Apple Walnut Tea Cake

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

This post is in partnership with KitchenAid and Le Creuset. Both companies have agreed to partner with the blog as I document my baking adventures. This particular recipe was modified from the book Tartine No.3. Instead of the Kefir, I substituted Bulgarian yogurt. I learned how to bake bread with Tartine and own two Tartine books. This third edition goes through the nuances of different flours and I would highly recommend to those who have the basics of bread baking down but are looking to discover a little more. 

It’s Monday, the first week where I resume normal schedule at one of my dental offices. Back to four days a week, 9.5 to 6. When I heard the news last Tuesday, I have to be honest, I was a bit saddened. I really enjoyed the quarantine and found that it helped me to slow down my pace, We got to experience “retirement life” and I am now jealous of Mike’s ability to continue on in this way while I go back to work.

It isn’t that I dislike work. And I’m not ungrateful for the opportunity. I am quite conscious of the people without work, who have been struggling to get by these past few months, so I know how lucky I am. It’s just, I was enjoying the leeway that life gave me, which I never give myself. For once I was forced to have no obligations or responsibilities.

I spent the latter half of last week lamenting my loss, coupled with jamming my few moments of free time with “activities”. Which goes to show my need for a forced pause. The activities were “slow” – but still, the moments were teeming with shenanigans, to say the least.

These included cooking, baking, seeing loved ones and old friends, running and hiking every morning, being out in nature, practicing yoga, reading books, meeting for a book club, a Zoom coffee date, writing a ton, playing board games and watching movies. My anxiety-driven state pushed me to do more with my time, cherishing every moment, squeezing out more than usual with what I had left, as if a drowning woman gasping for air – a contrasting dichotomy that displays exactly who I am and how I want to live.

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I know I shouldn’t think of this time as an “end” to something good, but in a way, it is. It was a period of self-reflection and self-discovery even beyond what I had already achieved. It coincided with the close of the bakery and for the first time in a year, I was baking for myself. It was afternoons of tea cakes and mornings of matcha lattes, coffee lip drips and lounging about couches. It was a time for rediscovery of fiction and podcasts, as well as re-connection with friends and family.

In celebration of all said things for the month of April, I baked a cake. A life flushed with metaphors, I wanted to have a celebratory marker rather than a funeral. This is my ode to April.

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Apple Walnut Tea Cake

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup apple grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup leaven
  • 1/2 cup Bulgarian yogurt
  • 1.5 cups Spelt flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp clove
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 1 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil

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The Process:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Grate apples until you have 1 cup. I found that an average apple is about 3/4 cup.
  3. Place the grated apple, egg, leaven and yogurt in a KitchenAid stand mixer and mix on medium speed with a whisk attachment until well-incorporated. If your leaven is thick, you may need to stop the mixer half-way and scrape the sides with a spatula.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar and spices (all the way until the salt) and mix together.
  5. Add the olive oil to the dry ingredients and use two knives to cut the oil into the flour mixture until well-incorporated.
  6. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer, along with the walnuts and mix on medium speed until well mixed.
  7. Take a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan and spray the inside with baking spray. I like to line the bottom with parchment paper for easy removal.
  8. Bake for 60-70 minutes, rotating the pan 180 degrees halfway through for even baking.
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool in the loaf pan for 30 minutes.
  10. Invert onto a baking rack, and let cool completely to room temperature.
  11. Slice and enjoy.

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This loaf is on the drier side due to the walnuts (quite the contrast to the Lemon Poppyseed Loaf). It also is a bit earthier in flavor, more robust thanks to the spices, and hardly sweet at all. The apple is a very light flavor, so if you’d like a more moist, apple-like cake, you may add grated apple until you reach your preferred consistency, perhaps another fourth of a cup. For me, the dryness and walnuts add a coarse texture to the loaf, which I absolutely love. It pairs really well with a matcha latte.

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Hummingbird Birthday Cake

When it comes to birthday celebrations, I am a firm believer in home-made cake. Anyone can go to the store and pay for a cake, but it will likely be missing some of the magic. There may be some joy in the tippy-toeing over counters and selection of icing color, but there won’t be that love and care delicately (or not so delicately) folded into the flour, tucked underneath the frosting. I think the best presents come in the form of chocolate cookies made from scratch, so it just follows that the cake must also come from human hands, not a machine. All the better when it’s from someone dear.

Last week we threw a birthday party for my mother-in-law. We hosted a dinner with both our parents and the grandparents, gathering around a table of freshly baked brioche buns, home-made turkey patties, and fresh produce in that construct-your-own-hamburger kind of way. Obviously, I baked a cake for celebrations sake, one that I think is worth sharing. The recipe itself isn’t my doing. I must admit that I stole that from The Kinfolk Table, a book that we saw sitting on the shelves of an AirBNB in Melbourne and one that I am currently going through, trying one recipe a week. All have been wonderful additions to my stash of recipes, but none have been as fitting or fantastic as the Hummingbird Cake.

The Hummingbird Cake is the type that one reserves especially for birthdays. Don’t ask me about the name, because its source is left unknown. It has all the special-ness without, say, the fuss. It can be whipped up in a jiffy, and the steps can be broken up around the gift-wrapping and the house-decorating. The ingredients are easily accessible year-round, and the decorating is made easier by the handful of pecans scattered on top to cover the frosting technique. In other words, it’s newbie-baker approved.

I made a few alterations to the original recipe, but the basics still stand. I knew it was a doozy when my roommate ate half of the excess cake that I had sliced off in order to produce flat cake layers. She said it was the best thing she’s ever tasted, and diligently ate away at the left-over cake crumbs, sans icing. I knew it was a killer when our 82-year old grandma exclaimed, “I would literally DIE for this cake” after her first bite. Someone who just survived a recent-knee surgery shouldn’t be making jokes like that. The true test, however, was when our picky grandpa who does not even eat CHEESE or anything more adventurous than beef and potatoes finished his entire slice without a word. That alone says enough.

For me, I think it holds a hint of a memory that is buried in the recesses of my happy, unhealthy childhood. Mornings spent with my mama’s banana bread in hand, or cutting into a fresh pineapple cake. Also, there’s nothing as sentimental as the way my mother-in-law’s eyes lit up when she saw that I had baked her a birthday cake, and the way three colorful candles looked alit atop. The birthday song sung by everyone in the room in the dim kitchen lighting really set the tone for this cake and what was once reserved for someone else’s family’s traditional birthday cake now became one of our own.

May all your birthday cakes be baked by someone you love, for all the future birthdays to come.

Hummingbird Cake

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 28 g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 460 grams Bob’s Red Mill Pastry Flour
  • 350 grams bananas
  • 400 grams granulated sugar
  • 3 grams baking soda
  • 3 grams ground cinnamon
  • 6 grams salt
  • 3 large eggs, beaten and at room temperature
  • 360 milliliters vegetable oil
  • 227 grams crushed pineapple
  • 7.5 milliliters vanilla extract
  • 255 grams organic pecans, chopped

For the icing:

  • 227 grams cream cheese at room temperature (equivalent to one 8 oz packaged cream cheese)
  • 113.5 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 454 grams confectioner’s sugar
  • 5 milliliters vanilla extract
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The Process:

For the cake:

  1. I make this cake with two layers, and icing in the middle. I use two 9-inch round cake pans in order to achieve this, and spray the insides with coconut spray. Preheat ovens to 350 degrees F and place a rack in the center of the oven. It is here that you will bake off both pans.
  2. Finely chop the bananas. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the eggs and oil and stir just until you no longer see any specks of dry ingredients. Fold in the bananas. Stir in the pineapple, vanilla, and half of the pecans. Reserve the other half of the pecans for topping the cake.
  3. Divide the batter equally between both pans, ad set them on the middle rack. Bake, rotating halfway, for a total of 30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the center of the cakes come out clean. Transfer the cakes to racks and cool in the pans for ten minutes before inverting out. Inverting too soon can compromise the structure of the cake. After cooling, invert them directly onto a rack and cool for at least one hour.
  4. After the cake has cooled, trim off the excess on the tops of the cake, to get nice flat cake layers.

For the icing:

  1. While the cake cools, beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about three minutes. Decrease the speed to low and add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla gradually. Beat until light and fluffy, about another three minutes.
  2. To assemble, start with a bottom cake layer. Spread the frosting on top of it and sprinkle with some pecans. Then stack the second cake layer on top. Ice the cake on the sides and the top with the rest of the cream cheese frosting using a spatula. Sprinkle the remaining pecans on top of the cake, to cover a newbie frosting job.
Can’t frost to save your life?
No problem! Its a home made cake. Proof is in the icing.

Repeat for special birthdays to come.