Monday, January 16, 2017

Swedish Apple Custard Cake

Two years ago, almost to the day, I posted an update to a Serious Eats/Dorie Greenspan recipe for Fresh Apple Custard Cake. Deemed just "okay" from the first bite, I keep tweaking the recipe looking for something more... moreish flavorwise. My variations on Dorie's apple cake have all been fragrant, moist, custardy and applely, but a bit bland, lacking any notable flavor pop. 

Additions of lemon zest, almond extract and apple pie spice have upped the flavor impact, but never quite hit the mark. Then I found several online recipes for Swedish Apple Cake with Custard Sauce that sent me in another direction. Orange extract and grated orange zest plus ground cardamom were the new flavor additions of choice.

Still moist and fragrant, almost a cake and not quite a custard, the latest variation has met two-thumbs-up approval. The orange and cardamom somehow boost the appleness of the cake, providing an interesting combination of flavors in each bite. The custardlike filling negates the need for a custard sauce, though a dab of honey Greek yogurt made a fine topping. Hmmm, a scoop of homemade Cardamom Ice Cream would turn this morning treat into a scrumptious dessert. 

It's fun to play with recipes, adjusting ingredients but keeping the character of the original dish. Orange and cardamom will remain key flavor elements in my version of this custardy cake, but nuts might join the party next time.

Swedish Apple Custard Cake
Slightly adapted from 'Baking Chez Moi' by Dorie Greenspan


3 medium cooking apples (Granny Smith), cored & peeled
a generous 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
2 tablespoons salted butter, melted and cooled
Grated zest of 1 medium orange
Confectioners’ or granulated sugar, for dusting (optional)


Place a rack in the center of the oven; preheat to 400 degrees F. (My oven runs hot, so I began with a 400 F oven, then lowered the temp to 375 F after 20 minutes and rotated the pan.)

Butter or spray an 8-inch square baking pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.

Slice the apples quite thin, about 1/16 th inch thin, 
"elegantly thin, but not so thin that they’re transparent and fragile," according to Dorie.

Use a small bowl and 
whisk  together the flour, baking powder and cardamom. Set aside. 

In a larger bowl whisk the eggs and sugar together for a minute or two until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the orange extract and vanilla, then the milk and finally the melted butter and orange zest. 

Sift the flour mixture into the bowl in 2 or 3 additions and whisk until smooth. 

Add the apples and gently fold into the batter using a rubber or silicone spatula, turning to coat each thin slice with batter. Scrape the mixture into the parchment-covered pan and smooth out the top so the apples lie flat.

Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until golden brown and uniformly puffed, 40-50 minutes. (55 min in my oven) Be sure the middle of the cake has risen and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack; allow to cool and set up for at least 15 minutes.

Unmold the cake bottom-side-up onto a plate and peel off the parchment paper. Flip it back onto a second plate and cut into squares. Dust with powdered sugar or cinnamon/sugar mix (optional). Cut and serve.

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