If you recall, I spent last fall on the hunt for an apple cake recipe to call my own. I tried a French apple cake and served it with caramel sauce; I made another that was packed with apples and loaded with an obscene amount of crumb topping. And this September, as soon as the stone fruits and berries gave way to apples at the grocery store, I picked up right where I left off in my quest for apple cake perfection. This year I was thinking walnuts and cinnamon, butter and maple.
My persistence is paying off–this cake’s a keeper. It’s a lightly spiced tube cake, with a moist, tender crumb. You hit an apple chunk in most bites, a walnut in every other. All of that goodness is sealed in with a maple and brown butter glaze that is the literal and figurative icing on the cake. It’s decadent but homey, easy yet impressive, and definitely a cake I’ll make over and over.
Haul out your mixer and a tube pan, preheat the oven, and let’s bake a cake! You’ll need your basic dry goods and butter, plus cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla, buttermilk, eggs, chopped walnuts, and a few apples.
Cream your butter with white and brown sugar, beat in the vanilla extract and eggs. Mix in the dry ingredients in 3 additions, between a couple glugs of buttermilk. The batter will be thick, rich, delicious. Fold in the diced apple and chopped walnuts and spread it into the pan.
Bake the cake until a tester comes out clean, then, difficult as it is, let the cake cool. We’re going all out on this one and glaze doesn’t stick to a hot cake.
I’ve got to tell you, this glaze is pretty special. It’s brown butter whisked with maple syrup, powdered sugar, and a pinch of salt–just sweet enough, nutty, rich and maple-y. It’s exactly the glaze I want slathered on every long john doughnut I eat for the rest of my life and now, quite possibly, every apple cake too.
Pour the glaze over the top of the cake, letting it drip over the sides. My glaze drips never come out looking as picture-perfect as I hope but I suspect I’ll get it right at some point; I’ll be making this cake often.
- 3 c. All-Purpose Flour + a little more for preparing the pan
- 2 tsp. Baking Powder
- ½ tsp. Baking Soda
- ½ tsp. Salt
- 1 tsp. ground Cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. freshly grated Nutmeg
- 1 c. (2 sticks) Unsalted Butter, softened + a little more for preparing the pan
- 1 c. Sugar
- ¾ c. Light Brown Sugar
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 4 Eggs
- ⅔ c. Buttermilk
- 3 large Apples, peeled and diced (I used Honeycrisp)
- 1 c. chopped Walnuts
For the Glaze:
- 4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) Unsalted Butter, cut into a few pieces
- ¼ c. Pure Maple Syrup (the darker, the better)
- ¼ tsp. Salt
- about 1 c. Powdered Sugar, sifted
- Preheat the oven to 350°. Grease and flour a tube pan.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
- Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well incorporated. Lower the speed and mix in about ⅓ of the flour mixture, followed by ½ of the buttermilk. Repeat and finish with the remaining flour, mixing until just combined. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the diced apples and walnuts.
- Evenly spread the cake batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, 1 hour- 1 hour and 10 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then slip the outer ring off. Cool another 30 minutes or so then remove the center of the pan and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
- When the cake is nearly cool, make the glaze. Place the butter pieces in a small, light colored, sauce or sauté pan. Melt and brown over medium heat, whisking often, until the butter is golden brown and nutty-smelling. Transfer to a small bowl. Whisk in the maple syrup and salt. Continue to whisk as you sift in enough powdered sugar, to make a thick but pourable glaze. Pour the glaze over the cake, letting it run down the sides.
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