November 17, 2011

Grandma's Apple Cake

Some of you may know that my Mother and Step-Father own an orchard outside of Manchester Iowa.  I'd say that about 6 years ago they were able to acquire the Smith Family Orchard which has been around for a good 165 years or so.  The last decade or so had not been kind to the property and my folks have spent a lot of time restoring it and expanding the orchard's offerings.

As Thanksgiving draws near it's only natural that my thoughts drift towards family and food.  One of my favorite desserts is a dish from my Step-Mother's Mother that we simply referred to as "Grandma's Apple Cake".  Although I was a Step-Grandchild, my Grandmother never made me feel any less special.  Sure, I'm sure she treated her biological grandkids with some extra attention, but they lived very close by and it wasn't anything I ever saw anyway.  It was common that when we drove to Illinois for a visit that Grandma would either be making or have made this cake we all loved so much.  She never claimed the recipe was her own and was quick to credit the baker who donated the recipe to some Quad-City fundraiser cookbook.

Doesn't matter to me, it'll always be Grandma's Apple Cake:
1 C Oil
2 eggs
2 C sugar
2 3/4 C Flour
1 t Baking Soda
1 t Salt
1 t Cinnamon
3 C Slivered Apples
1/2 C nuts (I prefer Chopped Walnuts)

Cream oil, eggs, and sugar.  Add remaining ingredients, and spread into 9x13 pan.

3/4 C Brown Sugar
1/3 c Butter
2 heaping Tablespoons Flour
1 C Shredded Coconut
1/2 C nuts (again, Chopped Walnuts are the way to go)

Mix topping ingredients, sprinkle on top of cake and bake in pre-heated 350* oven for 50 minutes.

This recipe is really easy to make and it is so good.  I especially like to eat it warm with some ice cream.  In my experience, the finer you can sliver the apple bits, the better it'll come out.  Don't worry about the apple browning up since it'll take a while to won't matter in the final product.  I have also used different mixtures of white and wheat flour, but I wouldn't recommend anything heavier than a 50/50 mix.  Although I haven't tried it (yet), I see no reason that this couldn't work well with a gluten-free flour with added Xanthan Gum.  The cake tends to be a bit dry and if it gummed up a little (as gluten-free substitution tends to do) I doubt it'd be very noticeable.

My Grandmother Opal, who this cake "belongs to" passed away I believe in early 1998.  Unfortunately she was dying of cancer and it took a while, but she was trying to hold on to see her youngest son's wedding.  I was able to visit her while on leave from my duty station in Germany.  One of my last recollections of her was her making me some of this cake.  Her treatments left her fatigued and she was falling asleep while trying to cut the apples.  I don't remember if the cake was made or not.....didn't matter.  I miss her every time I make this cake.

November 20, 2011 Edit
I just made a gluten-free version of this cake and it came out great.  To the best of my ability I could not tell the difference between this cake and earlier versions.

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