The great apple cake caper

If there’s one thing I love more than a great recipe, it’s a great recipe that features ingredients that come in my CSA box. And if there’s something I love even more than that, it’s a great recipe that takes some piece of CSA produce that’s been sadly neglected and rescues it from certain composting.  As I’ve mentioned here before, we tend to be a bit on the picky side when it comes to fruit texture, and we can detect a less-than-crisp apple a mile off. They’re not rotten, though, so I can’t bear to toss them; instead they just sit on the glass cake plate we use as a fruit bowl, holding up remarkably well but certainly not getting any crisper.

Back in July I just couldn’t bear to look at the sad apple graveyard any longer. Cooking fruit goes a long way towards dealing with poor texture, so I must have looked at a billion recipes for apple crumble, crisp, and cake before I found a delicious-sounding recipe for Apple Upside-Down Cake. I only had enough apple rejects to make half a recipe, so I made it in a loaf, rather than square, pan. It turned out… amazing. Moist, dense, exquisitely flavored cake topped with perfectly cooked, caramelized apple slices. The kind of thing you dream of for months.

We were still dreaming of it, in fact, as we watched the apple casualties begin piling up again last month. This time I felt much more relaxed when less-than-stellar apples arrived in our box, knowing that their alchemical transformation into dessert gold was always near at hand. Except for one thing. When I finally went to look for the recipe last week, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I checked the binder where I keep hard copies of favorite recipes with my own notations and changes, combed frantically through my collection of recipes bookmarked online, and then finally just started searching randomly with Google, hoping to stumble across a recipe that sparked my memory. Part of the problem was that I couldn’t remember whether it had been a gluten-free recipe that I had veganized, a vegan recipe I had converted to gluten-free, or even that rarest of things, a recipe that was already both.

Tonight, as we were contemplating what to do with our evening after a busy day of guests, Duck said to me, “Let’s make an apple cake.” It was clearly the perfect thing to do. Except for that tiny hitch. I started the search again, looking at apple cake recipes far and wide. I must have looked for ten minutes when Duck came in and sat down next to me. “Have you tried searching your bookmarks?” Yep. “Your browsing history?” Yep. I kept typing and clicking, not really paying much attention anymore, when suddenly, there it was. I gasped. I remembered everything – the photo, the recipe, even the little story about the blogger having the cake for afternoon tea with her friend.

Needless to say, I bookmarked it, printed it out, and saved a copy to my hard drive. We had more than enough apples for a full-size version tonight, and it’s so good that Duck (normally the foremost despiser of anything involving cooked fruit) drew a line down the center of the cooled cake with a knife to make sure he got his fair share.

So here’s to you, Mrs. G.F. of Recipe for a Gluten Free Life. To you and your amazing, sublime, miraculous Apple Upside-Down Cake. For rescuing my mushy apples – twice! – and for reappearing out of the internet mists in the hour of my greatest need.

This recipe is, for me, ultimate comfort food. It assuages my guilt (no wasted produce!), and feels reasonably healthy (an apple a day and all that) rather than overly rich and heavy, which is actually pretty vital to a pleasurable dessert experience for me. I don’t tend to gravitate towards the big indulgences when it comes to sweets (not that this isn’t plenty indulgent!) – I save my overkill for the savory side of things. It’s warm, and it’s soft, and it’s sticky and sweet, and, this time around, I made it with someone I love. What could be more comforting than that? So I’m going to submit this to January’s Sugar High Fridays, which is hosted this month by A Merrier World, with the theme of Sweet Comforts.

The recipe, as  it turned out, was gluten-free, not vegan, so below is the vegan version with my very minor changes:

Apple Upside-down Cake (aka “What do I do with my old mealy apples?”)
Original recipe is from Recipe for a Gluten Free Life. God bless her for figuring out to make a Better Homes and Gardens recipe gluten-free. The first time I made the recipe, I used a gluten-free baking mix that didn’t have teff or sorghum flour, and it came out fantastic (as she assures us it will). This time I had on hand the exact flours she specifies and it came out even better. The teff is just indescribably good. But it’s great without it, too. One warning: this cake doesn’t keep well. All the sugar and fruit make it get too moist too fast. Best to eat it all right away, or at least within a day or so.

5 tablespoons Earth Balance (or other non-hydrogenated vegan margarine), cut into pieces
another 5 tablespoons Earth Balance, softened
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
4 apples, cored and sliced in wedges, skin on
1 large apple, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup teff flour
1/2 cup sweet sorghum flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 teaspoon xantham gum
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup soy or hemp milk
1/4 cup soy yogurt
2 teaspoons vanilla
3.9 oz applesauce, unsweetened (the size of a little packaged lunch-size tub)

Preheat oven to 350. Put the 5 T. chopped Earth Balance in the pan, a 9X9, and put in the oven until melted, but be careful not to brown it. Sprinkle brown sugar over Earth Balance, mix together. Put in the apple wedges and put back in the oven for 15 minutes.

In the bowl of your mixer (if you have one), combine flours and dry ingredients and whisk. Add wet ingredients, including the softened Earth Balance (the other 5 T. that you didn’t put in the oven), soy milk, soy yogurt, vanilla and applesauce. Use a mixer if you have one, otherwise stir until combined. Fold chopped apples into the batter.

Spread batter evenly over the apples in the pan. Bake about 35-45 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely, then invert carefully over a large plate. Serve with the apples all gorgeous and caramelized on top.

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6 comments on “The great apple cake caper

  1. Kelly B says:

    Oh this looks divine! I wish I still lived near some orchards!

  2. I adore apple cakes, and this one looks superb. Warm, soft, sticky – bookmarked!
    Thanks for entering SHF :-)

  3. [...] Scrumptious from In my Box rescues the mushy apples from her CSA box with this sublime vegan and gluten-free Apple Upside-Down Cake. [...]

  4. [...] I won’t be getting any apples in my box this week. But I do have a fantastic recipe for the most incredible gluten-free vegan apple cake, and I’m excited to see what other apple delicacies my fellow menu swappers will be cooking [...]

  5. cheryl says:

    that looks terrific!

  6. [...] Last week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap was derailed by a sick family. Hope they’re all feeling better soon. Since we didn’t actually have a roundup last week, I thought I’d list the ideas shared for yummy apple recipes: Wendy made Curried Apple Chutney, Cheryl was planning to make Apple Squares, Michelle posted a recipe for an Apple Spice Cake, and Scrumptious shared a recipe for a vegan Apple Upside-Down Cake. [...]

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