Happy Halloween! It’s ok to still gorge yourself on fun-size chocolate bars, I won’t tell. But after the kiddies go home, treat yourself to a more adult delight – like this Calvados apple cake. Two years ago, I threw a Halloween party as a thinly-veiled vehicle to concoct pumpkin cupcakes and spiked apple cider. It was a dismal turnout and possibly the worst Halloween party in all of history. Those 3 of you who came, thanks for the support. But for us merry four, or five, the spikiness of the cider sure made it seem more warm and cheerful at the time. Especially for me, as I’m pretty sure I went through a quart of liquid gold nursing my sorrow until the first guest showed up. The secret wasn’t the slow simmer of local-pressed autumnal cider, or the blood orange studded with cloves thrown into the pot with cinnamon sticks and crystallized ginger slices. No, it was definitely the spicy sweet Calvados, the French apple brandy, that you top off the mug of cider with at the end. So now, 2 years later, I have the half empty bottle of delicious apple brandy still sitting in my cabinet…and with the weather turning back to autumn, it seems the perfect time to put it to good use.
The hardest part of this recipe is preparing the apples (I used Granny Smith) and layering them for a beautiful effect. However, I think you’ll find that filling your house with the smell of cinnamon and apples is worth the time. I made some changes, like doubling the Calvados (hey, I’ve got to use it up!), cutting the batter’s sugar to 1/2 cup and adding some nutmeg , but the original recipe is below. This cake is pretty dense so it is best served warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
French Apple Cake
Bon Appetit, October 1992, Ruth Gardner-Loew
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 and 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1/3 cup water
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 large apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons Calvados, applejack or other brandy
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and lightly sugar a 9-inch-diameter cake pan. Melt the 1/4 cup butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in 3/4 cup of the sugar, water and cinnamon and bring to boil. Add apples and cook until apples are just tender, turning frequently, about 15 minutes. Remove apples, using slotted spoon, and let cool. Arrange decoratively in bottom of pan. Continue boiling liquid in skillet until thick and syrupy. Pour over apples.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt into small bowl. Whisk remaining 1 cup of the sugar, egg yolks, eggs, Calvados and vanilla in large bowl to blend. Gently stir in dry ingredients. Fold in the 1/2 cup melted butter. Pour batter over apples in pan. Bake until toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cake in pan 5 minutes. Run small sharp knife around side of pan to loosen cake. Turn cake out onto platter.