Seriously, stop what you’re doing and make this cake. It’s that good. I’m currently out of town and the eighth and final version of this cake is sitting all alone on my kitchen counter. Neatly tucked under a covered glass cake plate. It’s just waiting for me. Calling my name.
I found this apple cake recipe, all nice and tidy and written up, on my desktop. I had no idea where it came from. After digging really deep and wracking my brain I realized that in my back pain-muscle relaxer episode of September 2016, I must have written this up in between watching Bob’s Burgers and Law & Order: SVU. I was intrigued. I knew I had to take the recipe for a test drive.
My first apple cake test had zero eggs. Which is fine…a cake can have no eggs…but it wasn’t what I wanted. I tried it with four eggs…too eggy. Then it had too much liquid and then not enough. No spice and then hella spice. Streusel and then no streusel. I felt a bit like Goldilocks in the world of apple cake. But I had a very specific cake in mind and I wasn’t going to stop until it was exactly what I wanted: a super moist, perfectly spiced, loaded with apples EASY cake that dazzles.
In my pretend world we all have apple trees in our yards. And if we don’t have apple trees in our yard we have displays of apples strewn about the house like people are known to do this time of year. It was also extremely important that I imagined all of the ingredients would be stocked in your cupboards. This way it could just as easily be a Tuesday night cake as it could a Friday night cake.
But, in the end, I had to add in one minor high maintenance ingredient (sour cream) to get the cake exactly where I wanted it. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE sour cream. But, it’s not something I regularly stock because I’m more prone to topping everything with greek yogurt (from tacos to smoothies) than I am sour cream. So, there’s just one ingredient you may have to go to the store for. So what are you waiting for? Throw on your shades, put your hair in a bun, exchange pajama bottoms for sweats and get yourself some sour cream.
Before We Get Started:
- To Peel or Not to Peel. The first test I didn’t peel the apples and my notes said: MUST PEEL. Then as I tested more I stopped peeling and it didn’t bother me. My dad would tell you to peel your apples. But then he’s not standing at the sink helping you, so go with personal preference on this.
- Size Matters. Really people. Try to get the apples that are going to go on top of the cake to be roughly the same size…it will make it easier matching them up and making things look nice.
- Apple Details. Let’s talk about cutting our apples. It’s not an exact science so no need to bust out your rulers. Your goal is to have a bunch of thin half-moon slices. Try to make every slice the same thickness, but at the same time don’t sweat it…no one will notice if some are thicker than others.
- Apple Varieties. I used this beautiful little variety from my yard…I think it looks and tastes like a Gala…but I have no idea. I made it with some of my Granny Smiths…also good. Honeycrisps are another good variety to bake with. Bottomline: choose from the varieties that are available to you and focus on fresh, ripe and crisp apples.
- Your Pan. The color and density of your pan matters. Really. It does. If you have a thin, dark-colored springform, your cake will turn out darker around the edges and the bottom of the cake. Conversely, if your pan is lighter and on the thicker side, your cake will turn out lighter. Additionally, you want a high-sided pan…I’m thinking 2 1/2 to 3 inches.
- Butter + Flour. I’m not one to insist on the whole butter + flouring of your pan unless it is completely necessary. Sometimes we can get away with just butter and other times we can just spray with non-stick. However, the height of this cake is what I really love. And did you know that adding the flour on top of the butter will aid the cake in rising to its fullest? So do it. That’s all.
- Final Flourish. When you’re putting the apple slices on the cake make sure they are overlapping and are coming out pretty perpendicular to the pan, that will keep everything relatively neat and tidy.
This is an EASY cake. We got this.
Let’s get our bake on!
Spiced Apple Cake
Apples for the Top of the Cake
- 2-3 small apples (see note above on peeling + cutting)
- Juice of ½ lemon or orange
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon cardamom (optional…I’m a fan)
For the Cake
- 1 ½ sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 cup sour cream, room temperature
- 1/4 cup of water
- 2 teaspoons real vanilla extract
- 2 ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- 1 apple, small dice (to go in the cake batter)
- 2 tablespoons powdered sugar to dust the finished cake
- Butter + flour an 8- or 9-inch springform pan (you can use another pan of similar size, but it may be more challenging to get it out and looking pretty)…if you use a 9-inch your cake will be done sooner then if you use the 8-inch pan.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the top third of your oven.
- Cut your apples and place in a small bowl. Drizzle with the lemon, sugar, cinnamon and cardamom and gently toss. Set aside.
- In an electric stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment*, beat your butter + sugar on medium until light and fluffy….about 4 minutes. Add the eggs, scraping down the sides and bottom as you go to make sure everything is incorporated.
- Add the sour cream, water and vanilla and blend completely for about 2 more minutes.
- In a small bowl whisk together your flour, baking powder, baking soda, sea salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
- Pour your dry ingredients into the butter mixture and mix on low until barely combined. Take the bowl out of your stand mixer, add the small diced apples and fold the apples in using a spatula until just mixed.
- Scoop the mixture into your prepared pan. Gently tap the pan on the counter to let any air bubbles escape. If the top needs to be smoothed a bit, I like to wet my hands and do it like that. Be gentle with it though…it will settle into place whilst baking.
- Now place the apples in concentric circles around the pan until the entire top is covered in moon-shaped apple slices. It already looks pretty. You’ve done good.
- Put her in the oven for 60-70 minutes, on the top rack. Around 50 minutes in check on her. If she’s getting too bronzed, throw a sheet of foil haphazardly over the top to protect her. The very center of the cake will look soft, and just barely done, when she’s ready to come out of the oven. Perfect.
- Run a knife around the outer edges of the cake pan and take the springform off immediately to expedite cooling. Let her sit for about 45 minutes. Don’t cut her until she’s cool. I mean it.
- Just prior to serving, sift powdered sugar over the top of the cake. She’s stunning. Take a photo and post her on social media. It’s what the kids are doing these days.
- Ok, take a bite. It’s fall. Am I right?
*You can just as easily make this with a bowl and wooden spoon. Follow the same instructions!
On My Mind
- If you’re on Instagram (or not), go take a look @gkstories… starting with this post and then read each one after. Trust me. It’s worth the read.
- PS I really wanted to put streusel in this apple cake but over time it seemed superfluous. I know. Weird, right?
- More fun fall recipes: Spiced Pumpkin Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Petite Pumpkin Scones, Pecan + Tart Cherry Granola, Giant Chocolate Chip Cookies (one of my favorites!), Fresh Fig + Pecan Fall Salad, Thai Thai Scones and Breakfast Crack Cookies, Maple Oat Scones, Harissa Steak Chili, Pumpkin Gnocchi and Dark Chocolate + Espresso Babka.
- DisplacedHousewife is in some fun press recently, have a looksie: Delicious Apple Recipes for Fall, Fall Favorites, Food Blog of the Day and Pumpkin Dessert Recipes to get you in the Mood.
- There are four recipes in total that were inspired by Method’s new line of fragrances (done in collaboration with thefeedfeed): Frangipane Tart With Figs & Plus, Roasted Fall Vegetable & Crispy Sage Quinoa Bowl, Pumpkin Pavé Bars, Salted Dark Chocolate Violet Cookies. I admire all of the bloggers that were in this campaign — really creative recipes + beautiful photos.
- I recently wrote this article for the Heart of Farmers website…which is basically the blog for the 400+ California strawberry farmers and includes lots of fun, strawberry-centric recipes. I chatted a bit about strawberries and shared my recipe for the Strawberry Cardamom Torte which is basically the easiest and most beautiful dessert you’ll ever make (besides the one above ;)). Not kidding. PLUS, they are doing a $200 Sur La Table giveaway. Nobody’s sad about that.
- Lots of peace + love!