Giving Apples Their Due

March 31, 2011

I want to thank those of you who left such thoughtful comments on my last post.  I truly appreciate you sharing your own struggles and ideas with me.  I love having such thoughtful, interesting, and intelligent readers!

I have started to feel a bit like June Cleaver lately.  At 3:45 each day, Graham comes off the school bus from kindergarten and most of those days I open the door for him fresh off some baking project.  I (sometimes) have an apron on and there is some kind of treat cooling on the kitchen counter.  Graham (bless him) always takes a deep breath and says, “It smells so good Mommy!”  I differ from good old June in that I have flour in my hair and my kitchen looks like a train just went through it at high speed.

My sweet Graham has a sense that I make special things.  That maybe not everyone else’s mommy keeps a cookie jar full of homemade treats or has things like apple cakes lying around the house.  He will tell me, unprompted, “You are a good cooker Mommy.”  He is eager to try whatever I have out on the cooling rack and is heartbroken when I tell him it is for “friends” – students in my classes, Randy’s office mates, or catering clients.  I do a lot of that type of baking, baking for “friends”, but I often just like to have a treat on hand for my husband, kids, and whoever happens to come over during the week.

I’ve been seeing a lot of apple cakes around the blogosphere lately as we prepare to say goodbye to them for a season or two.  This has made me realize that I haven’t been seeing a lot of apple cakes coming out of my kitchen lately.  I figured I had better remedy that while the weather is still fall/winter-esque.  Truthfully, I love apple desserts and would have no problem serving them all year, but once the berries come start in June, apples start to look a little, um, homely.

I think of this cake as “have a little cake with your apples”.  Actually, I hate that type of expression.  Like when someone says, “Have a little french fries with your ketchup!”  Who are they to say how much ketchup is the right amount for a french fry? In my world, it’s a lot.  So who am I to say how much batter should be mixed together to hold all these apples?  I quite like this proportion.  Big chunks of apple and walnuts (I didn’t mind the nuts here) with a spicy cake batter keeping it honest.

The name of this cake is Apple Snacking Spice Cake which suits it perfectly.  Not fancy, not really all that sweet.  It would be great for a brunch or just for a special after-kindergarten treat.

One Year Ago: Fideos with Pasilla Chiles, Avocado, and Crema
Two Years Ago: Mediterranean Roasted Vegetable Salad

Apple Snacking Spice Cake
Makes one 10-inch round cake

I am including Chang’s instructions for turning the cake out onto a platter, but it was very clear to me that this cake was not going to leave my pan in one piece.  I opted to forgo the heartbreak that is a broken cake and just serve this out of the pan.

1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup cake flour
1½ tsp. baking soda
½ kosher salt
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1½ cups granulated sugar
¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 eggs
4 cups peeled, cored, and chopped Granny Smith apples (2 to 3 apples)
½ cup raisins
1 cup pecan halves, toasted and chopped (I used walnuts)
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a 10-inch round cake pan.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, sift together the all-purpose flour, cake flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves.  (Or, sift together into a medium bowl if using a hand-held mixer.)  Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment.  Add the granulated sugar and butter to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed for about 1 minute, or until the butter is fully incorporated into the dry ingredients.  Stop the mixer several times to scrape the paddle and the sides of the bowl to make sure all of the butter is mixed in.  Add the eggs and mix on low speed for 10 to 15 seconds, or until fully incorporated.  Then turn the mixer to medium-high speed and beat for about 1 minute, or until the batter is light and fluffy.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the apples, raisins, and pecans.  The batter will be very stiff and thick.  It will look like too many apples and not enough batter, but that’s okay.  Scrape all of the batter into the prepared pan, then spread it evenly to fill the pan.

Bake for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the cake feels firm when you press it int he middle and the top is dark golden brown.  (DT: Mine was done at 1 hour.  Be sure to check!) Let the cake cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Invert the cake onto a serving plate, lifting away the pan, and then invert the cake again so it is right-side up.  Slice and plate, then dust the slices with confectioners’ sugar.

The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.  Or, it can be well wrapped in plastic wrap and frozen for up to 2 weeks.  Thaw overnight at room temperature before serving.


  1. My dad makes an apple cake similar to this. It is a family favorite. I can’t believe I haven’t posted it on my blog. Thanks for the reminder:) I love apples in cakes.

    Comment by Maria — March 31, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

  2. yum – apples with some cake that’s how I like it. I have been thinking about how I want a single layer, easy cake to have around, as I love to have a treat around when people stop by. I know your boys will grow up always remembering you having fresh treats around. Way to go, June ;)

    Comment by sara — March 31, 2011 @ 3:43 pm

  3. This is almost the same cake I made last weekend, sans the raisins. I made mine in a springform pan, so removal would be easy! I love this cake.

    Comment by stacey snacks — March 31, 2011 @ 4:26 pm

  4. I made an apple cake at Thanksgiving where the apples where grated and basically almost melted into the cake…it was amazing. It was like one big hunk of intense appley-ness. Other than that though, not many apples coming from my kitchen, either! Which is weird considering the fact that I literally eat one a day. I love the idea of this having so many large apple chunks..then it’s almost like you’re eating apple pie! But with a cake around it.

    Comment by Joanne — March 31, 2011 @ 5:14 pm

  5. This cake looks delicious…like it would melt in your mouth the second it touched your tongue. Mmmm. Makes me wish I were in my kitchen baking instead of sitting in a dark cubicle. Your boys sure are lucky! :)

    Comment by Spicy Bohemian — March 31, 2011 @ 6:46 pm

  6. The texture of the cake is perfect. Love to have a bite.

    Comment by Nithu — March 31, 2011 @ 8:59 pm

  7. What wonderful memories your boys will have to look back on one day!

    Comment by Lisa @ The Cooking Bride — March 31, 2011 @ 9:32 pm

  8. Looks delicious! Who is Chang?

    Comment by Alonna Smith — March 31, 2011 @ 11:25 pm

  9. Wow, this cake looks wonderful. I’ve been tending towards apple crisps and crumbles this winter, so I think a cake is in order!

    Comment by Nancy — April 1, 2011 @ 1:10 am

  10. Count me in as a big apple fan. I love apple sauce, crisp, pie, and, of course, apple cake. This one looks divine. Simply divine! I have to admit I am a bit behind on reading and am moving on to your last post. So curious! xoxo

    Comment by redmenace — April 1, 2011 @ 2:00 am

  11. This looks delicious and just up my alley. And as my gang have finished up the oatmeal chocolate chip cake, I need to fill up the cake tin (figuratively) again. I love the description of your kitchen as well – I think mine always looks like my baking drawer exploded all over the kitchen when I’ve been on a baking spree.

    Comment by Charlotte — April 1, 2011 @ 2:24 am

  12. Joanne Chang is the author of the book Flour.

    Comment by dana — April 1, 2011 @ 3:03 am

  13. Mmmm ‘snacking cakes’ are my favourite. I am making an apple crisp on the weekend to use up the ones I’ve got in the house. I am SO ready for some real summer fruit!

    Comment by Hilary — April 1, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

  14. Since you mentioned your last post at the beginning of this one, I immediately thought–well I spend a lot of my time on non-meat dishes also, for the simple reason I do so many desserts and sweets. In fact, some editors seem to think I can’t (or won’t) do meat dishes because they associate me with sweets (even at home I cook chicken and turkey a lot)! My point here is that it’s somehow easier to typecast people than to process the myriad, complex, sometimes conflicting facets of who they are. I’d actually never noticed you skipped the meat–your fare is interesting and varied and never “lacking” at all. As you said, it seems like time we got past that topic–being vegetarian is(or should be)very old news!

    Comment by Nancy Baggett — April 2, 2011 @ 7:08 pm

  15. I love rustic desserts like this!

    Comment by Michelle — April 4, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

  16. Just a quick note — made this cake tonight and it is delicious! I put a piece of parchment on the bottom of the pan, buttered/floured that with the rest of the pan, and the cake popped right out. We couldn’t wait for it to cool – so yummy! Thanks, Dana…

    Comment by debra — April 11, 2011 @ 3:07 am

  17. I own the cookbook, Flour. Thanks for pointing this recipe out! Everything in her book has turned out to be PERFECT! She is truly a genius! Made the cake twice since you posted this…for friends. Haven’t tasted it, but they both said that it was “excellent”. I recommend any recipe from “flour” or better yet, eat at her shop in Boston!

    Comment by patty — April 13, 2011 @ 3:17 am

  18. I just want you to know I posted at so my friends can read it too. I used Giving Apples Their Due Dana Treat – Treat Yourself as the link title in my bookmark,I figured it would be a good way to spread the word about this cool post. Email me back at if there is anything else I can do to help.

    Comment by Elly Taray — April 15, 2011 @ 3:18 am

  19. This looks like such a wonderful homey comforting cake! The perfect after school or anytime snack.

    Comment by Ashley — May 16, 2011 @ 9:45 pm

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