I know it’s spring. I know that rhubarb is popping up around town and the last thing you want to hear about is apples. But I’ve got to get this one out before it completely slips away, because this is the cake I want to eat every day. The original recipe came from Dorie Greenspan and took a few tweaks to get to the place I really wanted it to be. We served it at our apple harvest dinner in November, but it took me until the final night of the dinner before it was just right. And by just right I mean the cake I’ve had in my mind for years now, with the hopes of one day discovering (thank you Dorie, for getting me so close). It has a crispy, caramelized crust and a custardy, pancake-like inside that’s held together by giant chunks of sweet apples. We had it on the menu at Delancey for a month or so, with a dark vanilla bean caramel and a healthy sprinkling of Maldon salt, and it was a bit dangerous having it around all the time. It wasn’t our biggest seller, I’m assuming because it shared the menu with some of my more popular citrus desserts. But that secretly made me so happy, since it meant there was commonly a slice left over for me at the end of the night. And now that we’re switching over to rhubarb shortcakes, I miss that little cake. But the good news is that it’s a batter that can literally be whipped together in under 15 minutes.
It bakes for a while though, about an hour to develop that crust and slightly dry out the custardy interior.
Probably the hardest part is waiting for it to cool, since it has this habit of falling completely apart if you un-mold it too soon.
APPLE CUSTARD CAKE:
3.75 oz AP flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 lb 2 oz chopped apples
2 large eggs, room temperature
6 oz sugar
1/2 vanilla bean
3 TBSP apple cider
4 oz unsalted butter, melted
unrefined sugar for sprinkling
– Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter an 8-inch springform cake pan and line it with parchment paper. Sprinkle unrefined sugar on the sides of the pan and tap it around.
– Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.
– In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Rub the vanilla bean seeds into the sugar and add to the eggs. Whisk until well blended. Whisk in the apple cider. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s even. Sprinkle the top of the cake with unrefined sugar.
– Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 30 minutes.
– Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature. If you want to remove the cake from the bottom of the springform pan, wait until the cake is almost cooled, then run a long spatula between the cake and the pan, cover the top of the cake with a piece of parchment, and invert it onto a rack. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake over onto a serving dish.
– Eat with a generous dusting of Maldon sea salt. And caramel and whipped cream if you’ve got it.