Madge Prewitt’s Apple Cake Revisited

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
2 eggs
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.

Apple Cinnamon Bread

When I was a kid, there weren’t many apple trees around Hayward, Wisconsin, and most of the few I knew of were crabapple trees. My father said that our winters were too cold for most apple trees, but that crabapples could survive cold temperatures better, which may explain the big crabapple tree in my Grandma Hopp’s yard.

There were a few apple trees, of course. Some were planted by farmers who lucked into a variety that would grow in a place where thirty-five-degrees-below-zero winter days were common. Others were “wild” trees seeded by birds or people that chanced to have the hardiness demanded by northern Wisconsin.

We picked good apples from an old tree on the “Munger place,” one of the many deserted farms a few miles from our home. The only traces of the farm were the stone foundations and small piles of lumber discarded when someone tore down the buildings, a lilac bush, a small field and the apple tree that bore sweet red apples in years when the blossoms didn’t freeze.

Many years later while hunting for brook trout along the Marengo River I came across another deserted farmstead with an apple tree. Located high above and a quarter mile distant from the river, the site had clearly been chosen because there was a spring in a dale on the hillside. The spring filled a small tank formed by logs sunk in the ground. A few yards away was a dilapidated tree with big apples on the few branches which had not been broken off by bears harvesting the fruit. For a dozen years I made a point of stopping in late summer for an apple on my way through the forest to the river. They were juicy and sweet.

“Wild” apple trees are fairly common today in northern Wisconsin. There is one along Highway 63 just a few miles from our cabin, but the apples don’t have much flavor. You will find quite a few apple trees growing in the ditches along town roads near Mason, Wisconsin, and some of those apples are pretty tasty. I speak from experience.

When I was in college, some friends and I found a deserted orchard near Mole Lake, Wisconsin, that supplied us with apples for some very satisfactory pies that I wrote about several years ago. You will find a good recipe for Double Crust Apple Pie in that essay.

The apple tree in our yard produces a fair crop every other year. We don’t spray, so we have to cut away the worm holes, but the apples make good pies, cakes and breads.

Jerri found this recipe for a wonderful apple bread in Lynda Kochevar’s food column, “In the Kitchen,” in the Pioneer Press. In answer to a reader’s question, Lynda suggested that the reader try this recipe with cinnamon and chopped apples. She said that the recipe was from The Church Supper Cookbook edited by David Joachim.

It’s really good.


4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 cup cooking oil
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups chopped apples
1 cup chopped nuts


Peel and core enough apples to produce two cups of apples chopped into about a half-inch dice. Chop a cup of raw walnuts or pecans into about a quarter-inch dice. Set the chopped apples and nuts aside in a small bowl.

Preheat the oven to 350º and grease and flour two loaf pans.

Sift the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a medium-sized bowl and set it aside. Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl until they are lemon yellow, add the sugar, oil, sour cream and vanilla and continue beating until you have a smooth liquid.

Stir in the flour mixture by thirds to make a thick batter. Fold in the apples and nuts, and spoon the batter into the prepared pans.

Bake one hour and test for doneness with a toothpick inserted near the center of each loaf. If the toothpick comes out clean, the bread is done. If it does not, bake another four or five minutes and test again.
NOTES: You can use either 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch or 5 by 9-inch pans. I have only one of the smaller size so I make two different sized loaves in each batch. They both turn out fine.