1) Based on questions and comments, you can skip the step of sautéing apples and instead macerate just 3 very thinly sliced apples (16-20 slices per apple) for a half-hour in 1-2 T sugar and a splash of lemon juice to soften them - the apples will bake up just fine, but the top doesn't look as nice in my opinion. I've added a new photo baked this way (on the copper background.) A non-baker friend wrote:
"No precooking of the apples, only own olive oil, don’t even own a baking pan of the right size and it STILL came out great. Also already 1/2 gone gotta go make another one."
2) In addition, I made it with Cup4Cup GF flour and it worked like a dream.
3) This cake freezes well. First wrap tightly in plastic, then in heavy duty aluminum foil. If you want to reheat - make sure to remove the plastic from underneath the foil. Yes, you could just wrap in foil, but it doesn't stay as fresh.
4) See comments for lots of flavor variations.
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, which is related to the Marion Burros cult plum cake.] —zahavah
For the apples
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)
margarine (or butter if making dairy)
For cake batter
demerara sugar (optional)
In This Recipe
Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan or springform, or an 8X8-inch 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 each apple 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.