I have the nicest neighbors here in San Francisco. (Think city folk are all surly, suspicious types who hack out lonely existences in an over-stimulated sea of crime and cruel anonymity? Just not the case, in my experience.) These are real Rockwell-Americana kind of neighbors, the chatting over the fence and borrowing a cup of sugar kind. The kind who get the other guy’s insurance info and call up a tow truck for you when you’ve gotten into a messy fender bender and your nerves are shot. The kind who stop on their strolls to chat about the election and baseball, or their trip to Switzerland and the weather.
I have the kind of neighbors who share their canned tomatoes and bring over big grocery sacks full of tartly sweet Pippins from their apple tree because they know you like to bake. Now c’mon, is that nice or is that nice?
One look at all that fresh, crisp fruit from the backyard next door lead to one singular thought: apple spice cake. Oh, yes. It’s a classic fall treatment, and to my mind the end-all-be-all ideal of autumnal baking (apologies to pie), warming with cinnamon and spices and baked fruit, speckled with chopped, toasty pecans. I’d tried a just-okay recipe earlier this season, though I should have known better and pulled out my dog-eared and splattered copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Baking. I won’t ever need another recipe for apple spice cake. This is it.
Dorie grates the apples and bolsters their flavor with a cup of apple butter, a clever addition that adds sweetness, moisture and down-on-the-farm cider taste. (That impulse purchase from the pumpkin patch will put to good use, thankfully.) It’s a lovely seasonal dessert (dress it up with a caramel sauce, if you like), but a slice tastes just right for breakfast with a cup of coffee and some yogurt, too. The cake also freezes beautifully, something to consider if you have family visiting for the holidays; make ahead to serve for dessert and enjoy the leftovers through the weekend.
And, as you may have guessed, this apple cake also makes for a sweet “thank you” to my lovely neighbors, a holiday-time gesture of goodwill and amiable reciprocity: they keep me in apples, I’m keeping them in cake.
Double Apple Bundt Cake
adapted, barely, from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking: From My Home To Yours
- 2 C all-purpose flour, sifted
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/4 sticks (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 1/2 C sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 C store-bought apple butter (spiced, plain, or cider-style)
- 2 medium apples, peeled, cored and grated
- 1 C pecans or walnuts, chopped
- 1/2 C plump raisins, dark or golden (rehydrate in a bit of water or rum, if needed)
- powdered sugar for dusting
Preheat the oven to 35o degrees. Butter and flour a (12 cup) Bundt pan and set aside. Whisk together all the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar, scraping down the sides as needed, for about 4 minutes on medium speed. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between each addition.
On low, add the apple butter and mix to combine (the batter will look curdled, but don’t worry). Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix for an additional minute or two. Add the apples and mix on low to blend.
Add the dry ingredients and mix on low-medium until just combined. Take the bowl off the stand, and with a rubber spatula gently fold in the chopped nuts and raisins. Transfer the batter to the prepped Bundt pan and smooth the top. Bake directly on the middle rack of the oven for about 50-55 minutes, until the top is springy when pressed and a thin knife inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Depan and let cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
Note: the cake is best the day after it’s baked. Once it’s completely cooled, wrap well in plastic and leave out at room temperature overnight. It will keep for about four days. It also freezes well, up to two months.