From Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street, a delectable apple cake that our family enjoyed during Christmas week of 2017. The cake reminded me of Jack Kerouac’s famous endorsement of apple pie in On the Road:
“I ate apple pie and ice cream—it was getting better as I got deeper into Iowa, the pie bigger, the ice cream richer…that’s practically all I ate all the way across the country, I knew it was nutritious and it was delicious, of course.”
We used Honeycrisp apples instead of Braeburn. I could not tell the difference between the Granny Smith and the Honeycrisp slices in the cake, but perhaps you can.
Although the recipe says to allow the cake to cool completely before serving, our enthusiastic eaters warmed slices up in the microwave for a nice contrast with vanilla ice cream. There were no complaints about the texture of the cake’s center being too soft. Our family members may be too focused on enjoying their wonderful apple cake to complain about such fine distinctions. They all agreed that we must add French Apple Cake to our recipe collection. And next time we will try it with Cinnamon Ice Cream.
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter, plus more for pan
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch slices
1 pound Braeburn or Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into ¼-inch slices
149 grams (12 tablespoons) white sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons brandy or Calvados
95 grams (⅔ cup) all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Heat the oven to 375ºF with a rack in the middle position. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with butter, sprinkle evenly with sugar, then tap out the excess. In a 12-inch skillet (or larger) over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Cook, swirling the pan frequently, until the milk solids at the bottom are golden brown and the butter has a nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Pour into a small heatproof bowl or Pyrex measuring cup without scraping out the skillet. Stir the allspice into the butter and set aside.
In a small bowl whisk together the flour and baking powder. In a larger bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla, and 9 tablespoons (1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon) of the remaining sugar. Gradually whisk in the browned butter. Add the flour mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until smooth; the batter will be very thick. Add the cooled apples and fold until evenly coated with batter. Transfer to the prepared springform pan, spread in an even layer and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar.
Bake until deeply browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack, about 2 hours. Run a knife around the inside of the pan and remove the sides before slicing.
Tip: Don’t use a spatula to scrape the browned butter out of the skillet—simply pour it into the bowl. A skim coat of butter in the pan is needed for cooking the apples. And don’t slice the cake until it has fully cooled. If it is at all warm, the texture at the center will be too soft.