Sunday, October 24, 2010

Apple Cake

I have to be honest with you, right now I'm struggling to say anything eloquent about this next recipe.  Not because it's not a fantastic recipe, because it is.  It is a 110% winner, I will make this thing again and again kind of a recipe.  I'm just totally wiped.  Staying up too late, getting up too early in the morning, lots of work and lots of excitement this weekend (Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston!) has more or less totally drained me of all energy, creative and otherwise.  But still, I have a little down time right now and I really and truly do want to tell you about this awesome apple cake that I'm kinda obsessed with right now.  

My friend Beth made this cake for our book club meeting a few weeks ago.  I thought the cake was delicious, and asked her to send me the recipe; when I opened the email, I was shocked to see that it came from Cooking Light.  Now, this shouldn't be such a surprise--I do subscribe to Cooking Light, always read it cover to cover, and often cook from it.  However, I don't often bake from it, since a few times I've had mixed results with the recipes (although twice I know the issues were due to my parents' manic, temperature-unstable oven.)  However, this cake was just so yummy, that I decided to make it for a party last night--margarine, fat-free cream cheese and all.  So, while I would never use margarine on my toast or fat free cream cheese on my bagels, mixed into the cake, it makes absolutely no difference.  The cake is so moist and tender, and absolutely packed with soft pieces of apple and delicately spiced with just the right amount of cinnamon.  It's a great dessert cake, but it's also "healthy" enough that it can can be enjoyed for breakfast (like I did today) or as an afternoon snack.

My only change to this otherwise perfect cake was to use even a little bit more apple than the recipe calls for--it says 3 cups chopped, which is 2 large apples.  I threw in another half an apple, just because I wanted the cake to have a little more bulk, because I was using a 9 inch pan instead of an 8 inch.  However, this is certainly not crucial.  I also used Cortland apples instead of Rome, because my grocery store didn't carry Romes, but I figured, Rome is in upstate New York, Cortland is in upstate New York, must be practically the same thing...  Actually, I never seem to remember anything about apple varieties other than the very commonplace ones, but I think the Cortlands seemed to work just fine.  According to Wikipedia Romes are a little tart and known as good baking apples, so I guess there's a reason they are suggested.  Ahh well, next time!  And while I didn't do this, I bet it would be fantastic with a dollop of fresh whipped cream, spiked with a little cinnamon and powdered sugar, or perhaps some brandy?  Ooh, possibilities....

Cinnamon-Apple Cake (From Cooking Light, October 1997)
Serves 12

* 1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
* 1/2 cup stick margarine, softened
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 6 ounces block-style fat-free cream cheese, softened (about 3/4 cup)
* 2 large eggs
* 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
* 3-4 cups chopped peeled Rome apple--1/2 inch dice or thereabouts (about 2 large apples)
* Cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350°.  Spray and 8 inch springform pan with cooking spray and set aside.  If you want, you can line the bottom of the pan with a circle of parchment paper to make it very easy to slide off the base and onto a serving dish.

2.  In a large bowl Beat 1 1/2 cups of the sugar, margarine, vanilla, and cream cheese at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 4 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, beating at low speed until just blended.

4. Combine 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon.  In a medium bowl, add 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon mixture to the apple pieces and toss to coat.  Fold the apples into the batter.

5. Pour batter into the 8-inch springform pan coated with cooking spray, smooth the top with a spatula, and sprinkle with remaining cinnamon mixture.

6. Bake at 350° for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool the cake completely on a wire rack.  (You can release the sides of the springform pan after it's been out of the oven for a few minutes to help it cool more quickly.)  Because this is a very moist cake, cut using a serrated knife.

Note: You can also make this cake in a 9-inch square cake pan or a 9-inch springform pan, just reduce the cooking time.  I would start checking the cake after an hour or so to prevent over-baking.

Enjoy this one, it's easier than pie and oh-so delicious!

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