Having been born and raised in Michigan, and having lived there for 22 years, I’m well aware that there are plenty of reasons to love The Great Lake State. Still, every time I find myself saying “what? You never went to an apple orchard when you were a kid?!?!” to any of my east or west coast pals, I can’t help but move “apple orchards in the fall” to the top of my list of reasons to love my home state (as a side note, I usually get a similar reaction from people when I tell them I’ve never been to Disneyland. Or world.). As some of my midwestern readers might attest (and those New Yorkers who aren’t too cosmopolitan to leave the city every once-in-awhile), a day at the apple orchard, especially in the company of family and friends, is a pretty cool experience.
The Versical family take on this fall tradition usually involved a goal. After all, the Hungarian in my mother was not content to waste a day frolicking amongst the apple trees and sipping hot cider. We had quotas, people. Bushels to fill, winter supplies to stock up on (the same went for blueberry and raspberry picking, but we’ll stick with the orchard theme for the sake of staying concise). Inherently, sauces, pies, and baked apples were a mainstay in our household at least through the remainder of the fall, if not through the remainder of the year.
As I write this, I’m becoming a bit nostaligic remembering this part of my childhood. It’s traditions like these that we don’t really appreciate until they’re no longer a tradition but a memory. And my mom’s apple pie is yet another thing I wish I’d appreciated more when it was a mainstay, rather than a rarity (pies post-alleries have been a bit more elusive).
So, when I made this cake and wafts of sweet, apple-scented air floated from the oven, I was overcome with something much more than hunger. A montage of orchard memories filled my head. Images of my mom hovering over the oven poking apples as they bubbled away, filled with cinnamon and sugar and raisins. Then I thought of Halloweens carving pumpkins with my dad in the garage, Thanksgiving day parades in downtown Detroit.
Perhaps it’s the recent marriage that has me wondering things like whether I’ll be able to create such great fall memories for my kids. Having married the biggest Michigan football fan in, well, history (I would say I’m exaggerating, but I really, really don’t think I am), I’m sure our memories will be a bit more football-heavy. But I do hope there are orchards. Pumpkin patches and pumpkin carving in the garage. Jumping in a huge pile of freshly raked leaves (incidentally, my dad sent me the above cartoon clipping a few years back, and I can’t help but think of it now). Finally, I hope I’ll do half the justice to apples as my mom did with her baking.
This apple cake is just a start, but a good one. I’m always happy to have out-of-town visitors so I can really test-run some of my baked goods. Not that I didn’t already really like this cake. It’s just that a second opinion is always nice. So when an out-of-town guest — fittingly, a childhood family friend — seemed to enjoy it as much as my allergy-restricted self, I deemed it safe for sharing. Of course, this cake will work just fine with regular apples from the market, but will be all the more memorable with apples hand-picked during a day at the orchard with family. Enjoy!
Gluten-Free Apple Cake:
This recipe makes 1 9″ cake. It’s awesome served warm with a scoop of vegan vanilla ice cream.
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Brown Rice Flour
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour/Meal (Trader Joe’s almond meal will work, too, but yields a slightly more dry cake — still good!)
1/4 cup tapioca starch/flour (they’re the same thing)
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup Earth Balance Buttery Spread, melted, plus more for greasing pan
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon NuNaturals Vanilla Liquid Stevia
1/4 cup water
1 medium apple (I used honeycrisp), peeled and sliced very thin
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flours, xanthan gum, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger. In a separate bowl, mix melted buttery spread with liquid stevia. Stir in to dry mixture. Add applesauce and water and stir until smooth. Batter should be a little bit thicker than a regular cake batter.
3. Arrange apple slices around the bottom of a pre-greased 9″ cake pan or pie pan until covered. Pour in batter and spread evenly over apples, all the way out to the edge of the pan. Use fingers to pat down and smooth out the top. Bake cake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for about 20 minutes before turing out onto a plate.