In Too Tight a Squeeze?: Auntie Rae's Apple Cake

Sometimes I just buy fruit on impulse at the farmer's market with no specific purpose in mind, but just a vague intention to look for a recipe later to put it to use. So it was I recently found myself in need of a way to use up some Stayman apples.

Of course, when I don't have a plan, I don't know how much fruit to buy, so I then find myself looking for a recipe that not only uses the ingredient in question, also uses it in the quantity that I happen to have on hand. I had about three and a half pounds of apples, and given that I am completely incompetent with it comes to pies, apple pie was not an option (and I just made an apple tart, so I was looking for something different, anyway). After dismissing many cake recipes that require only an apple or two, I came across Nick Malgieri's recipe for "Auntie Rae's Apple Cake" in Perfect Cakes, which conveniently calls for three pounds of apples.

This cake has a base and crumb topping made of the same mixture, sandwiched around a layer of cinnamon apples. To make the base/topping, you whisk together eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla, and then stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. You press half of the resulting mixture into a pan and chill the other half until it is firm.

The apples in this recipe are not sliced but grated, so I peeled and cored my apples and ran them through the grating disc of my food processor. My pile of grated apples was very, very wet, so much so that there was a puddle of liquid at the bottom of the bowl. I was concerned about the apples causing the cake to become waterlogged, so I decided to gently squeeze out some of the liquid. I sprinkled the apples with a little fresh lemon juice and cinnamon sugar, and spread them over the cake base. Finally, I grated the chilled remaining cake mixture over the filling, sprinkled the top with more cinnamon sugar, and put the cake into the oven to bake.

You are supposed to bake the cake for about an hour, or until the top is crisp and deep golden and the apples are bubbling. The top of my cake did turn crisp and dark brown, but my apples weren't bubbly in the slightest and much of the cinnamon sugar on top was still bone dry; I wasn't sure if this was because I had squeezed out some of the liquid from the apples first.

This cake wasn't at all what I was expecting. I never would have called this a "cake" -- with what amounts to a short layer of crust at the bottom, I think the more appropriate description is an apple "bar." The grated apples lost most of their structural integrity during baking, so the apple layer was not so much a layer of baked fruit as it was a layer of fruit goo. That said, the cinnamon-apple goo was tasty.

However, the cake and the top layer were not very flavorful and quite dry, although perhaps this was partially my fault for squeezing some liquid out from the apples. I was hoping that the apple and crumb layer would have turned out more like an apple crisp, where the fruit juices moisten the topping and the fruit and topping are somewhat integrated. Instead this "cake" was basically three separate layers.  I also think I might have enjoyed it better with thinly sliced apples instead of grated fruit, because I love the texture of baked apples and I missed it in these bars.

The cake accomplished my mission of using up my apple supply, but otherwise was a disappointment. Maybe next time I'll plan ahead!

Recipe: "Auntie Rae's Apple Cake" from Perfect Cakes by Nick Malgieri.


Sally said…
I really like that you post the disappointments, as well as the successes!

Question - I'm looking for a great cookie/bar recipe to make this weekend with my 6 yo, and wondered if you'd consider making a recipe index? Pretty please? Love your blog!
Sally -- a recipe index is something I'd definitely love to have on my blog, and it's on the list of long-term "to do" projects! Sorry I didn't respond to your comment in time for your weekend baking project, but I was out of town with no email access... Feel free to email me at littlebakerbunny(at)yahoodotcom if you ever have a question or are interested in a baking suggestion!
Sally said…
Thanks LBB! I appreciate it. We made these cookies (verdict: delicious):