As August winds down, late-summer apples are coming to the market. These apples are perfect for baking into cakes and pies and are small sneak-peeks into the aromatic autumn desserts around the corner. One of our favorite recipes to bake this time of year is apple cake.
Apples were an important food in the Southern mountains. They grew well, and they had many uses. You could eat them raw or use them to make cider, vinegar, applesauce, apple butter, cakes and pies.
And you could dry apples easily without any special equipment. Apples were cut into thin slices and placed outside in the sun, or near the stove or fireplace, to dry. What remained when they dried was pure, intense apple flavor. Dried apple slices became the basis for fried apple pies and apple butter and even today are an essential ingredient in Appalachian cooking.
Nowadays, you can’t find all the old apple varieties that used to grow in these East Tennessee mountains. But you can still find some early apples, like Ginger Gold, Lodi, Gala and Mollie’s Delicious. They’re all different in appearance and flavor, for example, as the Ginger Gold is yellow and sweet whereas the Lodi is greenish in color and tarter in flavor.
Any fresh, flavorful apple is perfect in this apple cake. It’s a great recipe for baking ahead of time and taking to football tailgate parties. Nothing says late August and early fall better than apple cake!
Tennessee Apple Cake
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes
- Yield: 12-16 Servings 1x
- Vegetable oil spray, for misting the pan
- 3 cups The Old Mill Unbleached Plain Flour, plus flour for dusting the pan
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 ¼ cups vegetable oil
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 large apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1-inch chunks (3 1/2 cups)
- 1 cup chopped pecans, if desired
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Lightly mist a 10-inch tube pan with the oil spray, and dust it with flour. Shake out the excess flour and set the pan aside.
- Place the 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and the oil in a large mixing bowl, and beat with an electric mixer on low speed until the mixture lightens, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture, stirring to combine. Fold in the apples, pecans, if using, and the vanilla. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and place the pan in the oven.
- Bake the apple cake until it begins to pull away from the sides of the pan and the top springs back when lightly pressed with a finger, about 1 hour, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and let it rest on a rack for 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the glaze. Place the butter, sugars, cream, and vanilla in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat slightly, and let the mixture boil for 1 minute, then remove the pan from the heat.
- Run a long, sharp knife around the edges of the apple cake, and invert it onto a wire rack once and then again so that the cake is right side up. Poke a few holes in the top of the cake with a bamboo skewer, chopstick, or fork. Spoon the caramel glaze over the top of the cake while it’s warm. Let the cake cool before slicing.