Sun. Jun 16th, 2024

This French Apple Cake is big on flavor and easy to make featuring apples and cognac.

Elizabeth Karmel

Before there was pumpkin spice obsession, fall was synonymous with apples. Apple picking, apple butter, apple cider, apple cider, donuts, apple pie, and caramel apples, and my favorite, apple cake.

Those who know me know that my favorite traditional apple cake is my Grandmother Odom’s Apple Cake.Baked in a Bundt pan with loads of apples, cinnamon and toasted walnuts, it is a hearty American apple cake.

But when I am looking for something lighter and easier to bake, I turn towards a simple European apple cake like the French Apple Cake. It is a one-layer un-iced snacking cake that is chock-ful of apples and relies on butter and booze to flavor it.

The recipe that I use is adapted from part-time Paris resident, cookbook author and baker extraordinaire, Dorie Greenspan. The apple-forward cake is traditionally made with butter and rum. As cooks are prone to do, I have adapted the recipe to my taste and that includes using Cognac instead of rum in the recipe.

Late this past summer, I met Benedictine Hardy. She is the fifth generation to head the family business, Hardy Cognac. Founded in 1863, Hardy produces a full range of Cognac, including my favorite, Legend 1863.

Benedictine told me that the idea for Legend came from “a fun idea to create a very different Cognac blend that would build a bridge between Cognac and Bourbon drinkers.” She went on to tell me that “this is a Cognac for people who drink whiskey.” No surprise why it is my new favorite Cognac!

It is aged in dark toasted barrels instead of light toasted barrels to give it flavors of caramel, vanilla, mocha, cappuccino and roasted coffee with a long, soft, elegant finish. And she continued, “because those flavors are familiar, it’s not a big effort to drink it.”

Legend 1863 was launched in 2017 and like all of the Harvey Cognacs, it is aged longer than comparable Cognacs which adds depth and removes the harsh edges. It has universal appeal and “lots of women like the blend.”

She added that the cognac is great by itself as a sipper, and it is extremely mixable. And to me that doesn’t just mean mixes well in cocktails, it means that it mixes well in recipes.

As soon as I tasted the blend, I thought that it would complement a simple apple cake like the French Apple Cake. Because the recipe is so simple and doesn’t include any warm spices like nutmeg and cinnamon, the cognac becomes the flavoring agent. Legend 1863 is so round and soft and supple that it’s the perfect complement to autumn’s fresh apples.

The cake is defined by its simplicity and is flavored using only vanilla, Cognac and apples.

Elizabeth Karmel

Dorie Greenspan suggests that a mix of apple varieties makes the best cake because some literally dissolve and bake into the batter and some retain their shape and show up as chunky inclusions in the batter. I used fresh Jonagold apples that I brought back from a trip to Michigan and Honeycrisp that I purchased locally.

The combination was perfect as the Jonagold apples became one with the batter and the Honeycrisp apples gave the cake a nice texture. I used a quarter cup of cognac, which is twice as much booze as Dorie Greenspan uses in her rum cake, but I really wanted the flavor of the cognac to be present, and it was.

This cake is so easy to make that all you need are a couple of bowls, a blending fork and a springform pan. The butter is melted and cooled slightly so that you don’t have to cream the butter and sugar as you would in a traditional cake—which is a timesaver because you don’t have to plan in advance and set the butter out to soften.

This is a cake that you can whip up on the spur of the moment, right before your company arrives. Serve it, fresh and warm, with a dollop of whipped cream, ice cream or just simply sprinkled with confectioners’ sugar.

For those who live in the tri-state area, try serving the cake with a scoop of creamy Heritage Cardamon Chai Kulfi (Indian ice cream) for an exceptional fall dessert!

Once the cake has cooled, sprinkle confectioners sugar on the top to finish it and add a touch of … [+] sweetness.

Elizabeth Karmel

French Apple Cake with Cognac

Makes one 8-inch cake

3/4 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch of salt

4 (about 2 pounds) large apples, a mix of varieties

2 large eggs, at room temperature

3/4 cup sugar

¼ cup Hardy Legend 1863 Cognac

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste

½ cup melted unsalted butter, cooled to room temperature

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF making sure that the oven rack is in the center of the oven.

2. Prepare the cake pan by spraying an 8-inch springform pan with Bakers Joy or butter, and place it on a baking sheet.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

4. Peel and slice the apples, then dice them into small chunks, about ½-1-inch in size.

5. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until they foam, then add in the sugar, rum and both vanillas.

6. Add half of the flour mixture, then stir in half of the melted butter until well combined. Mix in the remaining flour and the rest of the butter.

7. Add the apples and fold into the batter. Make sure they are well-coated with the batter.

8. Using a silicone spatula, spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth the top.

9. Bang the cake pan lightly on the counter or sheet pan 2-3 times to settle the batter, remove any air bubbles and make sure it is even.

10. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. My springform pan has a glass bottom and it took my cake 1 hour and 25 minutes to bake. However, if you use a metal cake pan, it may take less time. Begin testing your cake at 50 minutes. You can also tell if it is done if the sides of the cake come away (recede) from the pan.

11. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Use a knife or offset spatula to clear the edges by running it around the edge of the cake to make sure no apples are stuck to it. If you use Bakers Joy baking spray, this shouldn’t be a problem.

12. Sprinkle with confectioners sugar before removing from pan. Serve alone, with whipped cream, or ice cream as you wish.

13. The cake will keep covered in the refrigerator for 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

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