That slice of cake up there. Looks so innocent, so pure. Right? Rustic, grainy, apple-studded; why it couldn't harm a fly if it tried.
Yeah. Except, let me tell you. This rustic, grainy, apple-studded cake is one two-faced little minx. Underneath that homely interior is a cleavage-flashing, loose-morals-toting, floozy of a cake, capable of reducing grown men to quivering fools and accomplished bakers to white-flag-waving quitters.
It even made my electric mixer start to smoke.
It starts out innocently enough. A bowl full of almond meal, fragrant and nubbly, whole-wheat flour, sunny cornmeal and a bit of all-purpose for good measure.
And then, bam!, along comes one whole pound of butter (breathe, breathe) plus a whole pound of sugar (see what I mean?) and Eight. Whole. Eggs. to drag that bowl of good intentions right down a one-way street to damnation.
If you, like me, are using an electric mixer that predates your birth, I'd advise you to skip this recipe unless you like it when the motor begins to emit a high whine, then a thin stream of smoke and then becomes uncomfortably hot in your hands. I don't ever actively wish I had a stand mixer (counter space real estate is precious, no matter what city I live in), but this cake changed all that. In a flash.
Also, you're going to need the biggest bowl you own for this cake, along with the biggest pan you can muster. This cake, man. Take it from me, it's like a baby kitten that looks all sweet and tiny at the pound and then grows up to be a coon cat, capable of opening sliding doors with handles once fully grown.*
I'm just trying to warn you, is all. I guess I was forewarned, too, what with phrases like "unabashedly rich" and "no shortage of butter" rolling around the description of Huckleberry's apple butter cake, but I must not have been paying attention or something. Or, more likely, I let myself get snowed by all those virtuous other ingredients. (Baby kitten eyes.) I can be so naive.
This cake is the biggest, baddest thing I've baked in a while. It is intensely rich and not for the faint of heart. In fact, I think it should come with a warning sign: "Only to be eaten in slices less than 0.5 inches in thickness." Any bigger than that and you'll be fighting with the food sweats before you're done with one slice. Take it from me; I actually saw this happen.
The cake does also happen to be delicious. Which is nice. The texture is wonderful, grainy, toothsome and firm, and the moist little pockets of cooked apple are a welcome relief. In fact, the cake could even handle a little more apple than called for in the original recipe (noted below). Nutty and sweet (you should leave off the sugar topping, also noted below), the vanilla notes really pop between all those apples and butter. Hoo boy, this most definitely is not your average simple apple cake.
Keep it filed away for those days when you've got to bake for a crowd, when you know you'll have at least 10 eaters to help whittle away the enormous, buttery, burnished round. Or, you know, if you're surreptitiously trying to kill your oldest kitchen appliance so that you simply have no choice but to buy a shiny new stand mixer. Or! If you're entering a contest for Foxiest Apple Cake Ever. You'd totally win. Totally.
Whole-Wheat Apple Butter Cake
Makes 1 10-inch cake
2 tablespoons butter
1.5 to 2 pounds apples, peeled and cut into large chunks (about 4 or 5 cups)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a large sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the apples, then the sugar and salt, tossing to coat completely. Cook, stirring often, until the apples are just softened, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat and spread out the apples on a rimmed baking sheet to stop the cooking process. Set aside to cool.
2 cups (7 ounces) almond meal
1 cup (4.5 ounces) whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3.5 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (2.5 ounces) cornmeal
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 pound butter
2 1/4 cups (1 pound) sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-by-3-inch round cake pan and line bottom with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the almond meal, whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter until softened. With the mixer going, beat in 1 pound sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined, then beat in the vanilla.
4. Beat in the dry ingredients, a spoonful at a time, just until incorporated. Be careful not to over-mix.
5. Fold in the cooked apples by hand. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake pan.
6. Bake the cake in the center of the oven until the cake is risen and a rich golden brown on top, springs back when touched, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 11/2 hours. Check the cake after 1 hour; if it browns too quickly, loosely tent the top with a piece of foil.
7. Remove the cake to a rack. Cool for 15 minutes before removing the cake.