Apple picking results in apples. Simple. The more apples you pick, the more apples you have. The thing is, when in the act of picking, this is an easy concept to forget.
First of all, the orchard smells so good. The air is apple scented – real apple, not The Body Shop apple spray we wore in middle school. It’s intoxicating. Then there’s the apple sampling – plucking ripe fruit from the tree with sunshine filtering through the waxy leaves, taking a bite, assessing for quality: crisp, tart, juicy – all important factors to consider. Bite into a good apple? Pick more from that tree. And why pick one when you can pick ten…
So, yeah. I came home from Sebastapol with a load of apples. I spent the next morning leafing through a tower of cookbooks, hunting for inspiring apple recipes – chutney, pie, crisp, cobbler, pork roast, salad, and sauce. After scouring my culinary library (which I always find therapeutic but seldom lends itself to the act of cooking), I ended up finding two handsome cake recipes on the internet that required copious amounts of apples. I baked the first cake that Sunday and the other one a couple of days later.
Apples aside, they are completely different in style and flavor, but I’d venture to say they are equally delicious. So, I offer you a choice: proceed with an abundance of apples and bake according to your mood. If you want a shimmering holiday prize, try the Gingerbread Upside Down Cake. If you want a simple slice that tastes good for dessert or breakfast, try the Sharlotka. If, like me, you want it all…then bake both.
From Smitten Kitchen
Turns out my favorite way to eat this cake is for breakfast with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt. Because, let’s be honest, when you start your day with a slice of cake you’re setting yourself up for sweet success.
6 large, tart apples (Granny Smiths work well)
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of kosher salt
ground cinnamon, to finish
powdered sugar, optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper and the sides of the pan. Peel, core and chop apples into medium-sized chunks. Pile the cut apples directly in the prepared pan. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat eggs with sugar until thick and ribbons form on the surface of the beaten eggs, about 4 minutes. Beat in vanilla, then stir in flour with a spoon until just combined. The batter will be very thick.
Pour batter over apples in pan, spreading with a spoon or spatula so that it covers all exposed apples and press the batter down into the apples. (The top of the batter should end up level with the top of the apples.) Bake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a tester comes out free of batter. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on rack, then flip out onto another rack, peel off the parchment paper, and flip it back onto a serving platter. Dust lightly with ground cinnamon.
Serve warm or cooled. Dust lightly with powdered sugar if you like it a little sweeter. Or if you’re partial to that snowy, wintertime look.
(I completely forgot to take a photo of this cake, so I’m posting one from Smitten Kitchen. It’s admittedly prettier than my Sharlotka, but I think mine probably tastes just as good.)
4 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing pan
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
Pinch of salt
4 apples (about 1 3/4 pounds), peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch wedges
1/2 cup (1 stick or 4 ounces) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup dark molasses
1 cup buttermilk
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Very softly whipped cream
Make the topping: Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 10-inch cake pan. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring for four minutes (be sure not to burn), then swirl in salt. Remove from heat and pour into the bottom of your cake pan. Make circles of overlapping apple slices on top of the caramel. Slide remaining slices into the gaps.
Make the batter: Using a mixer, blend 1/2 cup butter and the sugar on medium-low speed. Increase the speed to high and cream until light and fluffy.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, molasses and buttermilk. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger and cinnamon. Alternate mixing the flour and molasses mixtures into the butter mixture, adding the next once the last has been incorporated.
Pour the batter into the pan. Bake at least 50 minutes (my cake was in the oven for about an hour) or until a wooden tester inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn out onto a large platter with room for the caramelized juiciness to seep from the top.
Serve warm or cool with very softly whipped cream.