Simple is often best
PITY THE PLAIN, old-fashioned cake. It just doesn’t get any respect anymore.
Blame the food channel.
We’ve grown so accustomed to watching shows like the Ace of Cakes and Cake Boss that a cake is no longer just a cake.
They’re cakes in the shape of fire engines with working sirens and twirling lights, water hoses that spray edible glitter and ladders that go up and down.
Or they might be cakes that look like children’s Transformer action figures with lots of moveable parts. Or miniature boxing rings complete with bells that ding and little gloved fighters moulded from marzipan or fondant.
As those pastry chef-architects say: If you can dream it, they can bake it.
But as a result, the dessert’s decoration seems to trump the importance of the flavour and texture of the actual cake hiding beneath all of that icing. (Although, in fairness, I’m sure those TV creations probably taste as amazing as they look.)
You’ve got to wonder if celebrity bakers Duff and Buddy sometimes go home at night hankering for a simple slice of plain, old-fashioned cake after dinner.
No layers, no icing, no sprinkles, no sculptures.
Just an unembellished hunk of moist, tasty cake with nothing more in the way of accompaniment than a cold glass of milk or a steaming cup of tea to help bring a hectic day to a sweet close.
This week’s recipe for apple cinnamon cake would be just the thing.
It’s moist and delicious, but it’s not dressed up in any way other than a sprinkling of cinnamon sugar over the batter to give the cake a sweet, crispy crust.
That’s not to say that this cake isn’t pretty to look at, or that you couldn’t serve it to your best company. (It is, and you most certainly could.)
This cake is best served warm, preferably on the same day it’s baked (although I will confess that leftovers are pretty yummy with a cup of strong coffee at breakfast, too).
A scoop of maple walnut ice cream or a dollop of loosely whipped cream on the side is nice if you feel the urge to fancy things up, but no one will miss those things if you don’t.
APPLE CINNAMON CAKE
6 or 7 Nova Scotia apples, such as
Half a lemon
175 ml (3/4 cup) butter, room temperature
250 ml (1 cup) packed, dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
125 ml (1/2 cup) milk
125 ml (1/2 cup) plain yogurt or sour cream
5 ml (1 tsp) pure vanilla extract
500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose, unbleached
15 ml (1 tbsp) baking powder
Cinnamon sugar topping:
45 ml (3 tbsp) white sugar
5 ml (1 tsp) cinnamon
Preheat oven to 176 C (350 F). Butter a 33-by-22 cm (13-by-9 inch) baking pan, or line with parchment paper, and set aside.
Wash apples well, but don’t peel them(unless you really want to). Cut apples in quarters and remove cores; thinly slice. Toss with the juice of half a lemon to keep apples from browning. Set apples aside.
Cream together butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Whisk together milk, yogurt (or sour cream) and vanilla in a measuring cup.
In another bowl, whisk together flour and baking powder.
Now mix half the flour mixture into butter mixture, followed by half the milk mixture, then the final amount of the flour mixture and final amount of milk mixture.
Beat just until everything is incorporated; don’t over mix. Now fold in about half of the sliced apples; spread the batter into the prepared pan. Arrange remaining apple slices in neat rows over the batter (or scatter them haphazardly over top).
Finally, mix together white sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle evenly over the top.
Bake 30-45 minutes. Check for doneness by sticking a toothpick in the centre to see if it comes out clean. (Note: Depending on the moisture content of the apples and the temperature of your oven, the cake may cook in a half-hour.) Cool in pan for 20 minutes, cut into squares; serve.
Nadine Fownes is an editor at The Chronicle Herald.