Ah, September! It’s the month that marks the end of summer with the onset of crisp, cooler weather. Leaves start to make the transition from green to an array of vibrant jewel tones. Roadside stands replace the bins of green beans and heirloom tomatoes with ones containing Macintosh apples and sweet sugar pumpkins.
Well, that stuff doesn’t really happen here, but it does occur in many other places across the U.S., and of that I am very, very, jealous.
The other day, I was on the phone with my mom, who lives back east. The inevitable subject of weather came up: “Last night the temperatures dipped down into the low 60s–or maybe it was even the high 50s!” she said. “We slept with the windows open so that a cool breeze could come in, and your father even needed an extra blanket at one point. It was just so nice and refreshing and–”
O.K. mom, I get it. Your weather is awesome. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go turn the air conditioning up. We just hit triple digits…..again.
Yes, the grass is always greener. Come March, there is nothing I love to do more than to sit out by the pool and call my friends who live in Minnesota and Vermont just to ask them what they are doing on “this fine spring day” (they usually grumble something about shoveling snow.) But during the fall, all this east coast born-and-raised girl really wants to do is jump into a pile of freshly raked leaves and then warm up with some hot spiced cider. I absolutely love the fall season and all of the sites, smells, and tastes that come with it.
We have one apple orchard that I know of in Las Vegas, but it’s a good thirty miles away. Our version of “pumpkin patches” can be found roped off in the parking lots of various Targets and Home Depots throughout the city, complete with trucked-in bales of hay, fake Indian corn, and the sorriest excuses for scarecrows that I have ever seen. Thanks, but I’ll pass.
O.K., so maybe I can’t get all of the sites of fall, but I can still get the smells and tastes. Because I love sweets made from apples, pumpkins, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and maple, I become a baking machine from September through the end of the year. The house constantly smells like cinnamon, and all of Eric’s coworkers gain about 10 pounds.
My first venture of 2009, this moist spiced apple cake, is bananas (B-A-N-A-N-A-S!) In the even that you’re not up on Rachel Zoe/Gwen Stefani slang, bananas is a good thing. After I took one bite, I knew that it was a keeper. Now, this might have been because I have been on a no bread-no sugar-no alcohol-no fun diet, and yesterday was my weekly day off, so any dessert would have tasted amazing, but I took another diet-breaking bite this morning, and I still felt the same way. I might have to take just one more diet-breaking bite tonight, just to verify. You never can be too careful.
While the cake itself looks rather ordinary, the maple-apple-spice combination is one that is quintessentially autumn–just what I needed. The grated apples in the batter keep it moist along with the glaze that soaks into the warm cake. Here are a few extra tips for making this seasonal spiced cake:
- Whenever I bake something that uses grated apples, I do not peel them. I find that it doesn’t really make a difference in the end, and it eliminates a step. Feel free to do it either way!
- When you squeeze out the excess juice from the apples, don’t throw it away. It actually makes really delicious apple juice–sip on it while you finish the recipe.
- This cake is very moist, so it will keep, tightly wrapped in plastic, for 3-4 days at room temperature.
- You can opt to omit the maple glaze as this cake is still moist and sweet without it, but I love anything with a glaze, and like I said, the maple-apple-spice combination tastes just like Fall.
- Feel free to stir some lightly toasted chopped walnuts, pecans, or hazelnuts into the batter prior to baking. Chopped cranberries, or rum-soaked golden raisins would also make a nice addition.
Maple-Glazed Apple Spice Cake
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
2 pounds tart apples, cored and grated
12 ounces unsalted butter, softened
1 cup golden brown sugar, packed
1 cup sugar
Zest of one orange
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the maple glaze
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup golden brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon maple extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
Prepare the cake: Preheat the oven to 325F degrees. Spray a non-stick 12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick baking spray.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and all of the spices into a medium bowl. Squeeze the excess juice from the grated apples.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, sugar and orange zest at medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Mix in the vanilla.
Beat in the flour mixture on low speed until well incorporated. Measure out 2 1/2 cups of the grated apples and mix them into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with an offset spatula.
Bake the cake for 1 hour, or until a cake tester inserted into the center emerges clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then invert onto a rack set over foil.
Prepare the glaze while the cake bakes: Combine all of the glaze ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and stir constantly for 1 minute. Remove the glaze from the heat.
Using a toothpick or a small skewer, pierce holes all over the top of the warm cake. Pour the glaze over the top, allowing it to be absorbed into the holes for 30 minutes. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.