An Apple Cake for Afternoon Break, and Memories of March {with video!}

WATCH THE VIDEO RECIPE HERE!
The tiny dishes were gently provided by DishesOnly!

——

‘Come. I found a nice thing today.’
My grandpa headed into the woods, his hands in his pockets, as a 10-year-old me joyfully followed along. Amidst the fields, painted golden with the light of March at 5 PM, there were patches of woods, which we entered stepping on broken branches and crisp leaves. The rays of sun filtered through the trees, toned down by the damp air.
The path in the woods ended on yet another field.
‘Look there!’ said grandpa, pointing at a tree nearby. He approached and, as I followed along, he picked something off the tree.
As I got closer,  I was amazed to see what he had picked: the tree was loaded with the tiniest, crispest of red apples. They looked like baby versions of Fuji apples, all striped in various tones of red, but we knew they would not grow any bigger than that.
My grandpa just rubbed the apple on his shirt to remove the dirt – farmers did not really went around washing their fruit, and bit into it. So did I. It was the tastiest, juiciest piece of fruit I ever had in my life.
‘Here, let’s see how many we can bring home.’
I tried to fit as many apples as I could in my arms, and we brought them back home.
As we walked back, I looked at my grandpa: no matter wether he was working in the vegetable gardens, in the fruit patches, walking through the woods or through the dirt. He always had his hair perfectly combed and styled, and he always left a trail of aftershave where he passed. He was a fine gentleman dressed in dirty overalls. He can be a bit rough at times, but he is very gentle and appreciates a tight hug. Every time I looked at him, I thought that he was like nature: he did what he was meant for, and he behaved according to how he felt, but he always had respect for everything. He could be cruel, and he could be gentle, but his actions were never unjustified. He was generous and produced beautiful things with his hands. Secretly, even when i was 10, I wished to find men like him in my life.

Apple Snack/Breakfast Italian Cake

Apple Snack/Breakfast Italian Cake

My gandparents have always been an important presence in my childhood. When we were kids, we would finish school at noon and could not wait to be done with lunch to go and play at the park, ride our bikes and play games like soccer or volleyball. We were constantly running around, and, in the days when we had afternoon classes, our moms would take us straight to the closest garden to let us play until sundown. My grandparents lived quite close to a large park, so they spent a fair share of the time when their legs worked fine chasing after me. Often, we would also travel to the farmhouse where I live today, where there wa sof course more running around to do, fresh produce to pick, and hens to chase after.
No matter where any kid in Italy was, we all knew that sometime between 4 and 5 PM it was time for ‘merenda’, our afternoon snack.

Both my grandma and mom have been preparing this apple cake for ‘merenda’ and for breakfast. I loved how it was loaded with soft apples, and I loved how the flavor of the very slight zing of lemon contrasted with their sweetness. It was a fast, easy cake to make and put together, and a perfect way to avoid buying packaged snacks, which we really did not need.

Apple Snack/Breakfast Italian Cake

Apple Snack/Breakfast Italian Cake

Now that we are adults and we don’t really snack on cake anymore, that afternoon ritual has been replaced by tisanes or green tea. When we can, me and my mom take the dog for a walk in the fields, where I can wear my rubber boots and put my feet on the damp grass. The transition to spring smells crisp, and the 5 PM sun, which is not ready to set yet, diffuses its light into the thin layer of mist that roll out over the fields. The branches are loaded with new green gems ready to sprout, while some shy almond flowers brave the cold and open themselves to the world.
‘Mom, remember that apple tree that grandpa found in that field? Do you remember at all where it is?’
I have been asking that question for over 10 years. The answer is always the same.
‘I have no idea. It was somewhere through the woods, it would be impossible to find, unless you’re a hunter, I guess.’
Unfortunately, my grandpa doesn’t remember, either. It has been too long.
Remembering this episode, we got Fuji apples from a local farmer. They’re the last of the season, he said. Load up on them now that you can.
I smell them with a deep breath. they are sweet and fragrant. I look at the stunning colors around me and feel the blessing of this aura of change upon myself.
‘They really smell like those tiny apples we found in that field,’ says mom.
‘You know,’ I tell her. ‘Sometimes I look at nature and think that it is just like grandpa: it can be cruel, it can be gentle, but its actions are never unjustified. It is generous and produces such beautiful things. After all, when you get produce like this, you can only be thankful.’
‘Well said!’ she smiled.
‘Shall we have apple cake for merenda?’
‘Yes, let’s.’

Apple Snack/Breakfast Italian Cake

Apple Snack/Breakfast Italian Cake

—————–

This cake goes quite heavy on apples, and uses spelt and rice flour instead of standard all-purpose. It is a lovely treat to have in the afternoon with a cup of tea after a nice walk outside, or on a sunday morning with some coffee, maybe topped with a dollop of yogurt. If you want to serve this for dessert, serve a small slice straight out of the oven with a scoop of ice cream or some coconut cream.

Apple Afternoon Cake
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • For the apples:
  • 5 medium apples (a bit less than 1 pound weighted whole)
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • The juice of a lemon
  • A splash of rum (optional but delicious)
  • -----------
  • 1 + ⅓ cup {5.3oz - 150g} spelt flour
  • ⅓ cup {1.7oz - 50g} brown rice flour
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup {4oz - 110g} brown organic sugar
  • ¼ cup + 1tsp {2.8oz - 80g} melted coconut oil, or any light-flavored cold-pressed vegetable oil
  • The zest of a lemon
  • Almond milk or your favorite kind of milk
  • 2 + ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • A pinch of salt
Instructions
  1. First, wash and peel your apples.*
  2. cut them into not-too-thick slices (about ¼ inch) and toss them in a pan with the honey, rum if using and lemon juice. Cook them briefly, until the honey and lemon turn syrupy and the apples get slightly tender. If you have time, it is a good idea to let the apples soak into this sweet marinade for a few hours before cooking. Set aside and let cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 F˚ - 180 C˚.
  4. Prepare the batter: separate the yolks from the whites, and whip the yolks with the sugar until they turn pale and very thick. The sugar will not dissolve completely. At this point, add the lemon zest, vanilla and melted coconut oil.
  5. drain the apples and measure out the liquid they produced, and add enough milk to get ¾ cup's worth of liquid. Add it to the batter and mix well, then sift together the spelt flour, rice flour and baking powder, and mix well until you get a uniform batter.
  6. Whip the egg whites until firm, and, moving the spoon or spatula in a circular motion from the bottom and upward, add them to the batter, mixing delicately until well incorporated.
  7. Line the bottom of a -" ring pan with parchment paper, and cover the bottom with a pattern of apple slices. Cut the leftover slices into smaller pieces, and add them to the batter. If you can't be bothered to create a pattern, you can cut the apples into smaller pieces and just incorporate them to the batter as a last step.
  8. Pour the batter on top of the apples, and bake for about 50 minutes. Check the cake with a toothpick: if it comes out dry, the cake is done. This cake remains quite moist, so you know it will be done when the toothpick has no raw batter sticking to it.
  9. Let cool and, if you used a springform pan like I did, you can serve it warm with a dusting of icing sugar. If you want to reverse it to display the pretty apple pattern, you will have to wait for it to cool down completely.
  10. Serve this with a dollop of yogurt or coconut cream for a weekend breakfast, or with coffee or tea for an afternoon snack after a long walk.

Apple Snack/Breakfast Italian CakeApple Snack/Breakfast Italian Cake

CLOSE MENU .... .... ....