I know what you’re thinking: that couldn’t possibly be a photo of an apple cake. Especially not an apple cake that looks so strikingly similar to a certain Teddie’s Apple Cake that I described to you not one week ago. What can I say? That cake and I weren’t through.

It’s nothing new. I’ve never been good at leaving well enough alone. One day last week, I spent so much time penning over a “1” that looked suspiciously seven-ish on an outgoing piece of mail that I had to tear up the envelope and start over. And back in September, I couldn’t help but swoop down with my spatula to smooth a tiny blip in the frosting on my father’s birthday cake, thereby creating a new tiny blip, which I fixed, but then blip, fixed, but then blip, and so on, until I had resurfaced the entire thing. I’m working on it. At least I was. But then along came a cake that confirms what I’ve always suspected: sometimes “well enough,” even very, very well enough, could be, should be better.

My friend, Molly, came over for some baby squishing the day that I first made Teddie’s. I had prepared enough batter to fill a giant tube pan, but since I don’t own a tube pan, I had divided it into two 9-inch cake pans, which meant that I had an extra cake parked on my counter when Molly arrived. We ate from the first, and she took the second cake home to serve at a dinner party that evening. I had told her about my niggly plans for a browner, wheatier Teddie’s, and the next morning, I got an e-mail. The cake had been a hit:

if you improve upon it in the ways you were saying, i think it will be unstoppable. an apple cake to take over the world.

Friends, meet your new world leader.

Everything I told you about last week’s Teddie’s is true of this week’s too, only it’s darker, on account of the brown sugar, heartier, on account of the whole wheat, and bolder by the degree of an additional half a teaspoon each vanilla and cinnamon. The whole wheat flour is on its best behavior, here. Like in these cookies and this snacking cake, it does its thing quietly, adding a nutty warmth to the cake without weighing the whole thing down. Meanwhile, the brown sugar makes the cake taste rounder, fuller, richer, as if you’ve sneaked an invisible something caramelized into the batter. There’s an earthy sweetness to this version, and I like that a lot.

So, about last week’s cake: P.S. – Make this one, too.

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

1 c. whole wheat flour
½ c. all purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. baking soda
¾ c. vegetable oil
1 lightly packed c. dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 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. Demarara sugar (optional)

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

Dump the packed brown sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer and unpack it with a fork. Add the oil, and use the fork to moisten all of the sugar. (If you skip these first steps, the brown sugar will get pressed up against the sides of the bowl instead of mixing with the oil.) Beat the oil and sugar together in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Meanwhile, sift together the flours, 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 about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan before turning out.

Serves 8-10.


Molly said...

It's like when Aretha Franklin covered Otis Redding's "Respect." Everyone could agree his song was terrific, but her little tweaks made it a classic.

Who knew, dayenu, a perfect parve cake could reach even higher heights?

Molly said...

World domination, ho!

Clarice said...

This was a fun apple cake trail to follow! I'm recently enjoying more whole wheat, too. It's good to "hear" your voice again, and I'm glad you are doing well.

gluttonforlife said...

Suzi sent me your way, and I'm so glad to read you. Your story is inspiring and your style so comfortable and graceful. And this cake—I'll probably sub in cardamom, coconut oil and some honey, but it sounds divine.

Rosiecat said...

Mmm, this sounds like my kind of cake: dessert, but wholesomely done. Yum! I could go for a slice right now.

Hana Itzhaki said...

I admit, as much as I enjoyed your post, I didn't make Teddie's apple cake...but I'll be sure to make Jess's Teddie's cake this week as my fruit dessert for Shabbat...maybe throw some fresh seasonal cranberries on top?

Christie said...

Looks delicious! I love it when desserts use whole wheat flour - makes me feel like I could eat it for breakfast.

kickpleat said...

Good god yes!!

linda said...

i am onboard with this one!

&…who wouldn't want to "squish" mia…she is a magnificent looking baby!

J said...

I think iterative design is often a sign of good quality. I feel the fact that you care enough to keep making tweaks and fixes and experiments speaks most highly of you.

Were recipes to be monolithic in their assembly, left unopen for interpretation, I rather fear life would degrade into something dreadfully dull. From one perspective: it's the osmosis of tips and tricks between cooks and evolution of ingredients that has ensured the survival and flourishing of our species.

My take: add the sweet heat of some candied ginger or some tart cranberries.

I think it's absolutely lovely. A sure way to get a cake into heart is to make it "browner," so whole wheat flour and dark sugar get two thumbs up from me.

Holly said...

Dear Jess,

I found you through the Awesome Molly of Season to Taste fame, and I love, love, love your blog. Your writing is entertaining and perfect in grammar/readability and your backstory is inspiring, to say the least.

Further proof that I am now a Groupie: I'm not a baker, but your description of Teddie's cake prompted me to make it, and I even blogged about it.

I've tried both versions, now, and though I may be castigated on your comment roll, I like the first and un-heart-healthy all-purpose flour version better. Sorry. But I do like the idea of upping the vanilla to a full tsp and will do it in the first version from now on.

Bottom line - a simply delicious cake and my only critique is that you don't post every day. ;)

Finally, as a new mom myself I offer you the heartiest and heartfelt congrats. Mia is scrumptious!

~ Holly

sonya said...

I love that you posted about apple cake twice in a row! And that you continue to tweak to make it better+better (like a bionic cake). As it happens, I made a friend's recipe the other day that is very similar to this version of yours (using whole wheat), except I substituted maple syrup + maple sugar for the sugar. Had it as a breakfast cake, which was lovely.

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic said...

Please let the cake know that if it wants to conquer Brisbane, I'll pick it up from the airport myself ;)

Hana Itzhaki said...

I did indeed make this cake as my honorary fruit dessert last Shabbat and took it as a gift to our hostess. I just couldn't bear parting with it and made another one last night to enjoy for the rest of the week. I love Jess's Teddies but have dubbed the now infamous apple cake, "Caramel Apple Snack Cake"on account of my cleaning the batter bowel both times with a few remaining apple slices as if it were actual caramel.

Jess said...

Hi guys. Sorry to leave you hanging. Busy, busy week!

Oh my gosh, Molly, does that make me Aretha?! Awesome.

Molly - I hereby nominate your squash salad for second-in-command.

Thanks, Clarice. I'm glad to be back here more often now.

Hello, gluttonforlife, and welcome! Thanks to Suzi for pointing you here, and thanks to you for your very kind words.

Hey, Rosiecat. I'd like a slice now, too. (Unfortunately, as of yesterday afternoon, the latest Jess's Teddie's is no more.)

Hana - I love the idea of adding cranberries to the mix. Maybe I'll try that for Thanksgiving weekend.

Ah, Christie, you can eat it for breakfast... and you should!

kickpleat - Yes, indeed!

Thanks, Linda. Yes, she is the squishiest. Love that girl.

Hello, J. Thanks for your kind words, and for your thoughts on recipe interpretation. As for your take: Candied ginger! That's a great idea!

Thank you so much, Holly! And no apology necessary. The original Teddie's is a very fine cake, indeed. I added the whole wheat flour not for health reasons, but because I prefer its flavor and texture in this cake. If you prefer the white flour version, go for it!

A bionic cake! Love it, Sonya. I just took a peek at your beautiful apple cake over on your blog. Maple - yes! I was just saying to Eli a couple of days ago that maple is the phantom flavor in this cake. Some further tweakage may be in order...

Amanda, your comment made me laugh out loud. Thanks for that!

Hi, Hana. It sounds like you're enjoying this cake as much as I am. I'm so glad.

sonya said...

Thanks, Jess! I'm sure you'll like the maple tweakage.

Allison said...

I'm about to make this cake for the third time in a week and a half (though this time round, I'm trying it with pears, and definitely underbaking it: that pudding-ey part is the best). At that rate, I probably shouldn't be grateful that this recipe has ever happened to me, but I so am.

amanda said...

I saw this recipe linked from Orangette this morning while on a break from teaching, and sitting in the library, I knew just then we'd have it for an afternoon snack. So now it is halfway through baking and the heat from the oven is keeping the kitchen warm, and consequently me, and the smell wafting through the air is wonderful. Can't wait till it is ready.

Jess said...

Allison - A belated hello, and thank you for your note! I love the idea of trying it with pears. ( And along with those pears, I wonder if a little bit of ginger might be nice... Hmmmm...)

Amanda - Thanks to Molly for sending you my way, and to you for sharing your cake-in-the-oven kitchen. I can't think of a cake in the oven that doesn't make a kitchen smell like a million bucks, but there's something about the aroma of this particular cake that's even better than that - like two million bucks, maybe! I hope you enjoyed it.

Carolina said...

If you put a crossbar through the 7, as they do in Europe, you won't have that problem again. The cake, though, looks worth all the re-doings you did.

Isabel said...

Dear Jess, do you think the recipe would hold up as muffins? Or do you perhaps have suggestions/warnings/guidance about such a conversion? Thanks!

Jess said...

Hi, Isabel. You know, I can't see why not. There's only one way to find out, right? You'll probably have to cut the apples into smaller pieces, and you'll definitely want to reduce the baking time. I would start checking at 20-25 minutes. You might want to try baking the recipe as is (in a cake pan) before going the muffin route, just to get a sense for the texture. If you do make muffins, please do let us know how they turn out!

And Caroline, hello! Sorry I missed your note. Yes, this cake was worth the do-overs, for sure.

Jen Marie said...

Jess, this is a lovely, earthy, soul-satisfying treat, of which I have already nibbled four pieces in only a couple hours. From the batter (which is heavenly), to the smell in the kitchen (like a warm blanket), and the finished product, it really is a winner.

I also meandered over here from Orangette, and I will definitely be back. Your writing is soulful, funny and engaging.

Jess said...

So glad you're enjoying the cake, Jen. You're right -- it really is a Total Cake Experience. I enjoy the making and the baking of it (almost) as much as the eating. Thank you for your kind words about my writing. I appreciate it.

Devon said...

Hello! Found my way here via Orangette and immediately departed my house on Saturday to buy some apples for the cake. I just ate my third piece this evening after work and it was perfect. Thank you for posting a simple cake that was easy to make and really, really hits the spot. Made my weekend.

Ena said...

I also found you via Orangette and this cake was gone in a day. Everyone loved it, it's one of the best apple cakes I've ever made or tasted. You're right, the whole wheat flour is on its best behaviour here. I'm going to cut the sugar down a bit next time, though. Your blog is lovely.

Cassady Walters said...

Perfect end to a lovely fall weekend with this cake! Thank you!