I recommend Teddie's

Some things I’ve learned since Mia’s come on the scene:

1. The following things I can do with one hand: Eat cereal. Unwrap popsicles. Put on shoes and socks. The following things I cannot: Pull my hair back into a ponytail that stays. Floss.

2. Cucumbers dissolve. When left to their own devices in the crisper drawer for six weeks, they dissolve.

3. I’ve learned what moms are for. You might think that, having had a mom for a few decades now, I’d have figured it out a long time ago. But until mine showed up just minutes after Mia was born and, for the next two weeks, left no meal uncooked, no pile of laundry unwashed, I had no idea. Not really. I’ve never needed my mother more than I did those first couple of weeks home. And not just for the steady supply of perfect scrambled eggs and clean underwear. It’s hard for me to put into words the kind of care and compassion I needed, and how she so quietly, carefully made sure that I got it. Suffice it to say that without her, Eli and I would have been very different parents in those early days. About a week into her stay, I heard my mother say to Eli that she was worried about being in the way. “Laurie, you are the way,” Eli said. Amen. It’s no wonder I cried when she left.

4. Breastfeeding: Not as straightforward as one might think. And that, I promise you, is all I will say about that.

5. It is very important to have friends who cook. Friends who do cook, I should say, who show up at your door with trays of meatballs, all manner of soups, one quiche for supper, and one for the freezer, too.

6. When the tiny creature who has come to live with you is three weeks old, it’s time to bake an apple cake. The simplest one you can find, preferably. It should also be delicious. I recommend Teddie’s.

The recipe for Teddie’s Apple Cake first appeared in a New York Times article by Jean Hewitt in 1973. Amanda Hesser published it again in the Times in 2007, and again when it made the cut for The Essential New York Times Cookbook that came out last year. The recipe is, of course, Teddie’s. And while we don’t know anything about this Teddie, not even a last name, one thing is clear: whoever Teddie was, Teddie knew her (his?) cake.

There is nothing surprising about this cake. Apple meets cinnamon, meets walnut, meets sugar, eggs, and flour. An obvious combination, if ever there was one. Classic is classic for a reason, though. Teddie must have gotten that. The cake is made with oil, not butter, which caught my attention because I like the texture of most oil-based cakes: the way the crumbs cling to each other only lightly, as if trying not to touch at all, how when you mash your fork with the slightest pressure into the last bits on the plate, they stick. In some ways, it’s a delicate cake, but thanks to so much apple and a craggy upper crust, it feels hearty, too.

Teddie’s cake is an everyday cake, which is to say that it’s simple enough that you don’t need a special occasion to make it. It’s icing-less, and not too sweet and, in this case, so packed with fruit, it’s practically health food. But my favorite thing about everyday cakes is that, almost without fail, they are also anytime cakes. This one is, for sure. Eat it for dessert with loosely whipped cream, for breakfast, for second breakfast, or for those unnamed meals between pages written, or phone calls returned, when a quick stroll through the kitchen is only civilized. Yes, when it’s time to bake an apple cake, I recommend Teddie’s.

Teddie’s Apple Cake
Adapted from The New York Times, November 4, 2007 (Originally published, September 30, 1973)

The original recipe is for a large amount of batter that bakes in a 9-inch tube pan. I shied away from that for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t have a tube pan. But moreover, tube cakes are huge. I’m all for everyday cake, but if I’m going to eat a cake every day (and, as we’ve also established, anytime), I need to be able to slice off a wedge every now and then that’s significantly smaller than the state of Texas. Plus, there are only two of us here – two cake eaters, anyway – and this cake would be a terrible thing to waste. If you’d prefer to make the original whopper of a tube cake, double this recipe, use 3 eggs instead of two, and increase the bake time to 1 hour and 15 minutes. The recipe here is for one 9-inch round cake. Finally, the original recipe calls for 1 cup of raisins, but I omitted them because I thought that they might make the cake too sweet. If you decide to include raisins, add them when you add the walnuts.

1½ c. flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ c. vegetable oil
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs
½ tsp. vanilla
2 c. peeled, cored, and thickly sliced apples (I used a combination of Jonagold and Cortland.)
Heaped ½ c. walnuts, chopped
1 Tbsp. Demerara sugar (optional)

Oil and flour a 9-inch round cake pan and heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Meanwhile, sift together the flour, salt, cinnamon, and baking soda in a medium bowl. After five minutes, add the eggs and then the vanilla to the oil and sugar, and continue beating until the mixture is creamy.

Add the dry ingredients into the sugar, egg, and oil mixture and stir by hand until just combined. Fold in the apple slices and walnuts. It will look like a lot of apple and not enough batter, but it all works out in the end.

Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, sprinkle with Demarara sugar if you'd like, and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan before turning out.

Serves 8-10.


koshercamembert said...

Hi Jess -- the cake looks good and it was great to see you this past weekend. I'm so glad that my soup fed your and Eli's bellies...and therefore little Mia's as well. I can't wait to see her grow up. Gayle

Luisa said...

So, uh. This is awkward. But, um, WHERE ARE MORE PICTURES OF YOUR ADORABLE CHILD? :) x

Lisa said...

Oh, yum! Jess, I'm so excited for another anytime cake, since your cinnamon snacking cake was such a delicious success. Also, I must see that beautiful tiny creature in person soon.

Kasey said...

I'm sure enjoying every minute. Apple cake calls!

Rachel G. said...

Look at you, baking and blogging with a newborn! Great to see you last week in shul. Mia is lovely, and you & Eli are clearly doing amazingly well. Enjoy, enjoy.

Anonymous said...

Oh, your words ring so true about the amazing quality your mom takes on when you yourself become a mom!!!
One more thing that is impossible to do one-handed: Buttering toast. Since I think of you everytime I butter toast, I thought you might appreciate that.
Best wishes to you and your new family.

Hana Itzhaki said...

I bet you can blog one handed...

I so enjoyed reading this post...I both laughed and cried...

...laughed at the part about tube pans and Texas, and cried at the part out the realization of the importance of Grandma, (or Nanna, as she is know know as at our home).

molly said...

1. I have been hard at work developing a deep and abiding love for this cookbook, mostly by working my way through the cookies section.
2. I've also been searching for a great apple cake.
3. Apparently I did not put 1 + 2 together. Thanks for doing the math on my behalf.
4. I have a box with your name on it across the room, awaiting my second hand to wrangle the packaging tape.
5. So good to see you back and in the swing, and with such magnificent little mug shots peeping out here and there. You know she's perfect. But I'm going to keep repeating it, anyway, ad nauseum.


Jen said...

I so agree with you on Teddie's cake and on mothers. I really enjoy your blog ad not only find you to be an entertaining writer but also someone who seems like a great cook, friend, mother, and daughter. An uncommon combination, I assure you.

momMe said...

One of the most awesome experiences a woman can have is seeing her daughter as a mother --- and I am truly grateful --- wishing you love and some extra moments of sleep.

Amanda :: Grace & Gusto said...

You are a phenomenal writer. I laughed, I cried, I wished for cake. Thank you.

And yes, I know exactly what you mean about cucumbers. :)

Rogue Unicorn said...

Oh God, cucumbers at the bottom of a crisper drawer *shudder*. We've all been there for one reason or another. I'm glad your reason is little Mia.
This cake looks great. Might even make it today.

Megan Gordon said...

Hey Jess! Wonderful, wonderful...I just did an apple cake on my blog, too. something in the air, perhaps. Or just that they're generally a cinch to throw together which, I imagine, is key for a new mom. So happy for you and the new addition. Sounds like things are going well. Always look forward to checking in...

Jess said...

Hi guys,

Thanks for your nice notes.

Gayle - Grow up? What? Nooooo!

Luisa - Right here, of course! xo.

Liiiisa! We miss you. Yes, you two tiny creatures must meet soon.

Kasey - So nice when apple cake calls, isn't it?

Thanks, Rachel. xo.

Anonymous - Aw, you think of me when buttering toast? Is it weird that I take that as a compliment? Thank you!

Thank you so much for your kind note, Hana.

Molly, hello, my friend. You're so sweet to think of us. Thank you.

Such a lovely thing to say, Jen. I appreciate it. (And I have to tell you, I did a double take when I read the word "mother" in your note. Still can't believe I get to be one...)

Hi, Mom. xo.

Thank you, Amanda!

Tiki! Hello, hello. The cake, yes! I think you'll like this one. xo.

Hi there, sweet Megan. 'Tis the season, right?

Happy weekend, folks! See you next week.

Sue/the view from great island said...

I loved this post, thank you for taking the time to write it. When my mother stayed with me after the birth of my first daughter it was like heaven. I can still remember vividly the watercress salad she made for me the day I got he from the hospital. That meal fed me in so many ways. Moms are the best.

Sara said...

Regarding flossing with one hand, one word: Plackers. :)

The apple cake looks delicious. Love the combination of apples and walnuts.

Rogue Unicorn said...

Made the cake this weekend. Loved it, as did my guests.

linda said...

you are gifted…
you are blessed…
& this cake looks lovely!

Nishta said...

so good to hear your voice, my dear! still you, just a little different (I like).

and all of your wisdom rings true. kisses to Mia.

julie Thrapp said...

The cake is delicious! My husband enjoys fruit desserts and LOVED this. I made it like you listed, in a 9 in cake pan w/o raisins. It was plenty sweet with the apples. We ate the entire cake once it cooled--i will make another one this week for my husband to take to work at his request. A perfect fall cake!

Biz said...

Jess, I had a few apples that were going last week and made this cake to use them up before the first days of succot. Then we tasted it, and I promptly bought more apples to make it again for company over these last days...and it's in the oven right now smelling delicious. Looking forward to trying your whole wheat version one of these days soon too... Chag sameach! - Becca