french apple cake with a chocolate twist
It’s apple season in New England, the best time of the year! Ok, I say that about many (all?) the times of the year, but New England is known for its wide variety of delicious apples and there’s nothing more beautiful than seeing blushing fruits hanging from the trees while the surrounding landscape is full of flaming, colorful leaves and squashes dotting surrounding fields.
We are fortunate to live in Southern Vermont near Scott Farm, an orchard renowned for its large collection of heirloom apple varietals and orchard fruits. We recently went apple picking with John’s sister and her wife who were visiting from California, on the most glorious fall day. Add that to the fact that we have a weekly apple CSA from Scott Farm, so our cellar is full to bursting of these delicious fruits for eating out of hand and festive fall recipes.
One of my favorite ways to eat apples this time of year is in the form of a traditional French apple cake, made as a tart so each bite is more delicate and light. Instead of the traditional rum, I substituted rich crème de cacao for a subtle fudgy note (pommeau would be delicious, too!), perfectly balanced by the tart fruit and bumping up the richness of the buttery cake. Bon appetit!
• 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter plus some for coating the baking pan
• 4 medium-sized crisp apples (we like a mix of honeycrisp, fuji, braeburn and gala)
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1/2 tsp salt
• 2 large eggs, at room temperature
• 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed, or turbinado or panela (unrefined cane sugar)
• 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
• powdered sugar for serving
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Generously butter two 8-inch round tart pans or pie tins
Melt the stick of butter on low heat, remove from heat and set aside.
Peel, core and dice the apples.
Pro tip: use a teaspoon to core the apples: place the tip of the spoon at the top of the core and at a slight angle, then apply gentle pressure while twisting the spoon in a circular motion to pop the core out.
Combine the flour, baking powder and salt together in a medium-sized bowl.
In a different medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs until they are light and fluffy. While stirring, add the melted butter, crème de cacao, vanilla and finally the brown sugar, until combined. Add the flour mixture and stir with a spatula or wooden spoon until just combined (the batter will be slightly lumpy). Fold in the apples until just combined.
Pour half the mixture into each tart tin and gently smooth them down so the batter lays evenly in the pans.
Bake 30-40 minutes (keep an eye on it so it doesn’t overcook) until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool for 20 minutes. The tart should release slightly from the side of the pan as it cools, if not gently run a knife around the edge after it has cooled.
Dust with powdered sugar, and serve with freshly whipped cream or ice cream if you wish. Happy apple season!