In the past few weeks, I've spotted a few blog posts featuring gorgeously picturesque photos of perfectly manicured hands gently grabbing apples and twisting them from branches, and beautiful orchards with rows and rows of magnificent apples, bright in color. Reading these posts, it's as though you can smell the crisp sweet air, feel the warm sun, and hear the sounds of trees swaying. "Heck yes", they make you say to yourself, "I want to get on this harvest train, and look all cute with my bag of apples!". But what the posts don't mention are... THE GIANT SPIDERS LIVE IN THOSE APPLE TREES. Maybe this is a Washington specific thing, maybe an orchard specific thing, but one thing is for certain: spiders aren't sexy or appealing, and in no way do I want them on or near my hands or face - hence my yellow knit spider shields above.
Look at those beautiful apples, so green and appealing, hanging perfectly, ready to be twisted off, gently wiped clean with the end of my sweater, and then carefully placed in my belly. What you can't see is the giant spider web 10 inches to the right with a big fat mama spider full of millions of tiny baby spiders, ready to hatch everywhere. I am sorry, but big fat pregnant mama spiders are so absolutely gross, and I am completely aware that this fear in irrational, and that those spiders pose no risk to me or my health, but this is real life, and that is my real fear.
Look, you see that expression on my face? It's fear, covered up with a little lipstick. Although, to be clear, aside from all of the spider shenanigans, the day was super fun and everything that I had imagined a trip to the harvest farm would be. Despite being terrified, I carefully and cautiously picked a bag full of beautiful Jonagolds(!!) from Swans Trail Farms. I wandered through a giant pumpkin patch where I resisted the temptation to fill the car. I also saw a duck race, a giant pig, a donkey, and a few small bunnies. The rain started to fall, so I opted out of the corn maze, but it was quite a fight with my inner 5-year-old because she really wanted to try it out. I finished the day with a crisp seasonal aperitif, a Barefoot Bandit which included Bulleit Rye, Grand Marnier, Old Fashioned bitters, muddled orange and fresh ginger. All in all, it was an extremely festive autumnal day.
Jonagolds are these tiny cute green-yellow apples, with a hint of red brushed along the side. They are fresh and crisp, slightly sweet, and creamy. They are a cross between a Golden Delicious and a blush-crimson Jonathan, and they are now my new favorite apple. I just wish they were available all year round. Since acquiring these beautiful apples, I've been using every baking opportunity to incorporate them into something new. I've made a salted caramel tart, an apple fennel salad, and more than a few apple grilled cheese sandwiches, but it hasn't all been romance and magic. I did have a major recipe fail last week while attempting to make apple cinnamon filled doughnuts, which really is a shame because I now have 3 cups of used vegetable oil that I have to try and find a way to discard.
This past weekend I chose to bake these rest of the apples into a cake, using a recipe that is simple and delicious. This recipe requires very little preparation and only a few common baking ingredients. It starts with a standard bundt cake recipe that I frequently use, but adds a streusel topping, and (of course) an apple streusel layer in the middle. The cinnamon, pecans and apples bake into a delicious filling, perfectly complimenting the sweet cake. The top of the cake, layered with streusel, bakes into a crisp crust. It pairs wonderfully with a cup of coffee. I think it was a real hit around my house, as the pan is now sitting empty on the counter, with only a few crumbs to show there was ever any cake at all.
CINNAMON STREUSEL APPLE CAKE
makes one 6 cups (8"x 3") bundt cake
notes: A standard bundt cake recipe uses a 12 cup (10" x 3.5") bundt pan. I find that this is to large and the cake never gets eaten, so I purchased a 6 cup bundt pan (link below), and end up halving all of my recipes. If you only own a 12 cup bundt pan, you can double the recipe below, but will require a longer baking time, possibly 20 minutes. Check using a toothpick, every ten minutes for doneness. I used Jonagold apples, but you can use your favorite.
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp white granulated sugar
2 tsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 apple, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup white granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tsp vanilla
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease a 6 cup bundt pan.
Combine the streusel ingredients - chopped pecans, flour, sugar, oil, and cinnamon powder in a bowl. Sprinkle half into the bundt pan, and toss the other half with the sliced apples.
Combine the dry ingredients - flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar in one bowl, and the vegetable oil, eggs, orange juice and vanilla in another. Add the wet to the dry and combine until moistened.
Add half of the cake batter to the bundt pan, followed by the apples. Finish with the rest of the batter.
Place into the oven on the middle shelf and bake for 45 - 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, and then remove from the pan by placing it cake side down on the counter and gently tapping. If you have difficulties removing, run a knife around the cake to loosen the edges.
Cake can be stored in an air-tight container for up to a week.