Hello again! I'm back! Really and truly. I'm back to blogging and I'm crazy excited about it. My "few weeks" of time off turned into a few months, and even though my vacation extended much longer than I had anticipated, I regret none of it. Taking some time off for myself, to sleep in on weekends, set my camera down, step away from all the pressure I was putting on myself was the best decision I could have made. I had a chance to enjoy my summer (I went to the beach! I completed two Spartan Races!! I went to Sicily!!!) and recharge my batteries. It only took a few weeks for me to realize that I really did miss this working on this space that I had created for myself. And even though it took me a few months to feel like I was ready to get back into blogging, now that I have, all I can say is that it feels awesome. I’m still going to work on making my blogging feel as natural as possible, so I don’t see myself getting back to the regimented schedule I forced on myself before. While I don’t know how often I'll actually end up posting, all I know that I’m going to make sure I have a good time working on each and every post. Because this is supposed to be my happy place, right?
Anyway. Now that the formalities are over and we’re back in action, let’s talk cake. Because really, that’s what we’re all here for.
This cake is the result of a failed attempt at apple picking. I’ve wanted to go apple picking ever since I learned such a thing existed, but for one reason over another, fall came and went every year and I never made it to an orchard. Last weekend was different though. My parents, sister, and I packed some snacks, got in the car, and drove all the way to the North Fork. We were ready. We made it to the orchard, and the parking lot was full of cars and people of all ages. As we walked closer to the apple-studded trees, we saw a sign propped up against the fence that read “CLOSED.” We assumed we had just gotten to the orchard too early and that we’d be able to start picking our bushels of apples in a few minutes—but we were wrong. It turns out that the picking season had ended the weekend before, and the few apples that remained on the trees were reserved for picking during the week, so we made the best of the situation. We drank some cider and explored the small neighboring farms, and I bought an apple pie (a really, really delicious pie) and a few jars of fruit preserves. It was fun but bittersweet nevertheless—after all, we drove almost two hours to get to the orchard, and left with zero freshly picked apples.
Aside from getting an obvious lesson for next year (call BEFORE leaving to drive to the orchard), we got to pick up a gallon of some incredible spiced cider and enjoy a few cider donuts, still hot from the fryer. I had been planning on baking up some kind of delicious apple-filled quick bread (perhaps swirled with salted caramel??) as my welcome-back post, but given that all I had was some cider, my plans had to change. I still wanted to go in the direction of a simple cake, because this is me we’re talking about and there’s nothing I love more. When I came across this recipe for an apple cider cake covered in cinnamon sugar, I was sold. I didn’t need to think twice about the recipe because it essentially makes a giant cider donut, and who needs to think twice about that?
The recipe starts off by boiling a roughly chopped apple (a supermarket Granny Smith, in my case) in spiced cider. Once the apple is soft and the cider has reduced, it all gets pureed until smooth. This, along with warming spices like cinnamon and cloves, are what give this cake its quintessential fall flavor. After the apple puree is made, the recipe is straightforward. Dry ingredients are whisked, then added to creamed butter and sugar, along with the apple puree and milk. A 45-minute trip in the oven and a brushing of melted butter later, the entire cake is sprinkled with cinnamon-scented sugar. At this point, you just have to resist giant cake donut sitting in your kitchen making it smell all kinds of delicious. Once it’s cooled completely, simply slice into it and enjoy. The wait will be worth it!
Apple Cider Bundt Cake
recipe adapted slightly from Serious Eats
For the Cake
1 1/2 cups spiced apple cider
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup vegetable oil
For the Topping
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
Add the cider and chopped apple to a medium saucepan set over medium-high heat and bring the cider to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until half of the cider has been absorbed and the apples can be smashed easily with a fork, about 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Pour the mixture into a food processor or blender and blend until pureed and smooth. Measure out 1 cup of the cider mixture and add to a large measuring cup, along with the milk and vanilla extract. Stir with a fork to combine.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Grease a 10-cup Bundt pan with non-stick spray and dust all over with flour, tapping out the excess.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves.
In the bowl of standard electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add in the oil, and beat to combine, about 1 minute.
Lower the mixer speed to low, and add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the cider-milk mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix only until incorporated and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. After the last addition, increase the speed to medium and beat for about 20 seconds to fully combine.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Transfer the cake to cooling rack set over a baking sheet and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert directly onto the cooling rack.
While the cake is still warm, combine the granulated sugar and cinnamon to make the topping. Brush the warm cake with melted butter and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar, using your fingers to rub it onto the sides.
Let the cake cool completely, about 1 hour, before slicing. Enjoy!
Makes 1 Bundt cake