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Author Notes: While preparing four holiday meals for friends and family over the span of the two days of Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) last week, I was reminded that there is a beauty in keeping things simple, both in the kitchen and out. So I was overjoyed to discover a cake that nearly bakes itself. I adapted a recipe touted as "The Easiest Cake Ever" -- meant for ripe pears or stone fruits dripping with juice -- to a slightly more traditional apple cake. Given that apples are not particularly juicy, I decided to first saute them in some margarine and sugar, giving them a slight caramelization as I would for a tarte tatin. I had leftover apples and the cake smelled so good in the oven that I whipped up a second batch of batter in about 5 minutes and popped the second cake in the oven while the first was cooling. [NOTE: the batter is adapted from www.notderbypie.com] —zahavah
For the apples
- 4 apples - I used a variety (1 each of Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Crispin)
- lemon juice to prevent apples from browning as you cut (~1T)
- 2 tablespoons margarine (or butter if making dairy)
- 1-2 tablespoons sugar
For cake batter
- 1 cup flour
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2-3 tablespoons demerara sugar (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan, springform or square pan. (If you want to plate this, use a springform; otherwise, just serve it out of the pan.)
- Peel and core the apples, then cut into ~12 slices. Sprinkle with lemon juice (you don't need much - maybe a tablespoon or so for 4 apples) while the others are being sliced to prevent browning.
- Heat margarine in pan over low heat and add apples and 1-2 T white sugar. Stir for ~10-15 minutes until apples soften. Some of the liquid will soak into the apples, but if too much of it starts to evaporate, then turn the heat down.
- While the apples are on the stove top, mix together the remaining ingredients (except for the demerara sugar) -- flour, sugar (the 3/4 C), eggs, oil, baking powder, and vanilla. No mixer is required - you can just mix everything by hand even though the batter is quite thick.
- Add half the warm apples (juices and all) to the batter and mix. Then pour into the prepared pan and spread the batter evenly with a spatula . Arrange the remaining apple slices on the top of the batter as decoratively as possible (though even a mishmash will look nice).
- Sprinkle the cake with demerara sugar if you'd like and bake for 1 hour. As it bakes, the high egg content causes the cake to rise up as the heavier fruit sinks slightly and the demerara sugar helps creates a crackly crunchy crust that caramelizes slightly at the edges and where the fruit juices pool.
- Cool in pan and serve. I doubt you'll have leftovers.
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