I bought this great house a couple years ago. It’s older (1948) and the lady who built it with her husband had very recently passed away. Helen was her name. We thank Helen for a lot of things around this house. She was a smart homemaker, there’s no question. There are so many great nooks and crannies to store stuff, there’s a huge pantry in the basement (I will post a picture one day, first I have to get around to straightening up down there) and tons of storage space for all sorts of baking goodies. Helen was also a fantastic gardener by all accounts, and there is this apple tree in the back yard that is truly something else. It is a grafted tree – a traditional apple tree grafted to a crab apple tree. So I suppose that means it cross-polinates itself (and I have no other apple trees in the yard or nearby). The crab apples are the brightest red you’ve ever seen and make delicious jelly and the traditional apples are big and sweet and make a number of great desserts, including Helen’s Apple Cake.
I experimented quite a bit with the Apple Cake recipe. My mom always made an apple cake that I loved and have made many times, but in comparison, Helen’s cake is quite a bit bigger, denser, and more moist at the same time. It’s also quite a bit prettier (sorry mom). Best of all, despite having more ingredients, it’s easier to make than my mom’s cake and has a certain “wow” factor. I started with a Martha Stewart recipe of all things (and who knows where she got it from). This is the deal with Martha Stewart recipes: she made it more complicated than it needed to be (why does she do that?). I had to dumb it down a little before changing it up.
For example, Martha (we’re on a first-name basis) describes a process where you sift all of your dry ingredients over a large piece of parchment paper and then tilt the paper over the bowl to slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. Seriously Martha? How is that any easier than just sifting directly into a bowl? I have a great melamine bowl that is light and easy to tip in towards the mixer bowl, it’s a good thing. It has a spout for that exact purpose. When I *tried* the Martha Method, I ended up with a ripped piece of parchment paper and a chihuahua that looked like he had a coke problem. All of the dry ingredients wound up on the floor (or the dog, as it were). Scrap that.
I’ve mentioned in an earlier post what a recipe looks like once I’m done with it. This one is a perfect example of what I’m talking about:
As an aside, the monkey post-it note has some significance (I love post it notes, don’t you?). When I make a recipe, I often jot a note on the recipe to indicate when I made it and generally what people thought of it. To specifically indicate what my boys like, we have a post it note system. The monkey post it notes indicate “The blonde loved this”. The brunette has a zebra post-it note. The ECBF is a hippo (there is no special significance to his animal – I swear). Everybody else just gets a note in the margin. But I find the post-its make it really easy to re-create a recipe that I know will be a hit – I just have to find the right post-it note as I’m flipping through my big old binder of baking (I’m actually up to three baking binders but here’s the original):
If my house goes up in flames and I can run back and save one thing? It might be this binder (the “BOBOB”).
Back to the tree though. It’s blossoming right now. Apple blossoms are beautiful, I think, notwithstanding the havoc they wreak with my allergies:
I’ve got pictures of the recipe, the binder the recipe lives in, the blossoms on the apple tree, but what I don’t have is a picture of the blinkin’ apple cake. I promise I will post it one day soon. In the meantime, you’ll have to satisfy yourselves with the Helen’s Apple Cake recipe:
1 1/3 cups Canola Oil
3 cups plus 6 Tbsp cake flour
1 1/2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
3 cups apples, cored and peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10 to 12 cup Bundt pan with cooking spray, set aside.
Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt, set aside.
Beat canola oil, sugars and eggs approximately 5 minutes or until lemon yellow.
Reduce mixer speed to medium and gradually incorporate dry ingredients. Add vanilla.
Add apples to batter, mixing by hand to combine.
Pour batter into a prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, 60-75 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool slightly on wire rack. Invert and turn right side up to cool.
Once cooled completely, poke 10-20 holes in cake and pour glaze over cake. Serve.
Glaze: 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup unsalted butter, 5-6 Tbsp milk, splash vanilla, combined in sauce pan over medium heat and stirred until completely blended.
Serve this warm with vanilla ice cream (and pour a little of the glaze over the ice cream too) and you’ll be a hit at your next dinner party, no joke. I’ve never gone wrong bringing this one.
Note that this is a variation of a Martha Stewart Recipe.
If you’re curious of some of the things I’ve changed from her original: I changed the type of flour, the quantities of all of the ingredients, I omitted nuts, added an egg and vanilla, added the glaze *the ECBF will demand credit on the glaze* and modified the cooking time.