Scrumptious Apple Cake

One of the many things I love about Michigan is the diversity of seasons.  Autumn is no exception, with the leaves turning brilliant shades of red, orange, yellow, burgundy, green, and brown.  I love a brilliant brown, don't you?  It's just the prettiest.  I kid, I'm already making fun of myself.  Back to how great Michigan and autumn is.  The dried cornstalks and gourds come out, decorating the fields and porches; pumpkins appear in all the stores, asking to be taken home and carved.  The air turns as crisp and refreshingly cool as the apples hanging on the trees in the orchards.  The cool, dewy mornings call for cozy sweaters, wool socks, warm scarves; the rainy afternoons make a crackling fire, a hot cup of apple cider, and a good book all but necessary.  Comforting squash soups and crusty breads, pumpkin pies and cinnamon rolls just out of the oven, and family nearby makes the dusk that comes sooner and sooner a welcome friend.  Autumn is wonderful, but Traverse City, Michigan, really is an idyllic place to experience it.   

Hannah, myself, and my mom apple picking

Hannah, myself, and my mom apple picking

And we all know, the food of choice in autumn is pumpkin.  So here is a recipe for Scrumptious Apple Cake.  Ha.  I just wanted to trick you into thinking this would be a recipe for something pumpkin.  Hehe.  There will be plenty of pumpkin in the near future, but today I wanted to share with you a guest recipe, Scrumptious Apple Cake by my mamma.  Yes, scrumptious is part of the title.  It is not simply a scrumptious Apple Cake, it is a scrumptious Scrumptious Apple Cake.  Trust her on this one.  

Now, if you have some fancy, two-tier frosted apple cake envisioned in your brain, erase that and think simple.  It's more like a moist bread.  9x13 pan.  I think I just felt some of you relax; "no cake tins?  Phew, 9x13 I can do..." and yes, it is so simple.  Did I mention scrumptious?   

The apples in this recipe are handpicked by my mom, Hannah, and yours truly.  Apple picking is one of the things I look forward to most in September, I recommend you find the nearest apple orchard and go!

Scrumptious Apple Cake

Ingredients:

For the Cake

  • 1 cup oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups peeled chopped apples
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

For the Cinnamon Topping

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

Oven 350 Fahrenheit.  Grease a 9x13 in pan. 

Make the Cake

In a large bowl combine oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla; beat.  Stir in chopped apples. 

In a separate bowl whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add this mixture to first mixture and stir until combined.  Pour into prepared pan.

Make the Cinnamon Topping

In a small bowl combine sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle evenly over batter in pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  

Jenny's Notes:

My mom is very adverse to nuts in her desserts.  However, many people do enjoy nuts in their desserts, and if you do, a cup of chopped nuts added to the batter would do the trick.  You could also add about 1/2 cup chopped nuts to the topping.  *This note is not Jean-approved.  :)

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Blackberry Banana Bread with Cinnamon Streusel

Wild blackberries abound in Italy.  Ok, that's a bit general, I have not been everywhere in Italy this summer, but I can safely say that they are abundant in Florence and Cinque Terre.  I'm all for anything free and tasty, so I will always stop and pick a few when they are in reach.  Most evenings I like to go for a "passeggiata," or stroll, usually along the Fiume (river) Arno, and there are lots of vines that grow down towards the river.  A fence conveniently kept me from clambering down and picking any, getting torn up from the pickers, and possibly dying in the pursuit, but it didn't stop a little Nonna one evening from trying her best to reach through the fence and grab a few tasty morsels.  I admired her greatly.  Along the hiking trails of Cinque Terre there was also a plethora, and they were perfectly placed along the trail for me to grab handfuls here and there, energy bursts for the 2 hour (solid uphill ;) ardent trek!  Especially helpful since I had already eaten my packed lunch before we even started hiking...And then there was that one time when Paul, who loves to do triathlon and ride his bike for millions of miles, said he had passed a huge group of blueberry bushes while riding up in the mountains.  So we drove up to the spot, up into the rolling hills of Tuscany, prepared with bags, open mouths, and welcoming stomachs.  Melinda and I headed to the nearest loaded bush, and although my first thought was "those are strange looking blueberries" it didn't occur to me to stop and figure out what they were before picking or eating any.  They had been told to me as blueberries, therefore they must be.  So the first thing I do? Pop one in my mouth.  It was the single most sour bitter thing I have ever had in my mouth.  And I like sour things, I eat lemons plain.  But this had a pit and I was expecting a sweet blueberry.  I swiftly spit it out and we didn't pick or eat anymore.  For awhile after we were convinced it was nightshade, OH NO, and I thought I might die.  Not really, it wasn't.  But don't eat something if you don't know what it is.  JENNY.  I'm looking at you.  

Another evening I took a different route for my passeggiata and passed tons of blackberry bushes.  They lined the road for quite a ways, and so I went back several times with friends to pick a couple bagfuls.  I gained a few battle scars from the prickers, some "ciao bella's" from people passing on the road probably wondering what is that weird girl doing climbing on the road guard half hidden/hanging from thorns in bushes, but most importantly, free berries.  And what do you do when you have too many blackberries to eat?  You bake with them, of course.  Delicious and tender banana bread with little bites of blackberries dispersed throughout topped with a sweet cinnamon streusel.  

Blackberry Banana Bread with Cinnamon Streusel

Ingredients:

For the Blackberry Banana Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-3 bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups blackberries

  For the Cinnamon Streusel

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3 Tbsp cold butter

Directions:

Oven 350 Fahrenheit.  Grease one 9x5 in loaf pan.

Make the Blackberry Banana Bread

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

In another large bowl, beat together sugar, oil, eggs, banana, and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and stir until just combined.  Gently fold in blackberries. 

Pour into prepared pan.

Make the Cinnamon Streusel

In a medium bowl whisk together flour, sugar, and cinnamon.  Using a pastry cutter, a fork, or my preferred method, clean hands, add butter and mix until crumbles form. 

Sprinkle evenly over batter and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until toothpick comes out almost clean.  

Allow to cool in pan at least 10 minutes before removing from pan.

Jenny's Notes:

Feel free to substitute any type of berry for the blackberries!  Blueberries and raspberries are also delicious.   

I put the vague measurement of 2-3 bananas because either will yield a delicious bread.  The more banana the more moist it will be, and also a touch heavier.  And let's face it, every banana is going to be a different size.  So even if I gave you an exact measurement like 200g, and that ended up being 2 7/16 of a banana, what are you going to do with the remaining 9/16 of that mushy banana? You see my point that I have already over explained, so just use however many mushy bananas you have on hand, 2-3.