On occasion in this space, I have mentioned the inspiration for The Fountain Avenue Kitchen–my maternal grandmother, Gladys Langford. Amazing aromas continuously wafted from her narrow kitchen, but it was her spunk and zest for life that made people want to sit down in that cozy space and stay a while.
Day in and day out, cooking was my grandmother’s way of caring for those around her. Her joy was palpable as she provided the meals that brought family and friends together. After a full day’s work, she filled empty stomachs and, in the process, nourished her own soul.
After my grandmother died, I realized that memories really do keep our loved ones alive. So often, these memories have something to do with food.
When I stir a hearty tomato sauce with my grandmother’s old wooden spoon, I think of all the meals she lovingly touched with that spoon. I also have other memories—like spilling a full plate of spaghetti on my grandparents’ brand new, bright green carpet. I cried, but my grandmother showed no anger. We cleaned it up and, remarkably, it left no stain. I still chuckle every time I think of that green carpet.
When I bake the following recipe–her family-favorite apple cake–I imagine her deftly paring the apples in a way I still cannot manage. Somewhere along the way, I decided to simply leave the skin on.
As a newlywed, this was my go-to dessert. I frequently whipped it up after work, as the ingredients are easy to have on hand. This simple cake was also the first baked good I successfully converted to gluten-free (with this homemade mix) for my dad.
Several years ago, my family hosted an exchange student from Norway. The first time he ate this cake, he asked seconds, and then thirds. Then he asked for this fall treat almost every night thereafter. I made a lot of apple cake that year. And every time I chopped the apples and the sweet aroma filled my kitchen, I thought of my grandmother.
With most of my recipes, I limit the sugar or use a natural sweetener when possible. I have made low-sugar versions of this humble but irresistible cake, but the original is truly my favorite. The cake tastes perfect without a hint of icing so, realistically, that’s a whole lot of sugar we’re not eating, right?
Yields 16 servings.
- 3 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups canola oil (see notes for substitution options)
- 3 cups sugar
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 cups diced apples (tart and/or sweet according to preference; I leave the skin on)
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 cup finely chopped walnuts or pecans
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and oil.
- Mix in remaining ingredients and spread in greased pan(s).
- Bake one 9×13 pan for approximately 1 hour; bake two 8×8 square or 9-inch round pans for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Always check a little early since oven temperatures very. This will ensure a moist cake.
- *Substitution Options:*
- *Oil:* You may swap up to half of the oil with unsweetened applesauce to lower the fat content; I typically use one cup of oil and one 4-ounce, single-serve cup of applesauce (these can be conveniently stored in the cupboard). Also, grape seed or another neutral-flavored oil may be used.
- *Flour:* I have baked this cake with all whole wheat flour and a 50-50 mix. Both options result in a very good cake, although the 50-50 mix produces a lighter cake. Likewise, I have often made it with my gluten-free flour blend and no one can tell the difference.
- *Sugar:* Lastly, if you are watching sugar content, you may reduce the sugar by 1/2 cup with no adverse effect. Although the total amount of sugar may seem high, the full recipe yields quite a large cake and requires no icing to be delicious!
And some older pictures….