October 14th, 2014

Dark and Light: Two Apple Cakes


What would you like with a cup of coffee right now? How about a slice of roasted apple walnut cake napped in apple caramel?


Or perhaps a wedge of this fragrant apple-blueberry-cardamom cake?


With bushels of apples in myriad varieties at the market, and bushels of luscious apple dessert recipes circulating the ‘net, I’ve been lured into making simple one layer fruit-rich cakes, in dark and light. Mood food.

Rain, fog, and autumn gray have pervaded this month, thus far. That’s nudged me into the kitchen to bake. Cooking for comfort,


And color. When Joyti at Darjeeling Dreams posted her heirloom apple cake, sparked with cardamom, it reminded me of how good these kinds of one-layer cakes are, and how readily they lend themselves to fruits of the season.

Inspired, I made Cake 1, using Braeburn and Gingergold apples. At the last moment, I added blueberries from my stash of preserves. (Last summer, I had canned blueberries in syrup—now, more than a year later, it’s time to use them up!)

Tart apples coupled with juicy bursts of berries and the perfumed undercurrent of spice make this one memorable.


Recently, my friend Teresa took a road trip to Arkansas. Her destination was Crystal Bridges, the Walton’s museum extraordinaire of American Art in Bentonville. Along the way, though, she came across the famous Arkansas Black apples. And, bought her own bushel.

Share the wealth–everyone visiting Teresa post-road trip leaves with a sack of Arkansas Blacks.


Firm and crunchy with dark red peels that deepen to burgundy as they ripen, they are sometimes called the “Snow White Apple.” Teresa had made a deep-dish pie with them, and noted that the slices maintained their firmness and crunch in the baking.


I liked that, but wondered if they wouldn’t benefit from an oven roast, before you folded the pieces into the batter.


I also thought I’d take the cores and peels (as I’d done in this recipe here) and make an apple caramel sauce to ladle over the cake while it was still warm.

And so began the second apple cake.


Opposites. Just as the first is defined by a light cream-colored batter, Cake 2 has dark earthy tones imparted by raw sugar, vanilla and a trinity of spices.


The pieces of apples and walnuts amplify those tones in baking, the cake emerging dark and toasty, the apples melting into the crumb in places, affording pockets of sweet fruit throughout. Although, it is not too sweet–a characteristic shared by both cakes. The caramel sauce soaks into the cake, which improves in flavor, the next day.

I love how we can take an idea, a fruit, a basic recipe and let it go light or dark, depending on tastes, mood, and what embellishments we have at hand. Next time, my apple cake may go light and rich—Cooking Light’s Cinnamon-Apple–one of their most popular since 1997—uses cream cheese in the batter. Doesn’t that sound just ever-so?


Roasted Apple Walnut Cake, with apple caramel sauce

Butter–for greasing skillet or cake pan (9 inch round)
4-5 firm apples, (such as Black Arkansas) peeled and cored (reserve peels and cores!)
1 tablespoon (or so) vegetable oil
1 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 sticks (12 tablespoons) butter, softened
1 cup turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup buttermilk plus 1/4 cup (divided)

Place peels and cores into a saucepan. Add sugar and cover with water—about a cup of so. Bring to just under a boil, then cook on low heat for 20-30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut the apples into 1/2″ thick slices. Lightly coat in vegetable oil and arrange on a baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes. Add walnut pieces and roast for 5 more minutes. Remove from oven to cool and reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Place eggs, softened butter and turbinado sugar into a mixing bowl and cream together.
In a separate bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together: spices, baking powder, soda, salt, and flour. Beat in dry mixture a little at a time, alternating with buttermilk.

Fold the cooled roasted apples and walnuts into the batter. Put batter into a prepared cast-iron skillet or cake pan and bake on the middle rack for 35-40 minutes.

While the cake is cooling on the rack, finish the apple caramel sauce.

Strain the peels and cores from the mixture, pressing on them to extract more apple juice.
Stir in 1/4 cup buttermilk (you may use cream if you prefer) and gently reheat, stirring constantly. Mixture will thicken slightly.

Spoon the apple caramel sauce over the cake. Cut and serve.

Serves 8-10


Apple Blueberry Cardamom Cake (adapted from Darjeeling Dreams)

Butter, for greasing skillet
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup milk
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 Gala or Gingergold apples (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup blueberry preserves or plain blueberries

Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9 inch cast-iron skillet (or cake pan) with butter.
Cream the eggs and sugar in a mixing bowl, until light and fluffy. Beat milk and olive oil. Beat in cardamom, flour, baking powder. Pour batter into the skillet (or cake pan)
Core the apples and thinly slice them. Arrange the apple slices in a circular pattern, making the apple slices overlap slightly.Spoon preserves (or blueberries in syrup, or plain blueberries) over the apples.
Bake on the middle rack, testing for doneness with a toothpick at 35 minutes.
Cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Serves 8-10.



Posted in Desserts, Fruit, Recipes

19 Responses to “Dark and Light: Two Apple Cakes”
  1. Joyti Says:

    I hope you liked the light colored apple cake :-)

    The dark one sound pretty darn amazing. And Arkansas Black are one of – if not my very – favorite variety of apple.

  2. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    i would give just about anything for a cup of coffee and a slice of that cake. Anything! One of my boys is sick and the is running around like a crazy person so yes I deserve some cake:) LOL!

  3. Kath Says:

    Can I have a slice of both? I love that you roasted the apples before you added them though. I am going to try that. Then to top it off with an apple caramel sauce just sounds very, very good indeed.

  4. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    As usual, Nancy, you’ve left me with my mouth watering, and a piece of either cake would be perfect with my coffee for breakfast this morning.

  5. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Joyti–I loved your light-colored apple cake! It was the inspiration for the post.

    Jess–Mercy, you do deserve a cake, both kinds.

    Kath–gently roasting those firm apples really made a difference. the caramel made using the cores and peels can’t be beat!

    Michele–If we were closer, I’d send a piece or two over!

  6. ernestine Says:

    All I can say
    is these recipes
    are amazing.
    Wish I had a slice of each
    with my coffee this early morning…

  7. Maggie Says:

    These look yummy, Nancy! It must be in the air – I just made a favorite apple cake that I’ve been making for 40 years (yikes!) Similar to your light one. I’ll have to update and give yours a try!

  8. Johanne Lamarche Says:

    Both cakes look delicious! A slice of each please! Have never seen or heard of Black Arkansas Apples but would love to try them someday. Bet they have a higher nutritional value. And roasting the apples first? Genius! I will try making your apple peel and core caramel sauce. Love the idea of whole food cooking. Thanks Nancy!

  9. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Ernestine–I wish you did too! But I understand that you have had a most marvelous white chocolate cake in your cottage kitchen!

    Mag-I bet that your tried-and-true 40 year recipe is incredible. I do love making the apple caramel using the peels and cores–gild the lily so to speak.

    Johanne–cheers! I hope you enjoy this tips and can incorporate them into your baking.

  10. fluffy Says:

    looks amazing

  11. Wendy Lawrence Zerface Says:

    Seasonally delicious!

  12. Dedy@Dentist Chef Says:

    Damn delicious apple cake!
    your photograph is awesome, tickle my taste buds for sure….

  13. Juliana Says:

    Nancy, can I have a slice of each one? They both look great…apple with walnut and caramel…yum….blueberry and apple…yum…
    Thanks for sharing both recipes…
    Have a wonderful weekend :D

  14. Teresa, foodonfifth Says:

    Nance, thanks so much for the Food on Fifth mention and you have done wonders with those Arkansas Black Apples. Both of these cakes are just wonderful looking and so seasonal.
    I would love to have a slice of each this cool Friday Nashville morning with my hot cup of coffee. Lovely post.

  15. Beth Says:

    I’m smitten by that apple caramel cake! What a gorgeous dessert.

  16. Gerlinde Says:

    Nancy, I’m intrigued by your apple caramel cake. I love the idea of roasting the apples and using the peel for a caramel sauce.

  17. Johanne Lamarche Says:

    Picked up a Southern Lady October issue on a whim yesterday at the CVS and imagine my delight to discover a feature on you entitlrd Urban Gathering and your book! Congratulations!!! It was beautifully done.

  18. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Hi Johanne,
    I am so glad that you found the magazine and the spread about my potluck gatherings and cookbook! They did a beautiful job on it. I was unfamiliar with Southern Lady until this summer, when one of the editors contacted me about doing the piece. It captures the spirit of our gatherings and the cookbook.

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I will post a link to the article when it becomes available on line.

    My best, Nancy

  19. Karen (Back Road Journal) Says:

    Both of your cakes look great and I have all the ingredients including the Arkansas Black apples that I grow in our orchard. Now the decision is which one to try first. :D

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