January 26th, 2006

A Pocket Full of Murder

Recipe Help!

I'm not a bad cook (if I dare say so myself), but I'm not an adventurous one. I like to try new things, but I'm afraid to stray from the safety of the printed recipe. As a result, when a recipe is almost but not quite perfect, I'm really not sure what I need to do to fix it. So I'm going to appeal to my readers, among whom I know are some very capable chefs, to help me out.

Apple Crumble Cake

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See, this is a really nice cake. It's easy to put together and uses simple ingredients that I usually have on hand, it looks attractive without undue effort on my part (I took the above picture in my own kitchen this afternoon), and it has just the right amount of moisture and density to please me. The only problem is that while the crumble topping is sweet and tasty, the rest of the cake seems to have very little flavour, and I'm wondering how to fix that.

Here's the recipe I followed:

  • 2 cups thinly sliced peeled apples, divided
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. each, ground cinnamon and ginger
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. each, baking soda and salt

    Crumble Topping:
  • 1/3 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp each, ground cinnamon and ginger
  • 2 tbsp. butter, melted

    1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter 9-inch springform pan.
    2. Topping: In small bowl, combine oats, sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Stir in butter until crumbly; set aside.
    3. Finely chop 1/2 cup of the apple slices; set aside. In large bowl, whisk together butter, brown sugar, and eggs until blended. Whisk in chopped apples, milk, sour cream and vanilla. Without stirring, add flour, cinnamon, ginger, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir until just moistened.
    4. Pour into prepared pan, smoothing top; arrange remaining apple slices decoratively on top. Sprinkle with topping. Bake for about 1 hour or until tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Let cool in pan on rack for 20 min. Remove ring; serve warm or cool completely.

    Preparation time: 15 minutes
    Baking time: 1 hour

    What's not to like, except that the cake part is a bit bland? So I'm wondering whether I should double the brown sugar in the cake batter, or whether I ought to increase the spices, or whether the milk and sour cream are actually dulling the flavour and I'd be better to replace them with vegetable oil or applesauce, or what.

    Ideas?