High Country Baking: Apple-crowned cream cake
High Country Baking
Simple yet sophisticated, this cake will remind you of pastries served in a European coffeehouse. It stars a delicate, moist crumb that is perfectly complemented by the elusive flavors of vanilla and apple. The overall impression is light, balanced and tantalizing. Serve it at brunch, with afternoon tea or coffee, or for dessert. It’s best when slightly warm and, if you want to fancy it up, it pairs well with a dollop of apple-brandy whipped cream or creme fraiche.
The secret to its charm lies in the last step taken before it enters the oven. After preparing a fairly traditional cake batter and topping it with a circle of apple slices, heavy cream, in all its velvety glory, is drizzled over the top. It prevents the apples from drying out, surrounds them with a lovely custard, and sinks into the batter adding wonderful moisture and richness. A small touch with big results.
Apple-crowned cream cake
Adjusted for elevations of 7,800 feet and above. Make in an 8 1/2-inch shiny metal springform pan.
- 1 tablespoon apple brandy, dark rum or apple juice
- 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice or ground cinnamon
- 1 large Golden Delicious apple
- 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons bleached flour (spoon and level)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch kosher salt
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup superfine granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s, divided
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
- Powdered sugar, optional
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with a rack in the middle position. To make cutting and removing the cake from the pan easier, unlock your pan, flip the bottom over so the lip is facing down, and relock it in place. Generously grease the pan with a baking spray that contains flour, and set it aside.
Add the brandy and apple pie spice to a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Peel, core and cut the apple into thin, one-eighth inch or less slices (if the slices are thicker, they won’t be fully baked when the cake is done). Add them to the bowl and stir/toss until all the slices are moistened and coated with the spice. Set aside. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and whisk vigorously to blend. Then set aside. Break the eggs into a cup measure and whisk lightly until combined and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and three-quarters of a cup of the sugar (save one-quarter cup of the sugar for a later use) with an electric mixer at medium speed until light in color and texture. Add the eggs in three additions, beating until blended after each one. Scrape the bowl as needed throughout this step. Add one-third of the flour mixture and beat at low speed until mixed. Add half the milk, beat again. Repeat, then add the last third of the flour and the vanilla and stir at low speed or by hand only until blended. Don’t overmix.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smooth and level it. Place the apple slices all around the edge of the pan, overlapping them slightly. Only a small spot of batter in the middle should remain uncovered. Drizzle the cream all over the apples. Sprinkle the remaining quarter-cup of sugar over the top. Bake until the cake starts to pull away from the pan sides, the top is golden and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Start checking at about 35 minutes.
Move the pan to a cooling rack and, after about 20 minutes, run a knife around the pan edge and remove it. Leave the cake on the pan bottom to cool completely. The cooled cake can be stored, covered well, in the refrigerator for three days. It slices most easily when cold but should be served slightly warm, so rewarm pieces in a microwave or 325 degree oven. Take care, the cake will get mushy if warmed too much. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, if desired.
This recipe is a variation of one published in “The Best American Recipes 2004-2005.”
Vera Dawson’s column “High Country Baking” publishes biweekly on Thursdays in the Summit Daily News. Dawson is a high-elevation baking instructor and author of three high-altitude cookbooks. Her recipes have been tested in her kitchen in Frisco, where she’s lived since 1991, and altered until they work at elevation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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