Grandma’s Last Apple Cake

September 27, 2009
0 Ratings
  • Serves 2 or more
Author Notes

Grandma taught us how to make apple pie and how to eat clean the chicken off the bone. I remember her annual trips from Lido Beach to visit us in Dutchess County, NY, when the whole family would pile into the station wagon to spend an autumn Saturday morning picking Macs—Macouns and Macintoshes. All week, the kitchen exploded with Grandma’s cooking: Roast chicken with lots of garlic, candied apples and rustic-beyond-rustic apple pies. My sister and I were allowed to make our own galettes (no-one in my family knew that word back then) with leftover pastry scraps and apple pieces. Grandma’s signature touch: lemon pits in the pie. Cue grandma’s high pitch “that’s how you know it is home-made!”

Later, much later, I make what I know will be my final visit to Lido. By now, Grandma’s eyesight has completely deteriorated, but still I arrive to the smell of chicken legs and thighs baking in the oven. A pile of peeled and sliced apples sits on the counter. How did she do that? Somehow Grandma is up on the stepladder, but each Crisco bottle (and there are many) contains about a cup of cloudy oil bathing several peeled & smashed garlic cloves. “Abby—is there any oil with no garlic?” No there is not. I help measure out the oil and escape the kitchen, taking my pregnant belly for a last long Lido swim.
I return salty and a bit sad to the outside table set for two, pitcher of lemonade pits and pulp floating on top, and platter of chicken, and grandma’s signature salad (recipe to come). I am starving; the chicken is savory and the salad is garlicky and creamy. The cake’s brown sugar moistness and apples and cinnamon aroma overcomes my fear of botulism poisoning. Baby and I will be fine. I aim for a second and then a third piece—and the knife runs into something hard. I cut around—it’s a drumstick bone, perfectly cleaned of meat, baked right into the cake. Here’s the recipe. We always thought it came from great grandma Rosie and the shtetl, but the cake part is remarkably similar to “Quick Plain Cake 1” in The Settlement Cookbook. (I have Grandma’s 1938 edition).

What You'll Need
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil, garlic flavoring optional
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • a pile of crisp cooking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced not too thin
  • 1 chicken drumstick, to munch while cooking
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Grease and flour an 8" square pan
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl
  4. Mix together the wet ingredients in another bowl
  5. Just barely mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients
  6. Mix in as many apples as the batter can hold (~4-6 apples)
  7. (Optional) at some point drop the well-cleaned chicken bone into the batter by accident
  8. Scrape/pour batter into prepared pan and bake ~20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
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  • Bluejade
  • susan g
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  • mrslarkin
  • EarlyToBed
  • dymnyno

8 Reviews

Bluejade November 11, 2013
Great cake! I mixed together this recipe and the recipe for Heavenly Apple Cake. From that recipe and Lucinda Quinn's cookbook, I particularly liked the idea of soaking chopped up dates. I put about 3/4 cup of chopped dates in 1/2 cup coffee and 1/2 cup water. Then I microwaved this mix for 2 minutes and let sit while mixing everything else. I also sifted the baking powder and flour together. I added 1/4 cup white sugar. I coarsely chopped the apples to a total of 3 cups. Once the wet and dry items were combined, I added the dates with liquid. Total cooking time was more like 35 minutes. This easily serves 6. Very tasty, light and pleasant apple taste. Easy too.
susan G. July 16, 2011
My family remembered my grandmother's apple cake, but nobody knew how to make it. Maybe this is it! Right history... Thanks for sharing your grandmother. I'm charmed!
EarlyToBed July 20, 2011
Thanks susan g-- another apple cake recipe was found in the family archives--I'll post that one also when apple season rolls around again.
susan G. July 20, 2011
I'm looking forward to it!
mrslarkin September 13, 2010
Can't wait to make this. Will have a bevy of apples in a few weeks.
EarlyToBed May 15, 2010
Thanks for your comments!! More apple cake around the corner...
dymnyno January 24, 2010
What a sweet story! When apple season rolls aroung this summer I am going to make your cake. The sentiments are the best spice.
HilaryGar November 12, 2009
I decided to make this based on the beautifully written introduction by Early to Bed. It is simple and easy and excellent. My most discerning palettes (the 5 and 7 year olds) loved it and ate it for dessert and breakfast the next day and amazingly "it tastes just as good as last night" and "I like it cold" were their inspired remarks. I think that my only tweak would be that smaller, lets say cubes, cuts of apple would allow more to be incorporated. I also might have put a HEAPING teaspoon of cinnamon in the cake as well as a scosh more vanilla (penzeys double strength). I am going to try it as a persimmon cake tonight as I have so many persimmons... Thanks so much for a great recipe and memory.