none of them could drive, and we sequestered them away in a beautiful beach community for two months of family fun.  Nancy had just been to visit us and had left the photocopy on the counter in the kitchen.  I had picked a basket full of summer apples from the tree at my house and when I looked at the paper that Nancy had left for me, I  noticed the simple recipe for apple cake.

It was probably meant to be baked in a square pyrex or metal pan as you would bake brownies.  But we were living in a rental and I had to make do with what I could find.  Way in the back of the cluttered and dirty kitchen cupboards was a thin aluminum pan that looked like an angel food pan with it’s tall thin spindle up the middle, but the bottom didn’t come out like a modern day angel food pan.

Most of the things in the beach house had not changed since it was built in the 1930s and we loved that about it.  It was designed by landscape architect Lockwood de Forest, Jr., with a vision of the house feeling like a boat.  It was long and thin, with portholes from bedrooms and a large room with a garage door that opened up to the sand.  The upstairs was just one room like the helm of a ship and the rest of the upstairs was the ship’s deck.  There was even a mast used as a flag pole.  It was a restful and simple place during a wonderfully simple time in the life of Hubby and I and our three young children.

The Boat House in Sandyland.

The children were off at their junior lifeguard training the morning I decided to make the apple cake.  I found the pan, and made the simple batter, adding lots of apples, extra cinnamon and no walnuts to suit the tastes of my children, and put the cake in the oven.  I wasn’t sure if it was the pan, or the weather, or the apples, or the fact that I had changed up the recipe a bit, but the cake took much longer than the recipe said to bake.  I kept checking it but the middle wasn’t quite done.  By the time it was baked, the edges were dark brown and very hard.  I wasn’t sure how it was going to taste but the smell was heavenly.  The kids came bounding back from the beach and the cake was cooled and out of the pan by the time they arrived.  The smell made them eager to taste.  Their enthusiasm upon tasting it informed me that it was a winner.

I had to leave the special pan at the beach house when we left but I found that a bundt pan, while it doesn’t have the magic of cooking in a 1930‘s boat house, can make a delicious apple cake.  Something about this batter and the extra time it takes to bake it in a bundt type pan makes this cake crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside with the fresh apple taste and the lovely sweet, cinnamon flavor.  It was baked many, many times that summer and requested twice as often.  It is a favorites of all my kids and most of my kids friends.  It is deceptively simple and delightfully good, especially near the ocean and with the laughter of young children.

It is also the perfect cake to celebrate my Baby Girl on the day she is no longer a teenager.  Happy Birthday my lovely daughter!

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"Let them eat cake." - Marie Antoinette

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Sheridan’s Favorite Apple Cake

4 generous cups peeled and sliced apples 2 eggs 1/2 cup vegetable oil 2 cups sugar 2 cups flour 2 tsp baking soda 2 tsp cinnamon 1 tsp salt 1-1/2 cups chopped walnuts, optional sifted powdered sugar for top fresh raspberries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, whisk eggs and add apples. Add the oil and sugar, mix well and let sit while you prepare dry ingredients and grease the pan. Combine flour, soda, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl and add to the wet ingredients.  Stir in nuts if using. Spoon batter into greased bundt pan and bake for 45-55 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick.  Cool in pan on rack. When entirely cool, use a knife to carefully pull the hard edges away from the pan and work the cake off the sides of the pan.  Dump cake over with force onto a plate.  If parts of the cake stick onto the pan, scoop them out and stick them back onto the cake.  The cake is very sticky so reconstruct it as necessary. Dust with powdered sugar to cover up any damage and if desired, sprinkle with fresh raspberries as garnish.

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