One of the shared quirks of most Canadians is our propensity to focus on the weather (well, that, and our internationally-recognized, world-renowned politeness. Oh, but please do excuse me for interrupting that train of thought with a parenthesis–how very rude! I do apologize).
We tend to talk about the weather, attempt to predict the weather, fume about the weather, complain vociferously about the weather, aim to forestall the weather, dread the weather, boast about surviving the weather, try desperately to ignore the weather, occasionally (like two days a year) rejoice at the weather, discuss and ponder and ruminate about the weather. . . basically, we are obsessed by the weather. Why?
Well, I suppose, it has something to do with our ancestors and early settlers whose lives really were ruled by the vagaries of snow, sleet and wind, or the whims of Mother Nature–one false move in January in Peterborough, and you ended up dead. These days, of course, we’ve got heating and insulation during the winter months, but it seems we’ve inherited the predilection to stress about the weather all year round.
This past weekend, for instance, the air was gloriously warm but maddeningly humid. Now, why couldn’t we simply combine the temperatures with the sunshine of a crisp February morning, and call it a summer’s day? I’m really a warm-weather gal, despite my lack of any athletic or outdoorsy skills or prowess. I am happy to sit outside in the back yard, read a book or magazine, or simply watch The Girls wrestle on the grass when the weather is felicitous.
When people first find out that I was born and raised in Montreal, they inevitably comment, “Oh, well, then, you MUST be a skier, right, with all that snow you get over there?” Sadly, no. I do not ski. I do not skate. I do not snowmobile on a lake. I do not like the snow on ground, I do not like it where it’s found. I do not like the cold or snow–I do not like it, I wish it would GO. (Ah, yes, once again, I must apologize for going off on a rant. And to Dr. Seuss, too, of course.)
Now that fall has almost arrived, the climate is beginning to evoke thoughts of cosy sweaters, fuzzy blankets, knees tucked up before the fireplace. When we take The Girls for their walks along the trails, the barren trees on either side of the paths span above our heads, branches reaching across to touch each other as if holding hands. Carpets of brown, red, and orange leaves crinkle below our feet as we stroll along. There is, I must admit, something rather appealing about it all. In addition, autumn is the harbinger of Holiday Season–for some, as early as the end of the month.
The other day, my friend Eternal Optimist asked about recipes for Rosh Hashanah. The Jewish New Year falls on September 28th this year, and she was looking for new recipes for baked goods, as her son recently became vegan and most of her current recipes contain eggs and dairy. I thought about the traditional Rosh Hashanah recipes focusing on apples and honey, and remembered a cake my mom used to bake when we were kids. The recipe was from a Mazola Corn Oil recipe card, and (along with a hefty portion of corn oil) featured both apples and honey in a huge bundt cake embracing thinly sliced Macintoshes between layers of fragrant, moist honey cake, so that it kind of resembled a cross-section of the Canadian Shield when cut, the strata of golden, caramelized fruit nestled between tender, tawny cake. Well, of course, once I thought of it, I simply had to re-create that cake.
I couldn’t find my mum’s recipe, so I made one up based on a vanilla cake I created a few years ago, adding brown rice syrup as a stand-in for honey, paired with cinnamon and Sucanat-dusted apples. Here, then, is my version of the childhood favorite. This cake is perfect for any holiday celebration, as it could easily serve a crowd. It’s not overly fancy, so if you’d like to dress it up a bit, glaze it with your favorite glaze or dust with confectioner’s sugar, if you choose. The fruit filling is generous and bountiful, just like the harvest in autumn, and might even make you forget the cloudy, stormy, chilly air outside while you indulge.
Since this cake was based on one my mom used to make, I’m submitting it to the “Making History” event hosted by Allan at Recovered Recipes. The event asks you to find (and photograph) an old recipe card and post the outcome of the recipe. My version of the old recipe is one that my mom used to make, which I found in a handwritten baking book:
[Yep, that's an old recipe, all right. . . ]
And here’s the updated version!
Holiday Apple Bundt Cake
I’ve been known to enjoy a slice of this for breakfast–add a handful of nuts and really, isn’t that a balanced meal?
4 1/2-5 cups (1 liter to 1200 ml.) very thin apple slices (from about 4 large peeled and cored apples–or leave the peel on, if you prefer; I used a combination of Gala and Granny Smith, as that’s what we had)
1/4 cup ( g.) Sucanat
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) cinnamon
1/2 cup (120 ml.) light agave nectar
1/4 cup (60 ml.) brown rice syrup
1/3 cup (80 ml.) sunflower or other light-tasting oil, preferably organic
3/4 cup (180 ml.) plain or vanilla soymilk or almond milk
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) pure lemon extract
2 tsp. (10 ml.) apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. (10 ml.) finely ground chia seeds (Salba)
1-1/2 cups (215 g.) light spelt flour
3/4 cup (90 g.) whole barley flour
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) baking powder
1 tsp. (5 ml.) baking soda
1/2 tsp. (2.5 ml.) sea salt
Preheat oven to 350F (180 C). Grease a large bundt pan with coconut oil, or spray with nonstick spray.
In a large bowl, toss the apple slices with the sucanat and cinnamon; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the agave, rice syrup, oil, soymilk, vanilla, lemon extract, apple cider vinegar, and chia seeds until smooth. Ensure that there are no little lumps of chia seeds remaining. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients, or at least 2 minutes.
In another large bowl, sift together the spelt flour, barley flour, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Don’t worry if a few dry spots remain here or there.
Spread about 1/3 of the batter in the bottom of the pan (this doesn’t have to be exact; just estimate). Next, take about half the apples and layer them over the batter in the pan, taking care not to touch the sides of the pan (it’s not a tragedy if they do; it will just make it a bit more difficult to get the baked cake out of the pan later on). Using a tablespoon, dot the apples with another 1/3 of the batter. Use a rubber spatula to spread the batter over the apples, covering them entirely if you can. Use up the apples to top the batter with another layer of apple slices. Finally, use the tablespoon to cover the apples with the final third of batter, and spread the batter across the apples as evenly as possible with a rubber spatula. There should be mostly batter on top, but it’s okay if a few edges of apple stick out here or there.
Bake the cake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes to an hour, rotating the pan once about halfway through, until a tester comes out clean when placed halways between the two sides of the pan at any point. The top of the cake should be domed and browned.
Allow the cake to cool for at least 10 minutes in the pan before inverting onto a serving plate or cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing. Makes about 24 small servings or 12 large servings. May be frozen.
[This recipe will also appear in my upcoming cookbook, Sweet Freedom, along with more than 100 others, most of which are not featured on this blog. For more information, check the "Cookbook" button at right, or visit the cookbook blog.]