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Today: The holiday season's lovable anytime cake -- breakfast, snack, and show-stopping dessert all in one.
If food magazines were like fashion magazines, this cake would be the cape you're encouraged to wear to brunch, the mountaintop lodge, and the opera.
It has a chameleon-like ability to please everyone and fit in everywhere, and it is named, charmingly, Teddie's Apple Cake.
It was first published in 1973 by Jean Hewitt, former food reporter and home economist at the New York Times. But it came to our attention more recently as one of the top five reader-recommended recipes in Amanda's book, The Essential New York Times Cookbook, along with other classics we know and love: David Eyre's Pancake and Chocolate Dump-It Cake.
Serve it with coffee for breakfast, with whipped cream for dessert. Dust it with powdered sugar and set it aloft on a cake plate; or leave it out on the counter for all-hour snacks. Gift it; freeze it; portion it out for a bake sale. It will be amenable, and so too will be whoever is lucky enough to eat it.
Awkward homonyms aside, this is the teddy bear of cakes -- lovable, warm, and wholesome. But you can give it some edge too. We've quietly, but definitively, moved away from the Red Delicious apples that Hewitt recommended toward more self-respecting Honeycrisp or Granny Smith.
But push further: swap in booze-soaked raisins or darker sugars, whole wheat or olive oil. Douse it in this caramel glaze or this hard sauce. Amanda has toyed with every inch of this cake and rightly calls it "indestructible".
What's special about this cake, other than its ease, its flexibility, its teddy bear-iness: it's an oil-based cake -- and this means many great things:
• You don't have to wait for butter to soften. You can just hit the pantry and run.
• It's kosher with meat or dairy suppers (if you grease the pan with oil too).
• As I learned from Shirley Corriher via drbabs, unlike butter, oil makes cakes especially moist and tender because it coats the flour's proteins, keeping them from soaking up liquid in the batter and forming gluten (which would make the cake both tougher and drier). As a result, this cake defies staling and keeps well for days.
The tube pan really is the perfect vehicle for this cake -- maximizing the crust surface area, and allowing it height and girth. If you don't have one, you can use two shallower 9-inch cake pans or a bundt pan (but you'll lose that beautiful crust on the flip -- with a tube pan, you can lift the cake up and away without disturbing the crust).
You may by now be asking: Who is this genius Teddie? We don't know. Yet. This marks the first recipe in our series with an anonymous genius. Jean Hewitt didn't let on in the original article "Just Desserts" (the recipe was accompanied by little more than an equally mysterious one for "Lee's Marlborough Tart").
So if anyone knows the whereabouts of Teddie, could you please tell him -- or her -- the internet is looking for them? And also thank you, from all of us.
Adapted very slightly from The New York Times, Jean Hewitt, and Teddie
Butter for greasing pan
3 cups flour, plus more for dusting pan
1 1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups peeled, cored, and thickly sliced tart apples like Honeycrisp or Granny Smith
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup raisins
Vanilla ice cream (optional)
Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at kris[email protected].
Photos by James Ransom