Tuesday, February 22, 2011


After the banana cake of awesomeness, I was on an everyday-cake kick—plus I had an open container of buttermilk to use up—so it seemed like a good time to try this recipe from Pinch My Salt. It should have been a slam dunk, given that it’s just a slight adaptation of my old fave Berry Buttermilk Cake. And yet… Well, no doubt it suffered in such close comparison to the banana cake, with which I had become slightly obsessed. For one thing, while not difficult to make, the apple cake wasn’t quite as easy to put together, requiring the use of an electric mixer (since it’s butter-based instead of oil-based) and the peeling and chopping of an apple. For another, I didn’t care for the way the apple chunks retained their al dente bite, interrupting the tender cake I craved. But most notably, somehow everything I love most about the berry version—moist, sunny yellow crumbs; crunchy sugar top; delectable lemon-vanilla flavor—wasn’t present in the apple version. Sure, I like berries more than apples to begin with, but who knew I loved lemon so much more than cinnamon? Did I somehow flub the apple cake, or was all the magic of the berry cake really in that half-teaspoon of lemon zest?

Granted, this was only a letdown when measured directly against the banana and berry cakes. The cake was rustic but gorgeous and was devoured quite happily in a matter of days. I may simply not be as much of an apple-cake-type person as I thought I was, and that’s OK (at least as long as there are bananas and berries around). If you’re craving the warmth of cinnamon and baked apple in a simple, tangy cake, you should definitely give this a try.

1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon, plus extra for sprinkling
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (½ stick), at room temperature
⅔ cup plus 1 heaping tablespoon sugar, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
½ cup buttermilk
1 cup peeled and chopped baking apple (I used Fuji)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and salt; set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, beat butter and ⅔ cup sugar with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about two minutes. Add vanilla and egg and beat well. With the mixer set to low speed, beat in about a third of the flour mixture. Add half the buttermilk and continue beating on low speed until incorporated. Scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, beat in another third of flour mixture, then the remaining buttermilk. Finally, beat in the remaining flour mixture until just combined.

4. Scrape batter into the cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Scatter apple pieces evenly over the top of the cake batter, then sprinkle evenly with 1 heaping tablespoon sugar. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

5. Bake until cake is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan for ten minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool until warm. Invert onto a plate.

Serves: 8
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good.

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