I love to read Italian baking forums. Italians are, among other things, great bakers. The only small issue … they’re written in Italian and I’m always totally at the mercy of google translate. Sometimes, the words just don’t translate into things that actually make sense. This is particularly troublesome when dealing with baking recipes, where precision and clarity kind of help. If I’m intrigued enough by a recipe though, I’ll often just take the part that I can figure out and wing the rest.
An absolutely delicious and unique fresh apple crumb cake, topped with lots of crunchy crumbles. A great apple dessert cake!
Let’s just say I did a lot of “winging” with this one. Combine the translation issues with rampant, last-minute ingredient substitutions and a scale that decided to go on the fritz half way through and I have, quite possibly, turned it in to a completely different recipe. No matter, this cake was one of the best things I’ve eaten in some time, and given how much I bake, that’s saying something!
This cake has such a unique preparation. I don’t think I’ve made anything quite like it. I was expecting the base to be somewhat like a pie pastry, but it actually comes out like sand. I was sure I’d already messed up the recipe when I scattered it into the pan. I just went with it though. After 20 minutes in the oven, the crumbs had set and encased the apples. Then when you pour the egg mixture over top, you’ll be sure that it will never come together as anything that will eventually be sliceable, but it does. It’s awesome! Those sandy crumbs bake up into a crust that my daughter thought tasted like shortbread. Inside are tender apples, surrounded by a creamy thick sauce. The crumble topping provides lovely sweetness and crunch (and look awfully pretty, too). It’s perfection.
As you can see from the photos, the sides of my cake got a bit more browned than they should have. It wasn’t obvious until I removed the ring from the springform pan. I had started to doubt the oven temperature I should be using and had bumped it up a bit during the last stage of cooking. Then, when I checked it in the oven at the 60 minute mark (total cooking time), it was sunken in the centre. Convinced that it wasn’t cooked yet in the middle, I gave it another 5 minutes. I probably shouldn’t have done either of those things. That’s clearly just the way this cake bakes. As long as the cake is not “jiggly”, somewhere around 60-65 minutes total is just fine, even if the centre is sunk down.
My cake was made with half and half cream (10%) and full fat sour cream. I used Empire apples. It is best on the day it’s baked, but still good next day.
- For the cake:
- 200 g / scant 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 150 g / 2/3 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 100 g / 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into 6-8 pieces
- 3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices
- 2 large eggs
- 200 g / scant 1 cup heavy cream (35%), table cream (18%) or half and half cream (10%)
- 120 g / 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
- 100 g / 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- Pinch salt
- For the crumble topping:
- 120 g / 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 140 g / 2/3 cup white sugar
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- Pinch salt
- 80 g / 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
- Preheat oven to 360° F./180° C. and grease an 8-inch/20 cm springform pan. Set on a baking sheet and set aside.
- Make the cake: In a food processor, add the flour, sugar and baking powder. Pulse a couple of times to combine. Add the cold butter and pulse until the butter is combined with the flour. You'll end up with a very dry mixture, like sand almost.
- Sprinkle about 3/4 of this mixture over the bottom of the prepared springform pan. Don't press it down at all, but move it around a bit so it goes up the sides just a bit. Scatter the prepared apple slices over the crumbs (avoiding the sides), then sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture evenly over the top. Again, do not press down. Leave it as is. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, sour cream, brown sugar, vanilla and a pinch of salt. Set aside.
- When cake base has baked 20 minutes, remove from oven and carefully pour the egg mixture over the top. Return cake to oven and cook for a further 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the crumble topping. In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Add melted butter to the mixture, just until the dry ingredients are moistened and the mixture comes together in large clumps. Place the bowl into the freezer until needed.
- When the cake has baked for 20 minutes, remove from oven. (The egg mixture should have set somewhat so that the crumbs won't sink into the cake. If it is too liquidy still, return to the oven for a few more minutes.) Evenly sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top. Return to the oven and bake a further 20 minutes. Note that the cake will be sunken in the middle, even when it's "done". As long as it's not jiggly and a tester inserted in the centre comes out with just crumbs (not liquid), it's ready to take out of the oven. It should have bake about 60-65 total, including all 3 steps.
- Allow to cool in the pan, on a cooling rack, for 10-15 minutes. Run a knife around the outside and carefully remove the outer ring of the springform pan. Allow to cool more before removing from the base.
- Dust with powdered/icing sugar, if desired.