Has anybody else noticed just how delicious everything has been this summer? I don't know if mind-bogglingly sweet berries, melons, apricots, plums, and tomatoes are the upside of global warming or if I'm just paying closer attention, but I've eaten well this summer. I have baked up ripe red berries and soft stone fruit into delicious pies, tarts, crisps, and cobblers. Topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, these old-fashioned favorites are always a fine finish to a summer meal. I'm sure I'll get little sympathy when I admit this, but I'm tired of pie and all my other "go to" summer desserts. Today I'm hungry for cake.
Although it's warm today and summer lingers at the farmer's market in the last of the cane berries and sweet summer corn, apples have arrived. In fact, for a couple weeks now, Alan Frost from Riverwood Farms in Dayton has been delivering boxes of his sweet Jonagold and tart Honeycrisp apples to the bakery. This means our seasonal cake now celebrates the apple, and today I'm baking Cream Cheese Apple Cake at home.
Over the years at Grand Central Bakery, we have baked this tasty cake in many forms. We have sold it as a cupcake topped with maple cream cheese frosting. In a big bundt pan drizzled with vanilla glaze and as a layer cake filled with spiced compote and topped with swirls of light buttercream. These days, we feature our Apple Cake in the fall baked in a simple long pullman pan and topped with a dusting of powdered sugar. Anybody who knows me will laugh when I admit the inspiration for the cake came from a Cooking Light magazine; their skinny version was made with light cream cheese, margarine, and egg white. But, don't let that turn you off. You can rest assured I have added back every sweet calorie.
Aside from the fact that this cake is delicious, the thing I love about it is how forgiving and versatile it is. It can be made in any shape pan (within reason) and will rise up pretty. The recipe in the book calls for a large 12-cup bundt pan, but feel free to use whatever pan you have handy just be sure not to overfill. A good rule of thumb is to fill the pan with batter 2/3 full. If you have a small amount of batter left, you can bake it into a few cupcakes. If you have a couple cups, freeze it in a plastic container and you will be more than halfway to a cake on another day. I know I should make you buy the book, but here is the recipe. Get out there, buy some good local apples, and bake this yummy cake.
Cream Cheese Apple Cake
3 cups (15 ounces) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup (8 ounces/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
2-1/2 cups (1 pound 1.5 ounces) granulated sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/4 pounds tart apples, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
Confectioners' sugar, for garnish
Prepare to bake.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and lightly flour the baking pan.
Sift flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together and set aside.
Cream butter, cream cheese and sugar.
Put butter, cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat ingredients on medium-high speed until mixture is very light in color — almost white — and the texture is fluffy. This will take about 6-8 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl once during the process to insure that butter is evenly incorporated.
Add eggs and vanilla.
Crack eggs into a liquid measure and add vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour mixture into the bowl allowing eggs to fall in one at a time. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Add dry ingredients and apples.
Add sifted dry ingredients on low speed; stop mixing as soon as flour is incorporated. Fold apples in by hand using a stiff spatula and scrape batter into the prepared pan.
Place pan in the middle of the oven and bake 60-75 minutes rotating the pan halfway through the baking time. When cake is finished, a wooden skewer inserted in the middle should come out clean. Allow cake to cool 15 minutes before removing it from pan. Cool completely and cover with a thick dusting of confectioners' sugar.