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The flavors of apple pie, but a lot easier to make

Recipe: Baked in a tart pan, this cake can be breakfast or dessert

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Apple pie-cake is a delicious fall dessert or brunch cake.
(Photos: Kathy Morrison)

Apple pie is one of my specialties, but even I don’t always want to spend the time to make one. Yet fall baking is all about apples, and  there are myriad other ways to celebrate this wonderful fruit.

I went looking for something easy to put together, yet which has all the flavors of apple pie. The homey cake recipe here fits the bill pretty well. It could be served at brunch or for dessert, depending on how you dress it up. The crunchy top is a bonus.

Originally published in Food52’s “Baking” cookbook as Easy-As-Pie Apple Cake, this recipe was featured in the New York Times in 2015 in a roundup of new baking cookbooks.

NYT’s Cooking website is the only online site where I make a point to read the comments. The readers who subscribe are all types, of course, but they do actually cook the recipes they comment on. So when a majority of the 207 commenters on this recipe said “way too sweet,” I knew to cut back the sugar. What's listed here is half the original amount, and brown sugar is subbed for some of the granulated.

Just about any mildly tart to very tart apple will work. And it can be peeled or not, though the late-season apples with tougher skin (see Debbie’s post
here ) should probably be peeled. I used Granny Smiths because I had them. (Thanks, Debbie!)

The spices here form a good balance with the apples, but if you like very spicy cake, up the cinnamon and/or the allspice by another ½ teaspoon total.

One word about nuts: My family is mostly nut-averse when it comes to baked goods, but this recipe would be excellent with toasted walnuts, almonds (blanched ones) or pecans. Adjust as you desire.

Apple pie-cake

Adapted from Food52’s “Baking” via the New York Times
Serves 8

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Butter, sugars, spices and vanilla enhance the apple flavor
Ingredients:

4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for preparing the pan

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for preparing the pan

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup brown sugar, packed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ teaspoon nutmeg (freshly grated if available)

1 egg

2 cups diced apple (from about 2 large), peeled or unpeeled as desired

½ cup toasted nuts, such as pecans or walnuts, chopped (OPTIONAL)

Coarse sugar of your preference, for sprinkling (OPTIONAL)


Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch tart pan or quiche pan with removable bottom. (A 9-inch round cake pan will also work.)

Stir the 1 cup of flour together with the baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, cream the 4 tablespoons of butter with both sugars, the vanilla and spices. Add the egg and beat until smooth.
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Let the cake cool a bit before serving

Add the flour mixture and mix again until smooth. The batter won’t look like much, and will be very thick, but that’s correct. With a flexible spatula, blend in the apples and (if using them) the chopped nuts.

Spread the batter in the prepared pan, smoothing the top. You might have to push it to the edges with the spatula.

If desired, sprinkle the coarse sugar over the surface of the cake. (I used not quite a tablespoon of demerara sugar.)

Bake cake in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes, until it is a nice golden brown. A toothpick inserted in center should come out clean.

Let cool slightly. If the pan has a removable bottom, nudge the cake out carefully while it is still warm. If a cake pan was used, cool cake 10 minutes, then run a thin knife around the edge of the pan. Invert the cake carefully onto a wire rack, then invert again onto a plate so the crispy top is face-up.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.

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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Feb. 18:

It's wet to start the week. When you do get outside, between or after storms, concentrate on damage control:

* Keep storm drains and gutters clear of debris.

* Clean up tree debris knocked down by wind and rain.

* Where did the water flow in your garden? Make notes where revisions are necessary.

* Are any trees leaning? See disturbances in the ground or lawn around their base? Time to call an arborist before the tree topples.

* Dump excess water out of pots.

* Indoors, start peppers, tomatoes and eggplant from seed.

* Lettuce and other greens also can be started indoors from seed.

* Got bare-root plants? Put their roots in a bucket of water until outdoor soil dries out. Or pot them up in 1- or 5-gallon containers. In April, transplant the plant, rootball and all, into the garden.

* Browse garden websites and catalogs. It’s not too late to order for spring and summer.

* Show your indoor plants some love. Dust leaves and mist to refresh.

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