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Cake with potential needs a flavor boost. Any ideas?

This recipe arrived in the most recent edition of Penzey's catalogue. It's a pretty down home sort of cake so I gave it a whirl. It has nice texture and a good bit of promise but not the full punch of flavor that one could hope for. Does have all the homey, comfort food prettiness the catalogue suggests.

There's no vanilla or comparable extract but I'm hoping for more of the apple flavor. Is there an apple flavored liqueur? Or something with a caramel flavor? Something else I'm not thinking of that would enhance the apple flavor?

Apple Cake
Serves 12-16

Baking time: 90 minutes
Active Prep: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour, 45 minutes

• 4 cups flour
• 2 cups sugar
• 4 teaspoons baking powder
• 1/4 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup vegetable oil or olive oil (I used a roasted walnut oil -- La Nogalera if anyone knows it -- this stuff is *killer*!)
• 3/4 cup orange juice (I'm thinking 1/4 water + 1/2 frozen apple juice concentrate next time)
• 4 eggs
• 4 medium apples, sweet varieties such as Gala or Fuji, peeled and thinly sliced (attending to the warning that too much could interfer with the middle of the cake fully baking I didn't use 3 full apples but the apples I did use were large ones)
• 1/4 cup cinnamon sugar (I used at least twice that much including a generous sprinkle after it emerged from the oven)

Preheat the oven to 350˚.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the oil, orange juice and eggs and mix well on low speed.

Pour half of the batter into a greased and floured tube pan. Add a thin layer of apple slices, going easy on the apples as too much will prevent the cake from baking in the middle. Generously sprinkle the apples with cinnamon sugar, trying not to hit the sides of the pan as the sugar will increase the potential for sticking and burning. Pour the rest of the batter on top of the apple layer. Arrange more apple slices on top and generously cover them with cinnamon sugar as well.

Bake at 350˚ for 1 1/2 hours or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. (My fully baked cake registered a 200˚ internal temperature measured with a digital probe)

Let the cake cool completely before removing from the pan onto a serving plate.

For each of 16 pieces (without any of the changes I suggested):

Calories 390
Calories from fat 140
Total fat 16g
Cholestrol 45mg
Sodium 150mg
Carbohydrates 60g
Dietary fiber 2g
Sugars 34g
Protein 5g

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  1. i would do 1 cup brown sugar and 1 cup white. i would also add a bit of nutmeg.

    1 Reply
    1. re: rizzo0904

      3/4 cup of applesauce 1/4 cup oil.
      for the sugar 1 cup white 1/2 cup brown 1/4 cup molasses

    2. I second the nutmeg motion. Maybe ground cloves or ground allspice. Ground ginger may also help.

      However, take my suggestions with a grain of salt because I don't bake pastry. I only bake bread.

      1. Ditto on the suggestions above. I would also consider a glaze made with apple juice, cinnamon and powdered sugar to pour over after the cake comes out of the oven. Maybe poke a few holes into the top with a skewer before pouring the glaze over it.

        1. The expensive solution for apple flavor is calvados; the cheap one, if you're in apple country, is apple cider, preferably unfiltered. Orange juice doesn't cut it.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Kagemusha

            I was going to suggest unfiltered apple cider too. I could live off that stuff. If the flavour still isn't strong enough, maybe you could double the amount and reduce it by half on the stove, so it's more like an apple syrup.

            1. re: Kagemusha

              I agree that the orange juice doesn't fit.

              I've never used Calvados but I'm not indisposed to have it in my pantry. I like subbing liqueurs for extracts. I have recently heard (was it Alton Brown?) that Calvados can be subbed for vodka in the pastry for an apple pie. Since Thanksgiving is coming up it could be good to have it on hand.

              Alas! I grew up in apple country in the Hudson Valley of NYS. Now I'm in Los Angeles where we don't get real unpasturized cider. Every year at this time of year I start missing it even if it's been 40 years...

              1. re: Kagemusha

                I agree w/ apple cider--I use it in pumpkin bread, instead of water and it adds a lot of flavor, though not a strong apple flavor. The OJ just seems wrong. If you want something cheaper than Calvados, apple jack would work. I'd also do rizzo's suggestion of brown sugar, and brown sugar for the cinnamon sugar. If you want a caramel flavor, I think a caramel drizzle would be good on top of it, after it cools.

                1. re: chowser

                  I had some German apfelkorn (apple schnapps) this weekend that really was frighteningly tasty - and it's not that expensive. If you added that to a cider reduction, you'd have OOMPH.

              2. Perhaps in addition to Calvados or apple cider you could use some lemon juice and/or zest. Lemon goes very nicely with apple. As iL Divo mentioned I would add some molasses and dark brown sugar. I would do a caramel to drizzle over (I am fanatical about making caramel!). A gastrique would be wonderful, too, as would browned butter Calvados drizzle. So many delicious possibilities!

                Vanilla bean would be nice in this (not in addition to everything else, maybe, but vanilla beans really elevate other ingredients). You could even steep it in the cider or Calvados first to draw out all the flavour.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chefathome

                  Yes, a caramel drizzle, maybe like this one made w/ apple juice (though I'd use cider and am iffy about the star anise):

                  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/th...