This Calls for Cake
My little brother (friend at the office) had been off-site for months and we were all excited he was returning to our little village of cubicles. The occasion called for cake. (Of course, it did.) It had to be something with apple, cinnamon and crumbly streusel bits on top. It had to be Mom’s Apple Cake.
I woke up early yesterday to get started. The world was still asleep and the air outside, misty. This Zen moment came crashing with a near-repeat of the time cold butter plunged into my blouse. I’m not exactly the most graceful person before I’ve had my morning coffee.
Back in Time
Whatever the price, Mom’s Apple Cake is worth it. Every bite takes me back to when we first moved to America. We lived in a small, 3-bedroom house….all 7 of us – Mom, Dad, my sister, grandma, aunt, cousin and me. It was a very busy home that we called “Hotel California,” because we always had relatives staying with us.
The backyard was tiny, but we didn’t mind. During the hot summer day, Dad got us a plastic pool and that’s all we needed to splash around. There was also enough room for a big table that seated our family.
Sundays were for family. Everyone would come over in the afternoon – no invitation needed. Dad was outside, manning the grill while Mom was in the kitchen.
Eggplant was first on the fire. Dad would patiently cook it, turning it around so the skin was completely charred. Then he’d take it to Mom who would turn it into a smoky salad with just a few additions.
As usual, the table was teeming with fresh herbs, kabob, breads. The whole family would gather around the table, laughing, talking, sharing stories about the past week.
I spoke little, cleared my plate and waited patiently until it was time for Mom’s apple cake. That first bite breaks crisp streusel revealing luscious soft apples sitting over a moist cinnamon cake. This is an heirloom recipe to last generations and one you must taste for yourself. If apples aren’t your thing, use berries or any stone fruit, even pineapple.
Mom’s Apple Cake
Prep: 30 mins
Bake: 45 mins
5-6 medium Granny Smiths (~2 cups)
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 lemon juice & zest
1/3 cup starch
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans
3 cups flour
1 Tb baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
2 sticks soft butter
2 free-range eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
Butter a 9×13 casserole dish. Set aside.
Cook apples, sugar water over stovetop until fruit is tender, about 5
Add lemon juice and zest. Finish with starch, stir until thick.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool
Make the streusel mix sugar flour, cut in the butter until mixture looks like coarse sand.
Preheat to 350*F.
For the cake, sift flour, baking powder, spices and salt over a large
bowl. Set aside.
Beat sugar and butter til creamy.
Add eggs, one at a time.
Add milk, vanilla.
Add sifted flour mixture and stir gently to break up any lumps.
Then, spread half of the batter onto a greased 9×13 baking pan, top with
the cooled fruit, then finish with the rest of the batter.
Sprinkle streusel over the cake and transfer to the hot oven.
Bake 45 mins til fragrant.
Serve warm with ice cream.
Mise en Place
Mom’s Apple Cake does take a bit of time to make, but is so delicious that I barely had a chance to snap a few pictures before it completely vanished! There are some easy shortcuts to help save you time. The apples are better cooked than raw, but can be prepared ahead of time along with the streusel. The dry ingredients for the cake can be sifted into a big bowl and set aside for when you’re ready to bake.
This is exactly what I did yesterday morning, because I ran out of time and had to get to the office. I got my mise en place in order. That’s French for put in place. You measure all your ingredients ahead of time so you can just concentrate on cooking. Accurate measurements are critical to the success of the baked goods where there’s little room for error. Learn a little French and enjoy Mom’s Apple Cake even on a busy weeknight!