Every Fall for nearly a decade, when the apples are in season, Michelle returns to the hunt for perfecting the Caramelized Apple Cake in Susan Herrmann Loomis’ Cooking at Home on Rue Tatin. It has become her obsession. Loomis describes the cake as “dense and buttery with a pure flavor.” Michelle would possibly describe it as “all that most maddens and torments; all that stirs up the lees of things; all truth with malice in it; all that cracks the sinews and cakes the brain; all the subtle demonisms of life and thought”—because no matter how she tries, the damned thing is delicious but doesn’t turn out just right.
Michelle has sliced the apples more thinly, and tried different varieties. Added ingredients in different sequences. Made extra caramel. Baked it for varying times. Nothing ever really works. She’s come close on several occasions and will think she’s cracked it. Then, the next time, made the identical way, it will wind up undercooked in the middle or half the apples will stick to the bottom of the pan. So, at least for this year, Michelle has given up on the Caramelized Apple Cake.
We present instead a perfectly delicious Apple Crisp, a simple dish with a little flair from crystallized ginger and dried sour cherries. We found the recipe on Epicurious, from the November 1998 edition of Bon Appétit. We like it with a mix of our local Golden Delicious apples (which have a sweet taste and soft texture that cooks down nicely) and Stayman Winesaps (which have a spicy taste and hold their shape a little more). The dish takes only a bit longer than a run-of-the-mill crumble or crisp, and it turns out tasty every time. It’s a safe harbor for sweetness.
But the cake is still out there. Michelle’s quest will most likely go on. Hopefully it will lead to another blog post, instead of the wreck of the Pequod.
RECIPE NOTES: We don’t much care for cinnamon, so left that out. We used walnuts instead of almonds in the topping. And, unless absolutely necessary (which it isn’t in the case of apples), we don’t like thickeners in our fruit desserts, so omitted the flour in the filling. Otherwise, we’ve followed the recipe, though only 1/3 of it. It works equally well in a single casserole dish or in 4 one-cup-capacity pie dishes. Oh, and is it even better with salted caramel gelato on top? Yes. It is.
Love the sounds of this recipe – but every change you made to the original made it better still!
But Really…? Salted caramel ice-cream on top? Oh I can hardly imagine that! ; )
Nothing exceeds like excess. 🙂
Don’t care for cinnamon?!!? That is deeply distressing . . .
We want Caramelized Apple Cake! We want Caramelized Apple Cake!
We actually should have said that Steve doesn’t much like cinnamon. I adore cinnamon toast, for example! But I do think it can be overpowering. One day, I will perfect that cake, though, Jama. One day…
Phew. Okay, Then there’s hope. 🙂
Thanks, Mimi! It’s definitely a keeper.
That sounds great with walnuts 🙂
I can’t argue with this. Your photos are beautiful, as well.
You’re so kind!
HA. No, I am honest. 😉 But I will take kind, as well… hehe.
The cake interests me. I must try that….I’ll be less judgemental of the result than Michelle, as long as it tastes as good you say:)
It is a delicious cake! Maybe you can perfect it. It’s basically an upside-down apple cake. And, of course, I know that you, Roger, of all people, are not judgmental at all. 🙂
A well-made apple crisp is one of the best treats of Fall. Yours here would definitely be one of the better ones.
“Nothing exceeds like excess.” Make mine a double scoop, please. 🙂
Aint it the truth? I love apple desserts. It’s hard to stop myself from making one every night during apple season.
That looks truly fantastic – hearty, rustic and autumnal.
Thanks, Frug! And I know it’s a wonderful apple crop this year in your neck of the woods.
Wow, that recipe shows a true labor of love. You have definitely worked hard on perfecting this. BTW: Loomis’ book is wonderful. It’s the one that first inspired me to live in another country.
I like Loomis’ books very much, too. And I don’t blame her for the difficulties I’ve had with the cake. I think it is probably in large part a difference in apples.
Excess is right. Still, I’d say it was delicious.
Well, there’s very little sugar in the filling. So it’s almost a diet dessert. 😉
I’m not a big fan of cinnamon either but I’m ok with it in apple desserts. Candied ginger and dried sour cherries sound great too. Sometimes I use nutmeg in place of cinnamon.
Steve always calls the cinnamon/nutmeg/whatever combo “Christmas spices.” I don’t mind them terribly, but when the apples are good, I agree I’d rather just taste the apples. (But I would hardly ever turn down ginger of any sort!)
I like the sound of your apple crisp with the ginger and cherries. We grow both of the apples you used…hopefully there will still be a few apples on the trees when we return home from our trip.
Karen: Is there any apple variety not in your orchard? You’re so lucky!
I hate finicky recipes like that – besides, I’d take a hot bowl of apple crisp over cake any day. It’s one of my very favorites, and this one looks delicious.
For sure, there are few things better than an apple crisp, in autumn with local apples. I’m sure I’ll keep trying the cake, though. I don’t blame the author. I think it’s just that different apples work really differently.
Thats the best topping for that excellent applr crisp!
Thanks, Raymund. The candied ginger is really good. 🙂
I also have CAHORT and love the book, but not being much of a sweets baker I haven’t tried the cake. I’m sorry it’s such a torment. The crisp sounds wonderful. Ken
I don’t blame Loomis. Her recipes are always incredibly good. (In fact, from that book, Steve recently made the most delicious lamb and saffron soup served over couscous.) I think it’s just that different apples really, really change what’s going on with it. And the beauty of fall is that the local apples are decidedly not uniform. But the crisp was a fine salve for all the frustration. 🙂 And, I’m sure that, next year, I’ll be cracking the spine of CAHORT and trying the cake again and again …