Just as there are chocolate chip cookies for chip lovers and pies for crust lovers, there are apple cakes for apple lovers. Specifically, this Mostly Apples Apple Cake. (Perhaps the name gave it away?) With a custardy texture that’s more akin to clafoutis or Dutch baby than to pound cake, this dessert showcases the fruit’s flavor — from bright to tart to honeyed to lemony, depending on the varieties you choose — offset by a light, almond-scented batter.
If you were a little too ambitious at the orchard (or the grocery store), this cake is a great solution. It uses a whole lot of sliced apples — 4 1/2 cups, to be specific — and the exact variety is up to you. Choose great-tasting apples that can withstand a bit of pressure from your fingers without yielding or bruising. That’s a sign that they’re firm enough to hold their shape and some of their snappy texture when baked. Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples are good candidates, and a mix of the two will give you the dynamic pairing of sweet and sour.
As much as I wanted to use skin-on apples (lazy baker alert!), the peeled pieces soften more evenly, resulting in a cake that’s easier to slice and eat. In other words: Don’t skip this step.
Once you have the sliced apples, you’ll mix them into a batter made primarily of butter, eggs, brown sugar, and flour. There is so little batter and so many apples that you might stop to think, “Surely, this cannot work.” Maybe you’ll even say it aloud! But have faith. With a bit of spatula handiwork, the thick batter will lightly cover all of the apple slices. And then, thanks to the magical properties of eggs and baking powder and heat, that thin coating of batter will expand up and over the apple slices and join them together in a delicate cake.
But what makes this cake next-level is the addition of almond in three different forms. There’s almond flour, which contributes richness and tenderness, as well as almond extract, for marzipan vibes, and sliced almonds on the bottom and sides of the pan, for textural contrast.
What’s more, this recipe uses just two bowls, no electric mixer, and melted (as opposed to softened) butter. That means there’s minimal cleanup and you don’t even have to remember to take a stick out of the fridge. So what's stopping you? I urge you to act soon: The best time to enjoy this cake is early in the fall season, before apples have lost their novelty and the countdown to pumpkin pie has begun.
Cover photo (Mostly Apples Apple Cake) by Rick Holbrook; food styling by Kaitlin Wayne.