Monday, February 18, 2013

Über-moist apple cake

It's funny how things work out and how much is a matter of chance. Once, I was on a plane sitting next to this 30ish year old woman and heard one of the most amazing love stories ever.

The woman was coming back from a business trip and couldn't wait to see her little girl and her wonderful husband. She showed me some pictures of the happy family, and completely lit up when talking about her loved ones. I remarked it really shows she loves being a mum and a wife. She smiled, and said she didn't see it coming at all -- only a few years ago she was absolutely determined never to get married nor have kids. Not out of spite or a broken heart -- she thought it just wasn't for her, and was a perfectly happy independent single. 

One day, she decided to email an old friend that she hadn't spoken for a long while, to see how he was doing. By mistake, she misspelled his surname in the email address and sent the email to a stranger. This stranger was surprised by the email, but thought maybe he'd just forgotten a long-lost acquaintance -- and replied. The woman deduced from the reply that this was not her old friend, but liked the tone of the email and wrote back. 

They kept on emailing for a while -- first laughing about the mistake, later simply getting to know each other better. Before long, they decided to meet IRL and fell in love. They moved to the same city and got married -- and now had a lovely daughter. The woman said she could not have been happier, against her initial plans and totally different idea of happiness.

Turns out, one small element -- catching an earlier train, going to a party, sometimes even making a mistake -- can have a huge impact on our lives.  Some say it's pure coincidence, and life is just a result of random events -- others say it's destiny.

I first bought this cake by coincidence -- it was the only one left at my local pâtisserie and I had no choice but to buy it, as I needed something to give to very unexpected -- yet very hungry -- guests.  However, with the first incredibly delicious bite I discovered this was no coincidence, but destiny.
Before & after

Ever since, the cake has become one of my favorite "ordinary cakes".  It's not very fancy, and can be eaten without a particular occasion -- simply with your afternoon tea.  It's a popular cake in Belgium, and I buy it either at the pâtisserie or simply in the supermarket (the latter of worse quality and taste, but still very good).

Lately, as I decided to consume less of the "E-vitamins" (E367 etc. additives), I started looking for a recipe to make the cake myself.  This turned out to be not such an easy task, and it took me quite a while to find something satisfactory.  I wanted to catch the distinct apple flavor and great moistness of the cake.  Help cake from legendary blogger Deb, and her recipe for "mom's apple cake" (which I slightly adapted).

The cake turned out to be exactly what I was hoping for.  Extremely moist, with big soft chunks of apple and crunchy walnuts, not too sweet.  With an excellent crisp crust and divinely silky center.  Sprinkled with powdered sugar for that extra hint of sweetness -- excellent cake to have with a cup of tea.  Having made it -- I don't think I will ever have to buy this cake again.

Try it out -- and let this be your destiny too ;-)

  • 6 apples (I used Granny Smith)
  • 2 tbsp of cinnamon
  • 6 tbsp of brown sugar
  • handful of walnuts (around 60-70 g), roughly chopped
  • 330 g (2.75 cups) of flour
  • 330 g (1.5 cup) of brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 230 ml (1 cup) of vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • juice of 1 orange
  • 3 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp of powdered sugar
  • Preheat the oven to 175°C (350°F).  Line a round baking tray (24 cm / 9.5 in in diameter) with parchment paper.
  • Peel, core and chop the apples in chunks.  Sprinkle with sugar (the 6 tbsp) and cinnamon, add chopped walnuts and combine.  
  • Sift the flower, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl mix together the oil, remaining brown sugar, vanilla and orange juice.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix.  Add eggs, one by one.
  • Pour half of the batter in the baking tray and cover with half of the apples (you might need to drain them a little bit from the juices).  Pour the remaining batter and add the remaining apples.
  • Bake for around 1.5h.  Let cool a bit and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Bon appetit!

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