Apple Cake

The older you get, the more of a pedant you become. You start saying "you" to describe yourself. You repeat the same point over and over.

Every recipe is more than a record. There's always something that needs tweaking. You write the recipe you'll make next time--the ideal recipe.

The following recipe began by following Joe Pastry's recipe for Apfelkuchen. It was too much like cake. Too vanilla, too soggy from embedded apple chunks, not enough intensity. "You didn't add cinnamon?" asked she whose birthday cake had had cinnamon. She later revealed that her cake-baker also covered the cake in caramel sauce, after I had begun caramelizing my cakes, because anything without caramel is lacking, because caramel is a centripetal locus, like Jordan Catalano unsexily describes penetrative sex. This description hovers in ahistoricity. I'll be forward about how this recipe came together: a Google image search for apfelkuchen, an image of a thin square cake with all the apples on top, a cupcake pan that was uncovered by a kitchen cleanse (not mine), a pan of syrup left on the stove for too long, a scourge of lemon gigantism at the supermarket. It turns out cupcakes are difficult to get liquid caramel to stick to, as they are shaped like hills, so all the caramel ends up in rivers going into an ocean in the most unfortunate place: the flat space between the cupcakes. Flat pan then. Also turns out cake flour doesn't exist any more, or it does, but for $5 a pound, so really it doesn't, and that whole wheat pastry flour is not much like cake flour, tastes strongly, and lends a dandruffy texture.

I would not advise adding two tablespoons of cinnamon instead of one. I just had a piece, and it left a flavor of wood. Cinnamon is the bark of a tree, you counter. Yes, but we ought not to be reminded of this. That's the whole point of spices, maybe the whole point of baking--to transform ingredients into something forgetful of its roots.


  • 2 lbs. apples (half golden delicious, half granny smith)
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 lemons' juice

Peel and core the apples. Slice each apple quarter into lengthwise thirds. Fourths if they're particularly large apples. Collect the slices in a large bowl. Pour sugar over them. Cut the lemons in half and juice them into the bowl. Wait an hour.


  • 9 oz. all-purpose flour (really do measure it if possible, otherwise, Joe Pastry says "scant 1 3/4 cups")
  • 10 tbsp. butter
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2/3 cups buttermilk
  • 2/3 cups milk
  • 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 lemons' zest
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cloves powder
  • 1 tsp. ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Beat together the butter (soften it if it isn't soft) and the sugar in a large bowl. Add the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg. Zest the lemon halves and add the zest. Whisk in the eggs until smooth. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix until fully combined. Add buttermilk and milk, and mix until smooth (I used a fork, then a whisk). Pour into a buttered 9x12 rectangular pan. Shake to level the batter. Arrange apple slices gently on top of the batter (do not push them down). Conserve the juice in the apple bowl. Bake for roughly 45 minutes, or sometime after a fork comes out clean and before the sides burn.


About fifteen minutes after putting the cake in, pour the juice from the apple bowl into a small pot (scrape the bottom of the bowl to get all the sugar out). Bring it to a boil on high heat and then reduce to medium-low heat. Take it off the heat to check it every five minutes. When it has just turned medium brown, remove it from the heat. This should be about ten minutes before the cake is done. Take the cake out of the oven, pour the caramel evenly over it, and put it back into the oven until done. If all this timing is too aggravating, just make the glaze after the cake is done. I'm not sure baking the glaze for ten minutes makes any difference.

11 December 2012