As we head into the beginning of the 2012 canning season, I’m trying to clear out some of jams, pickles and sauces I put up in 2011 (and if I’m being perfectly honest, there’s quite a lot from 2010 that I’m still working through too).
I know that for some of you, applesauce is one of the first things that you run out of. Around these parts, I struggle to move through it simply because I’m the only one who will touch it. It remains on my canning to-do list because I like to have it on hand. However, I still have half a dozen pints that need to be eaten and I know that apple season will be back before I know it. Time to take action.
That’s where my mom’s applesauce cake comes in. Throughout my childhood, she made it for potlucks, on those nights when my sister or I had a school success to celebrate or even just when a jar of applesauce had lingered too long in the fridge. The taste of the batter and I feel like I’m seven years old again.
This recipe has a murky origin story. It was printed in the newsletter that my grandmother’s chiropractor published once a month. We don’t where it was a cake of his own creation or if he cribbed it from a cookbook and then failed to credit it. All I really know is that it entered my mom’s looseleaf binder of recipes when she was pregnant with me and has stayed with us ever since.
Part of why this cake became such as staple is that it’s easy. I make it in my stand mixer, but really, it’s sort of unnecessary. My mom has never had a mixer beyond a hand held one, and never pulled it out for this cake. She just stirred the batter together with a wooden spoon and still, it never took more than five or six minutes from beginning to end.
Its other virtue is that it’s sweetened with maple syrup (though now that maple syrup prices have gotten so high, it’s more of an indulgence than it once way) and uses homemade oat flour (blitz rolled oats in the blender and you’ve got oat flour). In today’s culinary language, that means that it doesn’t include refined sugar and is gluten-free (provided you use oats that aren’t processed in facilities that also process grains with gluten). Not bad for a quick little cake.
You can either bake this cake in one large 9 x 13 pan or two smaller 8 x 8 pans. I like to divide it into two cakes, so that I can serve one and freeze the other for later. It also bakes more quickly in the smaller pans.
We rarely ate this cake frosted when my mom made it for the family (to sell her bare cake, she referenced the unfrosted cake that Tacy’s mother made in the Betsy-Tacy books. A huge fan of that series, my childhood self would happily accept the unfrosted slice when that comparison was made). However, for parties and events, it would be frosted with a homemade cream cheese frosting. Scott much prefers it frosted, but will accept an unfrosted square when there’s nothing else sweet in the apartment.
Do any of you have a family cake like this one? I’d love to hear your stories!
- 3/4 cup butter
- 3/4 cup real maple syrup
- 4 beaten eggs
- 2 cups unsweetened applesauce
- 2 cups oat flour*
- 2 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 3/4 c raisins optional
- 1 c chopped nuts optional
- 4 ounces butter
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter one 9 x 13 or two 8 x 8 cake pans.
- Cream together butter and maple syrup. Add eggs and applesauce and beat until well combined.
- In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Ad the dry ingredients to the wet in three batches, thoroughly combining after each addition.
- Fold in raisins and nuts if you are using them (I never do, but it's a nice option if you want a sturdier cake).
- Pour into prepared pan(s).
- For smaller pans, bake just 30 minutes. If using a single, larger pan, bake for 45-50 minutes.
- Combine butter and cream cheese in a medium bowl and beat with a hand mixer. Add powdered sugar and vanilla extract and beat to incorporate. I prefer a very lightly sweetened frosting, so I use just 1/4 cup powdered sugar in this frosting. For a more assertive sweetness, use 1/2 cup (or more!).
- Spread evenly on top of the cooled cake.
*Oat flour is easily made by grinding rolled oats in your blender or food processor. If you make too much, save it and incorporate it into your next baking project.