One thing I like about blogging is it makes me more aware of the seasons. Maybe it's part of just being more observant in general, but it's a good development, I think. The leaves in the last week have been poetry-inducing. I haven't written any poetry, of course, but maybe I can credit them for my baking blitz.
This cake is Autumn Incarnate. I still had Honeycrisp apples from our trip to Gordon Skagit Farms. This week, I made 2 apple cakes for Recovery Cafe, an apple pie for home, and this chai cake for a meeting this afternoon. #$&*! I've been going through flour and sugar like nobody's business. I'm not one of those folks who can't resist sweets. I frequently make cookies, cakes, or pies that have to be given away before they go stale. Not so with this cake. I haven't been able to leave it alone. I ate it for breakfast this morning, and now I'm eating it for lunch.
The scaffolding for this recipe is an Apple Raisin Cake from Gourmet, but I've completely mangled it beyond recognition. Same amount of eggs, flour, sugar, and oil. That's where the similarities end. I often do that with baked goods. I'm not a good enough baker to start completely from scratch, but if I've got a basic recipe, I can go from there. I've realized that, in life, I'm a tweaker more than a designer. I'd always prefer starting with something to the blank slate scenario. Even in high school, the mandate "Write a five page essay" was infinitely more terrifying than "Write a five page essay on __________."
You don't need to haul your mixer out for this cake--just a few bowls and a wooden spoon. And I didn't recommend a specific apple variety because I generally ignore what recipes call for and just use what I have. Red Delicious is never my choice for anything, but beyond that, you pretty much can't go wrong. And if you're not a spice lover, leave out the chai and you'll still end up with a delicious cake. You don't have to glaze it, either--you can leave it plain or dust with powdered sugar. See what I mean about tweaking? It's fun.
We celebrated Yancey's birthday with his mom last night--took the train downtown with the kids, bought a bunch of brussel sprouts at Pike Place (Yancey's obsessed with them), and had an ambrosial dinner at Lola. The most tender lamb I've ever had, braised escarole, garlic smashed potatoes. Yancey and I met on his 16th birthday, so today marks 20 years that we've known each other. Do you want to hear the story? The short version? Alright. Twist my arm.
We were sophomores at Bellingham High School, in different honor's English classes. Both classes crowded into a school bus together to drive down to Seattle and see Measure for Measure at the Rep. Yancey and I ended up sitting together. Nothing like bench seats to start or end a friendship. To be fair, I'd had my eye on Yancey for awhile, but we'd never had a real conversation. We were in leadership class together (hilarious!), but he was always too busy with his senior cheerleader girlfriend to notice me. Yes, cheerleaders were somehow eligible for leadership class. At least Yancey and I were in student government. (Not that I have any ire after all these years. Ha.)
So we talked the whole way down, sat apart at the play (I remember scouting the theater for him, seeing him sitting with other girls and hating them), and sat together on the way back. That's four hours of conversation. He told me about his 16th birthday party, how his family and some friends were going to the Black Angus for steak. My family had never been there, my Mom always maligned the place, but God. How I wanted to be invited. That didn't happen, but when I saw him the next morning at school, I could have sworn he emitted an "It- would -have-been-funner-with-you-there" vibe.
We have lots of anniversaries--our first kiss two years after the bus ride (yes, I waited through several more girlfriends), our wedding anniversary, our children's birthdays. I like this one the most, though, thinking about me in my Birkenstocks and him in his acid-washed jeans, wondering what the hell we talked about for four hours, and wondering what my life would have been like without that bus ride. Happy Birthday, babe. I'm glad I don't have to wait around for an invite to Black Angus anymore. I've got you all to myself now (though Loretta might beg to differ).
Chai Spice Apple Bundt Cake
If you don't have a bundt pan, I suppose you could try this in a 9x13...I happen to love my bundt pan, the way the cake slips out, how easy it is to cut, the circular shape. I often see them at thrift stores.
For chai spice mixture:
1 1/2 ts. ground ginger
1 ts. cinnamon
12 green cardamom pods
1/2 ts. fennel seeds
3 c. flour
1 ts. baking soda
1/2 ts. salt
2 ts. chai mixture
1 c. sugar
1 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil
2 Tb. brandy or dark rum
3 large or 4 medium apples, cut into 1/4" dice
1/2 c. dried cranberries
3 Tb. candied ginger, finely chopped
1 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped
2 Tb. flour
1 ts. chai mixture
3 Tb. strong brewed black tea (hot or cold)
1 c. sifted powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350. If you have a convection oven (I do. How I adore it.), bundt cakes are good things to use them on so the outside doesn't get a lot more done than the inside. If you don't have convection, just watch it carefully.
Butter and flour a bundt pan.
To make spice mixture, remove cardamom seeds from pods. You should be able to do this pretty easily with your finger. Combine all ingredients in a mortar, and, using a circular motion pressing against the sides, grind the spices together. You can also use a coffee grinder that is not used for coffee--i.e a spice grinder. Set aside.
For cake, mix flour, soda, salt, and 2 ts. of the chai mixture together in a medium bowl.
Toss apples, cranberries, candied ginger, and walnuts together in another bowl with 2 Tb. flour.
In a large bowl, mix sugars, vegetable oil, eggs, and brandy. Add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Add apple mixture and stir until just combined.
Spoon into bundt pan and bake for about 60 minutes (maybe longer, depending on your oven), or until an inserted skewer comes out with a few moist crumbs on it. Let cool in pan for 20 minutes, then turn out onto a plate.
For glaze, whisk chai, tea, and powdered sugar together. Spoon over cake after cake has cooled.