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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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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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