When I was about 9 or 10 and beginning to bake, I ran across a recipe booklet by a First Lady of Virginia with an apple bundt cake recipe that I just adored. Forget any well-heeled applesauce, this recipe called for blue-collar chunks of apples – big pieces of fruit that made you think of fall and flannel. I baked this cake at least six times per year for a couple of years until I lost the recipe book. Then my teens came and I lost interest in recipes.
In my 20’s, I always kept an eye out for a similar recipe but without any luck. A decade or so later, with the help of the Internet and epicurious.com, I was able to locate a similar – but not identical – recipe that is cited below. And so now it has become a renewed autumn tradition. But as I’m incapable of actually following a recipe exactly, I’ll add my idiosyncratic changes in the recipe, below.
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 lb Golden Delicious apples (4-5): cored and cubed (I keep the peels on my apples as the original recipe called for. The one cited below calls for peeled apples.)
2 cups packed brown sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup applesauce
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
4 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (The original recipe called for walnuts. The “close one” I found on Epicurious calls for pecans.)
1 stick unsalted butter
¼ cup whole milk
1. Preheat oven to 350*.
2. Spray Bundt pan very liberally with nonstick spray.
3. Sift flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt together.
4. Use 3 -5 tbsp of the flour mixture to coat the Bundt pan.
5. Place chopped apples and 2 tbsp of the flour mixture in another bowl and toss to coat well and decrease discoloration.
6. Combine 1 cup brown sugar, vegetable oil, 1 cup sugar, eggs and 4 tsp vanilla in a large bowl. Mix 4-5 minutes with an electric mixer.
7. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
8. Stir apples and walnuts into the batter.
9. Pour batter into Bundt pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.
10. Cool cake in Bundt pan on rack.
11. To make the caramel topping melt butter in heavy skillet over medium heat.
12. Whisk in remaining 1 cup brown sugar and the 1 ¼ cup whole mile.
13. Stir until syrup is smooth and comes to a boil (5 minutes).
14. Whisk in remaining 1 tsp vanilla.
15. Spoon ¼ of a cup of the hot topping over warm cake in pan. Let stand until topping is absorbed, perhaps 15 minutes.
16. Turn cake onto platter. Pour remaining topping over cake.
17. Let cake continue to cool, at least 1 hour, before serving.
• The caramel topping is actually optional and can be skipped so that the more subtle cake flavors can be enjoyed and you won’t have buy your clothes in larger sizes.
• I have also added ½ cup or so of raisins or craisins to this recipe.
• If you have 1 or 2 bananas that are browning too soon, mash them up and add them to the batter.
• I see scribbled on my recipes notes that ¾ cup blueberries went well as an addition too.
• In other words, this is a very forgiving recipe and you can add some extra amounts of fruits or nuts without having to increase your proportion of batter. Experiment a little and make it yours!
Bon Appetit, Dec 2002.