Every fall, my family and I go apple picking. It’s one of the greatest annual pleasures of living in the Northeastern U.S. We grow so many varieties of apples, and these days it seems that there are more hybrid varieties than ever. We try to go toward the beginning of the season, so we have our pick (although we’re not above climbing to the top of the trees to get what’s left if need be!), but the ones we bag and bring home are always the classics: Macintosh, Granny Smith and my personal northeast favorite, Empire apples. Not everyone in my family enjoys eating Granny Smith apples like they do the others, but they make undeniably perfect apple pies, cakes and sauces. This tender gluten free apple cake with a generous crumble topping certainly makes perfect use of those tart and firm Granny Smiths.
The crumble topping is mixed up by hand first, and placed in the refrigerator to chill. That’s what allows us to break it up into chunks, or crumbles later. But the cake itself needs the power of a KitchenAid® Pro Line® Series Stand Mixer, which beats the butter until it’s perfectly light and fluffy before adding in the sugar, eggs and vanilla and beating until smooth.
Beating the butter and egg cake base before adding in the dry ingredients, alternating with the milk, and mixing until just combined is what makes the cake batter smooth enough to incorporate the cooked apples, but also substantial enough that it holds all of the apples in place. Cooking the peeled, cored and sliced apples for a few minutes on the stovetop ahead of time means that the cake only has to be in the oven long enough to bake to perfection, without over-baking it while you wait for the apples to become tender.
The cake batter is then scraped into the pan, the top smoothed with a wet spatula, and the crumble topping is scattered on top. By the time it is placed in the oven, the pan is already relatively full. There is still enough room for the cake to expand, though! In case any pieces of the crumble topping fall off during baking, we bake it on a lined baking sheet. To make it easier to remove the baked cake from the pan, you can bake it in a springform pan placed on a baking sheet. But I usually avoid using a springform pan if possible, since I find them to be very difficult to clean and not everyone has one.
The cake is ready when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs attached. You’ll know it’s ready before you even use a toothpick or other tester, though: the top springs back when pressed gently. If you’re concerned that the topping is browning too quickly, tent the cake loosely with a piece of foil and allow it to finish baking.
Every bite has moist and delicate yellow cake, the smooth taste of fork-tender apples cooked with cinnamon and sugar, and the sweet, dense crumb of the crumble topping. This cake alone is worth a trip to the orchard—or at least to the grocery store for some perfect baking apples.
Gluten Free Apple Crumb Cake
Makes 1 9-inch cake
For the crumble
1/2 cup (70 grams) all purpose gluten free flour (I used my mock Better Batter blend)
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (73 grams) packed light brown sugar
1 cup (100 grams) certified gluten free old-fashioned rolled oats
8 tablespoons (112 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
For the cake
1 1/2 pounds (about 3) baking apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1/8-inch thick wedges (I used Granny Smith)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons (28 grams) packed light brown sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons water
2 cups (280 grams) all purpose gluten free flour (I used my mock Better Batter blend)
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons (112 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (200 grams) granulated sugar
3 eggs (150 grams, out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup (5 1/3 fluid ounces) milk, at room temperature
For the crumble
In a medium-size bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, salt, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Whisk to combine well, working out any lumps in the brown sugar. Add the oats, and mix to combine. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the melted and cooled butter. Mix to combine. The mixture should come together and be thick. Place in the refrigerator to chill while you make the cake batter.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Grease well a 9-inch round baking pan with at least 2-inch high sides and set it on top of the lined baking sheet.
For the cake
First cook the prepared apples. In a medium-size, heavy bottom saucepan, place the apple wedges, ground cinnamon and brown sugar, and toss to coat the apples in the cinnamon and sugar. Add 2 tablespoons of water, and mix to combine. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apple slices are fork-tender (about 5 minutes), adding more water if necessary to prevent the mixture from burning. You don’t want to cook the apples down into sauce. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool briefly.
In a separate, medium-size bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder and salt, and whisk to combine. Set the bowl aside. In the bowl of your KitchenAid® Pro Line® Series Stand Mixer fitted with the Flat Beater, place the butter and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the sugar, then the eggs and vanilla, beating to combine well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients to the KitchenAid® Pro Line® Series Stand Mixer bowl in 3 parts, alternating with the milk, and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Remove the mixer bowl from the Stand Mixer, and fold the cooked apples into the smooth batter until evenly distributed throughout. Scrape the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth into an even layer with a wet spatula.
Remove the chilled crumble topping from the refrigerator and, using a fork, break the crumble into loose, irregular pieces. Place the crumble pieces on top of the cake batter in the pan in an even layer and press down gently to help the topping adhere to the cake.
Place the cake pan back on the lined baking sheet, and place in the center of the preheated oven. Bake until the crumble topping is lightly golden brown all over and a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes back mostly clean, or with a few moist crumbs attached (about 45 minutes). When it’s done, the top of the cake will spring back when pressed gently in the center. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pan for at least 30 minutes. Remove any bits of baked crumble topping that are sticking to the edge of the pan. They might make it difficult to remove the cake from the pan. Working quickly, invert the cake onto a plate and then re-invert the cake, so it is crumble-side up, onto a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.
*The Contributor of this post has been compensated by KitchenAid for this post, but this post represents the Contributor’s own opinion.*