Our friend Rich and I picked apples yesterday at his family farm near Luck, Wisconsin. Rich now uses his old home as a hunting shack, so most of the time there is no one to disturb the deer that, as Rich says, “give the tree a haircut” on those years when it bears fruit. They do a good job, too. Any apples within reach of a hungry deer disappear when they are ripe.
With Rich’s step ladder and and an apple picker loaned to us by a neighbor, we were able to harvest the apples the deer could not reach. Our prize was a lovely red giant nearly five inches in diameter that Rich managed to snag from a branch near the top of the tree. We drove home with more than two bushels of apples in bags and boxes to share with friends and neighbors.
While Rich and I were gathering food, Jerri was busy making her favorite apple cake with Haralson apples from another friend’s tree. She had found the recipe for it in the Louisville Courier Journal many years ago when we lived in Murray, Kentucky.
Jerri enjoyed the food column in that excellent newspaper very much and tried many of the recipes. One of the best was for a moist apple cake contributed by Madge Prewitt. Mrs. Prewitt died June 3, 2009 at the age of 90 at Corbin, Kentucky, but we shall remember her always for her delicious cake.
In the course of baking this cake for over forty years, Jerri has made two small adjustments that we think make a great cake even better and more foolproof. Apples are falling off the trees right now. If you see an apple tree that you think needs attention, stand up straight, put a smile on your face and ask the homeowner if you could pick a few apples to make Madge Prewitt’s Apple Cake. Offer to share a couple of slices, and you may well get an enthusiastic “It’s a deal!”
For the cake:
3 1/2 cups chopped tart apples
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
3 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. each cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and cloves
1 cup English walnuts
For the glaze:
1/2 stick melted butter or margarine
1 T hot water
3/4 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar.
Do not peel the apples. Just wash and quarter them and remove the cores. Chop the apples into a quarter-inch dice. Combine the sugar with the apples in a large mixing bowl and set it aside. Sift together the flour, salt, soda and spices. Chop the nuts into quarter inch pieces, put them in a small bowl and stir a little of the flour mixture into them.
Grease and flour a nine-inch tube pan. Preheat the oven to 375º and melt the butter.
Stir the melted butter into the sugar-apple mixture. Beat the eggs until they are lemon yellow and stir them into the mixture. Blend the dry ingredients into the apple mixture and stir the walnuts in last of all.
Turn the batter into the prepared tube pan and bake for about an hour. Ovens do not all bake the same, so check for doneness at fifty-five minutes. A toothpick inserted halfway between the tube and the outside of the cake should come out clean. Take the pan from oven and let it cool for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Use a knife to release the cake from the sides of the pan and central tube, then carefully tip the the cake onto a plate and allow it to cool to lukewarm.
To make the glaze, beat the melted butter or margarine and hot water into the sifted sugar and drizzle the glaze on the warm cake.
NOTES: Mix the batter by hand to preserve the texture of the apples.
The cake needs to be quite warm but not hot when you remove it from the pan. If the cake is too hot, it may break when you tip it onto the plate. If this happens you may have to eat the damaged part and explain to your guests that you couldn’t wait to taste this delicious cake.
An earlier version of this recipe appeared in “Courage in the Kitchen” on August 26, 2012.