Over the summer I read a book called “Confections of a Closet Master Baker” by Gesine Bullock Prado–the sister of the acclaimed actress Sandra Bullock.
The book (which is memoir) focuses on Gesine’s transition from a career as a producer in Hollywood to leaving it all behind in order to open a bakery in a small town in Vermont. Each chapter in the book starts with a recipe of a baked good that either is a personal favorite of Gesine’s, or something that is a popular item at her bakery.
One of the recipes that jumped out to me was the recipe for her German grandmother’s apfelkuchen (apple cake). Gesine’s mother was a German opera singer (her dad is American), and as her mother was from Germany, she naturally had ties to the country and spent a lot of time their as a small child, and then later as a young adult.
There was a period in particular that Gesine writes about, where just after graduating from college, she “hides out” in Germany at her Grandma’s house. She talks about how her “Oma” (German for grandmother) was a fabulous baker, and would bake treats for the two of them to share. One of the things she fondly remembered her baking was this cake, which sounded so pleasant to me I just had to try it out for myself.
Stuff You’ll Need:
(for the cake)
- 11 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 8 apples (Granny Smith) peeled, cored, and sliced
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 tablespoons Brandy
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
(for the glaze)
- 1 cup confectioner’s (aka powdered) sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons milk
Step 1: Wash your apples. You don’t know who’s been touching them.
Step 2: Peel your apples.
As you peel them put them in a bowl with some lemon juice. The lemon juice will prevent them from turning brown.
The original recipe says to use the juice of a lemon. I bought a lemon for this purpose. Then I forgot I had it, and ended up using this bottle of lemon juice I had. Oh well, I can use the lemon for something else!
Step 3: Core and slice your apples.
Continue to cover the apple surfaces with lemon juice. I think the lemon juice gives it a nice light tart flavor, and I just can’t stand when an apple gets those brown spots.
Step Four: Melt about 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet.
This is not the time to pretend you are on a diet.
Step Four: Add the brandy. The original recipe calls for Calvados, which is an apple brandy.
I happened to have brandy that I bought for a fruitcake I made for Christmas.
I really don’t drink enough or bake with it enough to justify buying apple brandy, and I don’t really want to have it rotting away in the cupboard. So I didn’t use Calvados, rather just regular brandy. It didn’t really matter in the end I think, although I suppose the apple brandy might contribute to a more intense apple flavor? I’m not sure. I might also might make it sweeter.
Step Five: Cream butter and sugar.
Step Six: Slowly add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Do not overwork!
Step Seven: Fill a buttered 8-inch round cake pan with the batter.
Arrange sliced apples in a circular pattern on the top of the cake. Notice how haphazard my apples are placed on the cake. This is not really how it is meant to look. I just kind of went a little crazy with the apples, trying to jam them all in.
Step Eight: Bake the cake at 350 degree F for 60-75 minutes.
Honestly, I think I slightly over-baked it for like 5 minutes. It wasn’t ready at 60 minutes, but I took it out at 70 minutes, as it looked finished. But I think maybe next time I will leave it in about 65 minutes.
Step Nine: To make the glaze, combine the powdered sugar, vanilla, and milk. Whisk until smooth.
Once the cake has cooled slightly, but still a bit warm, brush the glaze on the cake.
Then allow the cake to cool completely.
I really love this cake. It is very simple and the flavors aren’t crazy. I thought the most prominent taste was the warm taste of butter, and I found that I had a difficult time just having one piece!
And there were just the right amount of apples. While I was placing the apples on the cake, I though I had too many. But after the cake baked and I cut the first piece, I was glad to see the apple to cake ratio was adequately balanced.
The texture was also very pleasing. I thought it might’ve been slightly dry, so next time I will bake it less time. Although my mom discovered if you put a piece in the microwave for a few seconds, the cake became not only warm, but a little more luscious.
I really love apples and apple flavor, but when I was eating this cake I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to made a coconut-kuchen. I really love coconut, it is my favorite fruit flavor for bakery. I also think using this cake as a base, and using mangoes in place of apples could possibly be pretty delicious.
And imagine, coconut (toasted perhaps?) sprinkled on top of the mangoes on the kuchen…I think it’d be pretty baller. I will have try it one day!
For now though, I will enjoy the moment with this apfel version…
So have a slice of cake, a cuppa coffee, and call it a day, that’s what I’ll be doing!
Madeline aka The Hopeful Hestia
And stay tuned for my next entry, where I will be making bread pakoras and cilantro chutney!