The Best Apple Cake Andrew Zimmern Has Ever Tasted
In all earnestness, I love living where we have extreme seasons, in Minnesota the dog days of August can be sweltering and if an Alberta clipper comes cruising in around January the daily high temperature can be in the single digits below zero for several days. Sandwiched in between is fall, or as I lovingly refer to it, Apple Season. I want to start a petition to rename the seasons Spring, Summer, Apple and Winter. That’s how much I love apples.
Over the years, I have posted plenty of apple recipes on this site and on my website. It’s been years since I tasted an apple dish that stopped me in my tracks and made me want to cry. That happened a month ago. When those moments occur I do the following:
- Find the person that cooked it, not easy at a pot luck
- Cajole and maneuver myself close enough to that person
- Pop the question, “may I have the recipe?”
Psychologically, I’ve been devastated on more than one occasion when I haven’t been able to collect the recipe. Most of the time people don’t like to give away their secrets and I am left to experiment in my kitchen and re-create it. My versions sometimes lead to something new, or something almost as good, but never quite the real deal.
Once, I was at Miss Myra’s in Birmingham Alabama, home of what many feel is the world’s best banana pudding, and I asked Myra for the recipe. She said sure right away and I felt like someone had just handed me a million dollars in small bills in a briefcase. Well, she came back after a few minutes of scribbling and handed me the recipe. I tucked it away and THANK THE LORD I looked at it 20 minutes later because I noticed a bunch of obvious steps were missing and then upon deeper inspection an ingredient or two! She was brilliant. Obviously, she’s asked for the recipe every day and that’s how she handles it. I wasn’t chuffed at all. I respected her and reminded myself to use the same trick when asked for a recipe I really didn’t want to share. Well, later that night, Myra’s daughter came up to me and asked me for the piece of paper. I handed it over and told her I knew her mom’s trick and we laughed really hard. Then she filled in all the missing pieces for me on the recipe and I make it all the time.
Anyway, more importantly this is the end of apple season, and the store is filled with so many great tart/sweet varietals perfect for baking. All the great Minnesota apples—like Sweet Tangos, Honeycrisps, Zestars and Sweet Sixteens—don’t hold as much appeal for me later in the season because I gorge on them from September through December. They are also not as great to bake with as they are to eat out of hand, but still, if you have some, use them. But I digress. I think I found the world’s greatest apple cake recipe. That’s my point.
My new friend Hope Becerra served this to me sitting in a Missouri deer camp called Lake Viking Ranch. I thought it was superb, maybe the best I had ever tasted.
I made some tweaks and adjustments. I think it’s without peer if you love sweet and apple-y crunchy insanity exploding in your mouth. That’s her original note in the recipe about how her grandmother would eat it hot with butter! I bet you’re excited now. I’ve made this a bunch over the last three weeks and added an indulgent option for you at the end, enjoy the last of the season before winter. It’s coming.
FRESH APPLE CAKE
2 eggs, beaten
4 cups apples, diced (use the sweetest, juiciest apples you can get)
1 cups sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup whole roasted pecan halves
Whisk all dry ingredients well before adding the wet ingredients. Add in the wet ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon. Mixture will be VERY thick. Bake in a 9x13 pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. I sprinkle a nice coating of cinnamon sugar on the top and bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes. Cake forms a "crust" on top. Best served warm with ice cream, whipped topping, caramel or just by itself! (My grandmother always served it with just butter on top, it's great!)
AZ Option: I like to take 3 cups of apple cider and 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar and reduce them together with a cinnamon stick, a few cloves and some caraway seeds, simmering to a thick syrup. Strain and cool. Before sprinkling this cake with the cinnamon sugar, I take about a half cup of the cooled thick syrup and swirl it into and on top of the batter right before it goes in the oven.