Blue-Ribbon Apple Cake

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“From Cooks Illustrated: Finding a quick, simple cake with big apple flavor is a lot harder than it should be. We found that, more often than not, apple cakes are simply spice cakes studded with cubes of raw apple. Or they are as complicated as fine pastry. We wanted a simple, easy-to-make cake in which the sweet-tart flavor of the apples was the star of the show. Here’s what we discovered: Test Kitchen Discoveries The apples must be cooked before baking to bring out the best of their flavor and reduce the juices that would otherwise turn the cake mushy as they steam. Cooking the apples in butter and sugar until soft adds a deep, caramel flavor to the cake. Not any apple will do. Tart Granny Smith apples provide the brightest, strongest apple flavor and most toothsome texture. Many other varieties turned bland and mushy once baked. For the batter, we favor a simple sour cream-style cake above the rest. The crumb is tender and the slight tanginess of the sour cream cuts through the cake’s richness. Lots of recipes use Bundt pans or high-sided cake pans, but we found a low 9-inch cake pan yields the best ratio of cake to apple. Cooling the cake for five minutes before turning it out of the pan allows the caramel on the bottom of the pan time to harden just enough to stick to the apples, not the pan. "Granny Smiths are the best choice because they hold their shape nicely and are tart. Other apples that hold their shape when cooked, such as Cortlands, can also be used in this recipe. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream."”
1 9 inch pan

Ingredients Nutrition


  1. Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter 9-inch cake pan.
  2. For the Apples: Place butter in large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Once butter has stopped foaming, add sugar and stir to combine. Continue to cook until sugar turns dark brown (it should look like dark brown sugar), about 2 minutes, swirling pan occasionally. Add salt and apples and fold with spatula to combine. Cook, stirring often, until apples have softened slightly and juices are thickened and syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove pan from heat and spoon apples into prepared cake pan.
  3. For the Cake:.
  4. In small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup sour cream, egg, yolk, and vanilla until well combined.
  5. Place flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Use electric mixer on low speed for 15 seconds to blend. Add butter and remaining 1/4 cup sour cream and mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened, 1 to 2 minutes. Increase speed to medium and mix for 2 minutes. Add sour cream/egg mixture and beat on medium-high, scraping down sides of bowl, until batter is homogeneous and fluffy, about 1 minute.
  6. Spoon batter over apples and gently spread out to thin layer that covers apples. Bake until cake is dark golden brown, feels set, and cake tester comes out clean when inserted in center, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes.
  7. Place serving plate over top of pan and invert. Let cake sit inverted for about 1 minute without tapping or shaking pan. Cake will slowly detach itself. Once cake is on platter, gently remove pan. Serve warm (not hot) or at room temperature.

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