March 6, 2009
This is my favourite cake. It's in no way gorgeous: just simple eggs, butter, sugar, flour, topped with chunks of apple, and baked slowly until it's chewy and tender. The Scandinavian tradition of the "visiting cake" that can be thrown together in 10 minutes and ready to eat in 50 is so appealing to me. I wish my cooking was always as effortless. It's welcoming without being overwhelming, and it's this kind of gentle generosity that delights the weary traveller.
The recipe is from the wonderful Dorie Greenspan, whose work I was unfamiliar with until I moved to America. I wish I'd known her books years earlier, but I also wouldn't sacrifice the delight of finding her on a library shelf far from home. This one is from her column on Serious Eats, Baking with Dorie. The recipe calls for a skillet; I use my tarte tatin pan with great results. I recommend buttering the pan and laying baking paper.
Another reason to love this cake: it keeps really well. Wrapped in plastic at room temperature, it transforms from crisp and chewy to a soft cookie of sweet apple. I make it whenever I have friends coming to stay, and for myself to take on buses and planes.
Swedish Apple Cake
from Dorie Greenspan on Serious Eats
3/4 cup all-purpose/plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt (optional)
1 extra large egg or 1 large egg plus 1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
1 stick (4 oz) unsalted butter, melted and cooled*
1 to 1 1/2 apples (Dorie likes Fujis), peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
apple, quince or jelly preserves, for glazing the cake (optional - I've used fig paste melted in a little hot water, and it was delicious)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 180 Celsius.
*Melt the butter (this is a step I often forget until suddenly the need for melted and cooled butter is upon me!).
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt, if you're using it.
Working in a mixing bowl with the whisk, beat the egg(s) and sugar together until thick and pale. Stir in the vanilla, if you're using it, and then the melted butter. The mixture will be smooth and shiny. Stir in the dry ingredients and scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Top with the apples, making a spiral pattern. Leave some space between each slice, so the batter can puff up between the wedges - it looks much nicer with the puffs.
Slide the pan into the oven and bake for about 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a cooling rack.
If you want to glaze the cake, warm a few spoonfuls of jelly/jam and a splash of water in a microwave oven (or a saucepan) until the jelly liquefies. Brush the jelly over the hot cake.
Let the cake cool for at least 15 minutes, or wait until it reaches room temperature, before you cut it into wedges to serve.