Sunken apple and honey cake

Hi all! I’m Sarah. I will likely be contributing almost exclusively baked good recipes to this blog. As Lindsey once put it, it’s a miracle I don’t have a million cavities and diabetes – I adore sweets.

Ironically, my first contribution to this blog will be somewhat centered on not eating food. Don’t worry – there’s cake at the end!

Last Tuesday and Wednesday were part of the Jewish “holiday” Yom Kippur. For those who aren’t well-versed on their Jewish holy days, Yom Kippur is arguably the most important Jewish holy day of the year, as the “Day of Atonement” – or at least, that’s what Wikipedia informed me on Tuesday afternoon as I contemplated fasting for this holiday.

The previous week, a friend had invited me to join in a “breaking the Yom Kippur fast” party. As a new re-transplant to the Boston area, I’m always eager to meet new people. I’m also half-Jewish, in a sense: my father’s family is Jewish, although I wasn’t raised with any religious upbringing. In the last year, I’ve also seen different forms of fasting across religions, from Judaism to Greek Orthodoxy to Islam; its commonality raised my curiosity about fasting’s value. To fully appreciate the “breaking of the fast” experience, along with the above ruminations, I came to the decision to observe the fast for Yom Kippur.

What does this mean? Different people observe different levels of the fast – I went with the “no food or water” variety, because if I was going to do it, I was really going to do it.

In hindsight, I’m not sure if I really accomplished what I was looking for – I think that, when paired with the space and time for quiet reflection during the day, it may contribute to the goals of the Day of Atonement or similar days in other religions. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel I could miss any of the commitments I’d made for that day, and between crew practice and class, there wasn’t much time for any reflection – it mostly just made me grumpy. On the plus side, breaking the fast was such a wonderful experience – in this case, absence really did make the heart grow fonder (SO fond).

To celebrate, I made a lazy version of Smitten Kitchen’s Sunken Apple and Honey Cake. At some point I may acquire additional tools and become a slightly less lazy baker, but for now, if something asks for whipped egg whites, I’m probably going to ignore it. The cake’s crumb definitely didn’t seem to be affected, and it rose easily to cover the apples. My one caution is that, in waiting for the cake to attain a lovely golden color, the edges ended up a bit dry. Depending on your cake preferences, I would either take it out a bit early (3-5 minutes should be fine), or make sure to concentrate your honey glazing to the outside edges. Enjoy!

Sunken Apple and Honey Cake

This recipe is from Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen – one of my favorite food blogs of all time. I made a few tweaks, which I’ve noted, but the original recipe can be found here.

Topping
4 tiny-to-small apples, halved, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Batter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (125 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey (any variety you like to eat — or whatever is cheapest at the grocery store)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated — or not, if you’re lazy like me **BUT make sure you take them out ahead of time so they can come to room temperature!
2 good pinches of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Glaze
1/4 cup honey
A good pinch of sea salt

Heat oven: To 350°F. Coat a 9-inch (or 10-inch) cake pan with butter or a nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper (or just butter it really liberally).

First, place peeled, halved and cored apples cut-side-down on a cutting board. Use a knife to create parallel thin slices, but only cut halfway through each apple so that the apples stay intact. I succeeded approximately 1/4 of the time – but it made the apple placement easier in the end, so REALLY don’t worry about it. Then toss apples with lemon juice and 2 tablespoon granulated sugar.

Next, make the cake batter. Beat butter and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar together in a bowl with electric beaters until fluffy. Add honey and beat until combined. Add vanilla and eggs, beating until just combined (this is where the room temp eggs are really crucial – if they’re too cold, they’ll make the butter solidify and you won’t get a smooth consistency. Nothing tragic, but it may have a slight effect on the texture). Sprinkle salt and baking powder over cake batter, and mix just until they disappear. Add flour, half at a time, mixing only until combined.

If you were to do the egg whites separately: only add the yolks above. At this point, whip the whites until they’re stiff, then fold in in 3 to 4 additions – see the full Smitten recipe linked above for more details.

Spread cake batter in prepared cake pan, smoothing the top. Arrange apple halves facedown over the cake batter. No need to press the apples into the batter. You can pour any extra lemon juice and sugar in the bowl over the apples.

batter pre-apples

Bake cake: 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean (if you’re using the 10 inch pan, it will be closer to 30 min). Let rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then cut around the cake to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan at all, and unhinge the sides. Let cake cool completely.

the finished product!

Somewhat just before serving, to give the cake a last kick of sweetness and moisture: Warm 1/4 cup honey and a good pinch of sea salt until it liquefies to the point where it makes a thin glaze — this will take less than 30 seconds. Brush honey-salt mixture over cooled cake.

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