Philacatessen | Apple Crumb Cake

(Photo by Keri White)

This cake came together one Sunday morning, the result of some tired-looking apples staring me in the face. I was loath to waste them, but the fruit had gone past its prime freshness for snacking. It was begging to be made into something tasty in which crispness was not a concern.

I was noodling around Facebook and stumbled upon a “no recipe coffee cake” from Food52. I looked at the “no recipe” recipe and decided to use it as a framework. The results were excellent, and I will definitely use the technique for future experimentation — jam filling? Cornmeal crumb? Nuts? Yes, yes, yes!

The cake was wonderful with coffee for breakfast and did double duty for dessert that night topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Apple Crumb Cake

Makes 1 9-inch cake

A note on the flour: I used a bit of oat flour in both the cake and the crumb, mainly as a way to use this oddball ingredient that landed in my pantry a while back when my daughter hosted a friend who was temporarily gluten-free. It gave the cake a wholesome flavor without impacting the texture or making it overly heavy, which many whole-grain flours can do.

If you feel the urge to use a whole wheat, oat or coconut flour for part of this cake, go for it. But you can also go with straightforward all-purpose flour, and the results will be wonderful.

A note on the sugar: I used Demerara sugar (a granulated brown sugar — think “sugar in the raw”) for both the crumb and the batter, because, again, I had a surplus on hand. You can use white or brown or a combo of both instead, depending on what your pantry contains. 

Make the crumb:

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ⅔ cup oat flour
  • 1 cup Demerara sugar

Mix all the ingredients in a medium bowl to create a consistency of wet sand. 

Place this in the refrigerator and proceed with the batter.

Make the batter:

  • ⅔ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup Demerara sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅔ cups whole milk
  • 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
  • ⅓ cup oat flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves

Cream the butter and sugar.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and then add the milk.

In a small bowl, mix the dry ingredients, and gradually add them to the butter mixture; beat until well blended.

Prepare the filling:

  • 2 apples
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch

Peel, core and slice the apples thinly. Place them in a shallow bowl

Toss with cornstarch (this helps absorb some of the excess moisture and keeps the cake from being too “wet” — a great tip I learned from this non-recipe recipe.)

Assemble the cake:

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-inch springform pan with parchment and grease it well.

Pour a little more than half the batter into the bottom of the pan. 

Place the apples in a single layer on top of the batter.

Pour the remaining batter onto the apples and smooth the top.

Take the crumb mixture from the refrigerator and, using your hands, scrunch bits of it onto the cake. Be sure to cover the top evenly.

Bake the cake for 50 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes, run a knife around the rim of the cake and remove it from the pan.


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