Big Crumbs Make a Big Impression: Big Apple Crumb Cake

The pandemic has changed up my farmers market schedule -- I no longer frequent the downtown markets that were convenient to my office, as I haven't set foot in my office since March 2020. While there are still plenty of markets in upper Northwest DC that are easy enough for us to get to, I've also started occasionally visiting a market in Arlington, VA; I recently stumbled upon it because it's close to the house of friends I often visit during the weekend. It turns out that one of the vendors at the Arlington market is an orchard in MD that has an excellent selection of apples -- and it's the same orchard that has a stand at the mid-week market closest to my office where I regularly purchased apples. And so this is a long way of saying that I was finally able to get a hold of Calville Blanc apples again in the fall after not having a source since the 2019 season.  
With my Calville Blancs in hand, I decided to use them in the "Big Apple Crumb Cake" from Smitten Kitchen. This cake has three components, but the recipe is straightforward. You prepare the apples by coring and slicing them (I also peeled mine first), and tossing them with lemon juice, cinnamon, and sugar. The crumbs are a mixture of melted butter, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, kosher salt, and flour. And to make the cake batter, you beat softened butter with sugar until fluffy; add an egg, sour cream, and vanilla; and incorporate flour, baking powder, and salt. You pour the batter into a parchment-lined pan; tessellate the apples on top of the batter and pour on any cinnamon sugar liquid formed from the apples; and sprinkle on the crumbs.
The recipe says the cake can be baked in an 8-inch or 9-inch square pan. I tripled the recipe, baking a double batch of batter in a 9-inch by 13-inch pan and a single batch of batter  in a USA Pan biscotti pan. The interior dimensions of the biscotti pan are 12-inches by 5.5-inches, meaning its volume is virtually identical to a 8-inch square pan. I like being able to mix up the shapes of cakes and bars. 

I liked being able to cut the cake that I baked in the biscotti pan into slim fingers; every slice was identical and you could see the tidy layer of apples between the cake and the crumbs. The crumbs in this cake were perfect -- distinct and varied in size, crunchy, and buttery. The cake was plush and the cinnamon apples were a nice addition -- although in retrospect I wish I had cut the apples a bit thicker, because I would have like a bit more apple flavor. But I have no complaints about this cake -- every component was delicious and the generous amount of those wonderful crumbs made a lasting impression.

Recipe: "Big Apple Crumb Cake" from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen.


Sally said…
tessellate! I love reading your posts. A friend made this cake for our bookclub and it was excellent.
Louise said…
I'm not familiar with the apple you named. Maybe it prefers a different zone. The thinner apple slices makes your cake look a lot neater than Deb Perelman's. "Tessellate" caught my attention too.
@Sally -- sometimes the perfect word exists for what you want to describe! :) @Louise -- the one orchard is the only one I know of that sells Calville Blancs locally, but I have a colleague in Seattle who uses them often and says it's his favorite apple for baking! Thankfully, I have also found another market nearby that sells Arkansas Blacks and I am blessed have a good selection of apples to choose from!
Louise said…
I think I've mentioned that I live on what used to be one of the largest apple orchards in Pennsylvania -- Mohr Orchards. There are still lots of small orchards, but warehouses are everywhere.
Great post. Loved learning about the USA biscotti pan too.

I am wondering if you know where your friend in Seattle buys these apples? I am in the Puget Sound area as well and would love to track them down. Are they are the tart side of the spectrum or leaning more towards a Golden Delicious?

Hi Anne! I asked my friend where he gets his Calville Blanc apples, and he said that he picks his own in Sedro Valley: He said they are also available at the PCC Market on the east side of Green Lake (but not the PCC market on the west side of Green Lake). The apples are quite tart at first but mellow out a bit with storage. But they hold they shape very well, which is why I like them for baking.
DB Lowe said…
I'm going to try this cake as soon as my Biscotti Pan arrives, lol. You are now not only enabling my cookbook addiction but my kitchen gadget one too! I picked up some Cosmic Crisp Apples at our Farmer's Market this week to try.
@DB Lowe -- I hope you like the pan! I really like it for cakes meant to be baked in an 8-inch square pan, because the resulting cake is more uniform (as opposed to have the slices from the center of the cake look a lot different from the slices along the edges). I hope you enjoy the cake as much as I did!