Friday, September 22, 2017

How We Cook and Apple Ginger Cake

So I was sitting at the kitchen table, trying to pry my eyes open and reading the paper, when I stumbled on a foodie article by Janelle Nanosin in the Boston Globe. Mainly it was about millennials and cookware, but she also commented on how millennials look at food and how they prepare it. What caught my eye was her statement, "The species [i.e., millennials] shop at Whole Foods and order meal kits from Blue Apron, scan for recipe ideas, and then document dishes on social media." 

We here at MLK probably have well over a century of cooking experience among us. I shop at Whole Foods when I'm near one, but I've never ordered a meal kit from anywhere, nor had I ever heard of (Okay, we do all talk about food on social media.) I'm more likely to look for ideas on Epicurious, which in comparison to Food52 seems kind of stodgy.

So I took a peek at Food52. Oh my--they promise nearly 3,000 apple recipes. The recipes overall are a bit edgier than those on Epicurious, with a broader range of ingredients and more foreign dishes. They certainly look interesting, but . . .  What? Are we stuck in the past with our mothers' cookbooks (guilty as charged--I've been known to give you recipes here that are a couple of centuries old)? Not that I'm against trying new ingredients and ways to combine them, but there were a few examples of Food52 that kind of pushed my limits. Polenta with sausage and apples? Quinoa salad with hazelnuts, apples and cranberries? Definitely a lot of creativity here, but I'm not sure I want to make them (I might try one if I saw it on a restaurant menu, though).

But my apple crop is at its peak and we're eating as many as we can straight off the tree, so I found a cake recipe that combines apples and ginger (powdered and fresh), both favorites. And of course I changed a few things, starting with the apple varieties. The original recipe called for a hearty dose of dark rum, which I don't happen to have, so I swapped in Irish whiskey.

The result? The cake worked (came out of the pan easily), and has a nice balance of flavors. I loved the buried layer of apples which peek out. It's a little more complicated than some apple cake recipes, but it's a bit more interesting. 

Apple Ginger Cake

3 large firm apples (or four smaller ones)

4 Tblsp turbinado sugar*
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for 
     greasing the pan and sauteeing the apples

*A note about turbinado sugar: it’s raw sugar made from pure cane sugar extract. You can substitute demerara sugar, which is easier to find in markets–that's basically the same but with coarser but more uniform crystals.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan (if you know yours leaks, wrap the bottom outside with foil).

Core and peel the apples and cut into thin slices. Melt about 2 Tblsp of butter in a saucepan and cook until it begins to brown. Add the apple slices to the pan and stir until all the slices are covered with butter. 

Sprinkle about 2 Tblsp of turbinado sugar over the apples and continue to saute, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.

1-1/2 cups flour

1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger

3/4 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tblsp lemon zest (1 medium lemon)
1 Tblsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 Tblsp molasses
3 Tblsp Irish whiskey
1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yoghurt

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

Dry ingredients in my vintage sifter

In a stand mixer with the paddle blade, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the two eggs and beat. Then add the lemon zest, ground ginger, molasses, whiskey and vanilla (the mixture may look curdled, but don’t worry).

By hand, stir in the flour mixture a little at a time, stirring after each addition. When the batter is smooth, fold in the milk and the yoghurt and combine thoroughly.

Scrape half the batter into the buttered pan. Cover with the apple slices, then spread the rest of the batter over the top. Smooth the top, then sprinkle with the rest of the turbinado sugar.

Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a racks, and run a knife around the edge to loosen. The open the springform ring and remove the cake. Let it cool on the rack. 

You can serve it with some vanilla ice cream or whipped cream if you like.

Less than two months until the release of A Late Frost! (Yes, the cover image looks just like my apple crop--well, almost.)

Available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


  1. Lovely cake Sheila! If I'm looking for recipes I usually scan Pinterest or else google the name or ingredients. I've been tempted by the meal services, as our daughter likes them, but not ready to give up shopping for my own ingredients!

    1. I agree! It does take time to shop, but you can be sure what you're buying is fresh. Plus sometimes you can be inspired by something you weren't even looking for.

      I'll admit I'm curious about the meal services (they have such warm family advertisements!), but how much do they cost? Are their serving sizes what you would plan for your own family? Lots of questions!

  2. This sounds great.
    Back when my family used to camp, a favorite dessert was gingerbread cooked with a layer of applesauce put in the bottom of the pan before adding the batter. The dutch oven was put in the fire's coals to bake.
    Warm gingerbread with warm applesauce!
    This sounds like a close cousin.

    1. Ooh, I like that idea! Did it form a crust or stay more liquid? Cast iron pan?

    2. It was a cast iron Dutch oven.
      The gingerbread cooked up pretty much as usual with a moist center and crisper crust, but sitting on applesauce.
      I've cooked this at home in the oven with a regular pan. Still works great. But the campfire always makes things more exciting.

    3. We have a friend who celebrates some holidays (like the solstices!) by holding a pot-luvk communal campfire over her large fire pit. I bet this recipe would appeal to her.

  3. Being not only a fan of cooking and baking with apples, I use ginger in as many dishes as I can. While reading this recipe I was thinking if possibly adding a little crystalized ginger to the Apple layer. Thank you for posting this. My computer has bug problems and I can't access any of my Word files which has all of my 50 plus years of recipes there. Baking recipes need to be more precise so those are the ones I need to access frequently. At least I now have one new apple recipe that I can print out!! Dang computer glitches!!!! Wish I knew someone desk top computer saavy who lives in my town!!!

    But, what I mean is thank you for my first recipe to save WHEN I get my computer fixed.

    Cynthia B

    1. I like that idea too! My grandmother used to eat crystalized ginger like candy, but when I was younger it was too strong for me (I was a wimpy eater). But like the crunchy sugar it would add some texture to the cake. Wow--three kinds of ginger in one cake.

  4. I just recently discovered Food 52. On their FB page, they run a cookbook club, and some of the pictures members pose are stunners. But a lot of the members are home cooks, not pros, so their comments are fun to read. Like here!

  5. I'm still reeling from 3,000 apple recipes. But I have a feeling I'll be going back to Food52. I do hope young'uns will keep cooking and experimenting.

  6. Awesome recipe as usual, Sheila. I still like the personal element even though it's fun to find new approaches. I have been cooking for fifty years and I bet we have SEVERAL hundreds of years experience here. My cooking is very different from back in the sixties, but those old recipes still rock!