Ruth Reichl’s Gingered Applesauce Cake recipe from her lovely book My Kitchen Year is one of my all time favorite fall cakes. First off, it begins with applesauce which is such an easy and delicious smelling thing to make on a cool fall day. Browsing the famers market in the bright sun and seeing all the beautiful colors and types of apples is a great way to start the weekend. When we were kids I hated applesauce, mostly because my mom would sometimes call it dessert. I didn’t like the texture or the taste which was usually tinged with the taste of the can it came in. In fact most canned food tasted like cans to me. Although the history of canned foods, and supermarkets, and the A&P in particular, is a fascinating story (click on the link for a little information about The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (the A&P), I’m glad there was a movement back to fresh foods and I will never have to eat a waxed bean from a can again. But I digress. You don’t have to make your own applesauce for this cake of course, there’s plenty of good sources of applesauce out there, but why not? All you need is a fairly large pan, I have a Kilner stainless steel jam pan which I refer to as Grammy’s preserve pot, not because it was my grandmothers but because I imagine someday I’ll be making jam with my own little grands and that’s what they’ll call it in a folksy, down-home sort of way. You’re laughing at me now because you know those kids are going to be sitting on the couch staring at their gadgets like zombies. To which I say, “NOT AT GRAMMY’S HOUSE, by God! You’re going to make jam and you’re going to like doing it, and when I die you’re going fight over who gets the damn pot, because of all the wonderful memories it holds!” (this is actually how I justified the price of the pot, the thought that many generations would use it, not the last part of course, I just added that for color) Any pot will do, add the apples and some water, throw in a cinnamon stick for kicks if you like, I certainly do. The whole process from peeling and chopping to applesauce is less than an hour. I peel and chop about six or eight apples, you can certainly leave the peels and cores on if you have a good food mill. I found out the hard way, I did not have a good food mill. Put some water in to start, I just cover the bottom of the pan, add sugar if you like, I don’t, and let it simmer away until sauce. I leave mine a little chunky, and since you want a mix of apples in there, some will take longer than others, but there’s really no wrong way to make applesauce, just don’t leave it and forget about it. Once you have the applesauce and a wonderful smelling kitchen, you just need a cup and a half for the cake. The recipe is below, I use the dark Muscavado sugar where it calls for brown sugar, here’s a nice explanation from Dana Velden from Kitchn on muscavado sugars if you are unfamiliar. Shop around because the prices do vary, but it is a very rich and tasty add, especially in this cake, still, any brown sugar will do just fine. Because my sister was visiting me I made this cake not only gluten free, but egg free as well. I’d been wanting to experiment with GF flours and I bought the Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Glutan Free Flour. Now there are several brands out there that are just cup for cup, no add on’s needed but they seem enormously expensive to me, GF folks, you can correct that in the comments if I’m wrong. On the back of the package they recommend adding Xanthan Gum which takes the place of the gluten, which is the stretchy-bindy element of dough, and I purchased a 15oz bag from GlutanFreeYouAndMe.com for 11.99 (on Amazon) But you can find Xanthan Gum at Whole Foods or probably any coop or health food shop easily. The result was perfectly delicious. I’ve eaten tons of Gluten Free baked goods both packaged and fresh, and I’ll just say some of them were better than others. This was great and I doubt I would have been able to tell the difference as this is a dense, flavorful cake. The second challenge was met very easily as applesauce is actually a recommended replacement for eggs so I just upped the ante there. The recommendation is 1/4 c. applesauce per egg, so I just plopped 2 cups of apple sauce into the mix instead of the 1.5 cups and two eggs the recipe calls for. I had no idea how this all would come out and I had to try four pieces in quick succession just to be sure it was as delicious as I thought. Still warm. With a side of crème fraîche. I tell you what, that was good eat’n. I brought this cake to a Thanksgiving party last year and it was a hit, I might just do it GF this year so I can stretch the compliments from all corners. Don’t be alarmed if it sits a little low in the pan,
you’re going to turn it out and it’s going to be just fine. And don’t be afraid to try things differently. This whole cake took me about two hours total, including the applesauce. I figured if it came out a mess, I’d secretly eat the crumbs, but if it came out pretty I’d have a lovely offering for my GF, EF (egg-free) sis. And that’s exactly what happened. I don’t do the caramel glaze as I’m not a fan of glaze and I don’t think it needs it, but I bet that would be pretty delicious if you like that sort of thing. I’m a big fan of crème frâiche because it’s both rich and slightly tart which makes a nice complement to anything sweet, especially something spicy like this cake. I’ve had varying success at making crème frâiche, it’s quite easy to do, but as this is going long, I’ll discuss that at a later date, I’ll just say that I tried the Trader Joe’s version and it was delicious. I highly recommend it, and as always, they do a bang-up job with the packaging. Honestly, if I had some apples in the house, I would make this cake right now. Try it!
Gingered Applesauce Cake Glazed with Caramel from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.