Monday, November 28, 2005

(Non-)Canadian apple cake

Photo updated in August 2008. I've also added gram measurements for dry ingredients in addition to volume measurements.

This is my most faithful apple cake recipe – a recipe that has been with me for a lot more than a decade. Despite having tried numerous other apple cake recipes – some fancier, some humbler, some trickier, some simpler – this is the recipe I come back to most often.

In 1978, a book was published in Estonian, called "Maailma toite" or "Dishes of the world". It was a collection of numerous recipes collected from various sources and a small number of pictures. Chapters were listed according to regions or countries, each beginning with a small introductory paragraph about what people eat in the given country. I loved the book – I liked the descriptions of foods from faraway places that I could never visit in person (or that’s how it seemed behind the Iron Curtain at the time), and reading about these foods gave me a sneak preview into the lives on the other side of than notorious ‘invisible but definitely there’ Curtain..

Once I reached my early teens, I had somehow already been bitten by the foodie bug, and I attempted cooking a number of the dishes. Some where huge successes, some were not. I can still remember the reserved enthusiasm that my Austrian carrot pure soup was met with. However, under the section "Canada" I came across a recipe for apple cake – Kanada õunakook. I fell in love with it then and there – and as I said, this has proved to be a long-term relationship. This is the cake that I bake most often. This is the cake that is often requested when we go to visit friends and relatives. This is also the cake that has caused me most embarrassment. I remember early on, my uncle J. had asked me to bring along my delicious apple cake to his birthday party. Somehow I ended up using only a third of the flour in the batter that time, but too inexperienced at the time to see that something was clearly wrong with it. The resulting cake was dense, hard and utterly bitter (the cinnamon overkill) and was sitting still pretty much untouched on the table at the end of the party. Luckily, I seem to have redeemed myself since then and restored my Domestic Goddess reputation.

As I said, this recipe was called “Canadian apple cake” in my book, and that’s how my family knows it back home. During my years in Edinburgh, I’ve shared a kitchen with quite a few Canadians (Hi! Amanda!!! :), and although they all loved it, they couldn’t really see why it was Canadian. Canadian or not, it’s a delicious apple cake..

Canadian apple cake
(Kanada õunakook)

300 ml plain flour, sifted (165 grams)
0.5 tsp fine salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
100 ml sugar (85 grams)
1 large egg
50 grams of butter, melted
100 ml milk (100 grams)
ca 2-3 large apples, cored and cut into small cubes

4 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp plain flour
1 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp butter

Mix the dry ingredients. Mix the butter, milk, and egg, pour into the dry mixture and mix. Fold in the apple cubes. Pour the batter into buttered loose bottomed cake tin.

Mix the crumb ingredients with a knife, sprinkle over the cake.

Bake at 200-210˚C for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake is nice golden brown.

Let it cool slightly (although it’s beautiful hot with a cold glass of milk). Sprinkle with icing sugar. Serve with vanilla ice cream, creme anglaise or on its own.

The moist apple pieces in the cinnamonny cake? And the cinnamonny caramelized crunchy topping?

Mmmmmmm!! I just thought of a way to Canadize this cake a bit, and maybe even make it live up to its name. What if I’d replace the brown sugar in the crumb mixture with maple sugar??? There’s an idea for next time...

UPDATES: here are links to some other foodbloggers who have kindly tried - and liked - my apple cake:

4 December 2005: Anne over at Anne's Food

12 December 2005: Drstel at Baby Rambutan

14 December 2005: Zubaida over at Kitchen Culture

16 January 2006: Shalimar over at Wanderlust

16 January 2007: Joey over at 80 Breakfasts

14 April 2007: Nupur over at One Hot Stove


Anonymous said...

There is something about this cake that reminds me of american-style coffee cake. Maybe Canadians have something similar?! Maple syrup in the crumble? It seems a bit like a waste to me: how about omitting the sugar in the crumble and than dousing the finnished cake with the syrup while it is still warm?

Anonymous said...

this cake looks wonderful. may i know what size cake pan do you normally use for this recipe?

Anonymous said...

that looks amazing :) does 'dl' in your recipe mean a cup? or is that a liquid measure?

Anonymous said...

I have been visiting your site for a few weeks and it has become one of my favourites.
Since I am Canadian I will definitely have to try out your Canada Apple Cake recipe.

Nefritite said...

Hei Pille,

I am gonna try this recipe - it looks delicious, yet the recipe is nice and simple!

ps. I made yesterday the carrot dish with feta cheese, which you wrote about a few days ago. It tasted really good! I wouldn't have thought of such a combination, but I learn something new every day...
Even my bf, who likes to have meat in his dinners, was impressed :)
Thanks for the inspiration!


Pille said...

Lunarossa - your idea of dousing the cake with maple syrup sounds good. I might also try just a sprinkle of maple sugar on the finished cake next time. Or maybe sweeten the ice cream with some maple syrup..

Anon - I use either 20 or 22 cm springform tin, depending whether I cook it in Edinburgh or Tallinn:)

Anonymous - I must remember using millilitres instead of decilitres next time!!! Yes, it is a metric liquid measure. 1 dl is 100 millilitres or 0.1 litre alias just under half a cup.

Terri - thank you so much for your kind words, I'm pleased you like my site! Let me know how you liked the cake - and whether you thought it was suitably Canadian or not:)

Anita - you're spot on - this is a very simple, delicious and nice cake! Glad you liked the carrot dish - I've copied your comments to the carrot-feta story as well..

Anonymous said...

Oh, this looks really good. I love apple cakes.


Anonymous said...

Dear Pille, the (incredibly) good side of the book clearly was that it was a milestone for your culinary career, but just as "Canadian" seems to be nothing more than a fancy name (according to what your flatmates say, I actually do not have any idea about what is typically Canadian except maple sirup...) there is nothing like an "Austrian" carrot cream soup... Poor girl. Interestingly enough we have many soup specialities - clear soups with little liver dumplings, savoury sponge cakes etc. in it, maybe cream soups have become popular during the past decades, but I would never consider them as typical for our cuisine. However, I like your recipe and - since I semm to owe it to my name ;-) I have to try every apple recipe I can get hold of. Big hug, angelika

Anonymous said...

That is a really delicious looking cake...I can almost feel my teeth sinking into it! Guess it doesn't matter whether it is Canadian or not ;) But I love old recipe books that have such influence in culinary lives...those are the ones with real tales to tell :)

Pille said...

Anonymous - I've changed all decilitres into millilitres - hope it's less confusing!

Paz - we have a similar taste in cakes then! For everyday cakes, apple is my favourite, although rhubarb cakes in the spring and early summer are high on the list as well..

Angelika - thanks for the clarification on the carrot soup. I'll probably give that recipe a second chance when I go home in a fortnight - maybe my tastes have changed (back then I didn't eat any fish, onions, garlic and wasn't so fond of mushrooms, for instance. How tastes can change, eh!?)

Joey - indeed, although there are so many gorgeous cookbooks around (bought Claudia Roden's Arabesque and Sam & Sam Clark's Casa Moro last week, and Tessa Kiros' Falling Cloudberries today), some of the old ones can be just as dear to my heart despite of their simplicity and lackings in photography.. This book definitely opened up "culinary doors" for me..

Anne said...

I tried this last night, and yuuuuum! It was delicious! Thank you so much :)

Pille said...

Anne - I'm so pleased you liked the cake!!!

Unknown said...

i made this today...and it is almost gone just a few hours later-- my 3 kids and husband devoured it. thanks for this! their only complaint: cake is too small mom :D

Journal Actif said...

I'm making this cake TONIGHT ! It looks too good to suffer any delay in the making!

My 3 young boys will certainly thank you tomorrow when they see it on the kitchen table.

I'm not canadian from birth, I'm living here since 11 years now. I can see why it was said to be canadian. It looks like the kind of coffee cakes my very canadian neighbour (she's from New-Found-Land) makes often and serves when the 4 housewives of the street gather at her place around an afternoon coffee while the kids are napping.

If you don't mind, I'll post a picture of the cake on my blog and give the link to the recipe on yours. Is it OK?

Journal Actif said...

That was a great cake ! (notice I use the past here because there's no cake left of course, it was liquidated this moring at breakfast...)

Pille, I heard of your (non-)canadian cake on the Baby Rambutan blog. So you see, your cake recipe seems to very popular among food bloggers...

Pille said...

Drstel and Zoubida - I am so happy you liked the cake! And Zoubida - thanks for clarifying the Canadian-ness of this cake;)

Anonymous said...

I SHALL TELL YOU.. THAT MY FRIEND ASKED ME TO BAKE THE CAKE AGAIN. I gave her 2 slices and SHE WANTS MORE.. am making 2 this weekend.
2 or 3 from my links will do it too

Anonymous said...

could you please tell me what ca means? it is written before 2 apples in the ingredients list.

Nupur said...

Pille, what a lovely recipe. I tried it with a combination of apple and pear (just what I had on hand) and it was so delicious! Thanks for sharing!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Just found this recipe this morning through Nupur's blog. Just the kind of thing I really love to prepare for a brunch party. Thank you!

Pille said...

Sha - thanks for sharing the recipe :-)

Anonymous - 'ca' is an abbrevation for 'circa' or 'about'. Hope that helps:)

Nupur - so glad you enjoyed this! It's great to see that somebody is using recipes from the archive, too, thanks!

Lydia - please do try this, it's delicious!

coffeedreames said...

Hi there! Dropped by and saw this recipe. Wow, the crumb idea is great. Can't wait to try it. Will let u know how it turns out soon!
Btw, I can see from your pix that you used red apples - do you know if its any difference between these or the green Granny smith ones? Thanks!

Unknown said...

Hi there, thank you for your wonderful Apple Cake Recipe! It looks great! Any chance you could convert the measurements into cups and tablespoons? I'd love to make this cake but have no idea what 300ml of flour is?? Is that 1&1/2 cups or 300 grams? Sorry but just not used to these measurements in Australia. Thank you!

Pille said...

Loretta - it's much easier to provide metric measurements, as that's universal. A cup in the UK and US and Australia can vary from 240 ml to 260 ml, which is much more confusing.

An Australian cup is 250 ml, so 300 ml would be 1 cup and another 1/5th. 100 ml would be 2/5 of a cup.

Hope that helps.

rika said...

i made this cake today and i'm sorry to say that it turned out really bad. i weighed 300 grams flour on my kitchen scale (not 300 ml - i thought ml was only used to measure fluids like milk) and as soon as i mixed it in i realised the liquid/moisture was too less! also the fat content (melted butter) is too less.
and sure enough the cake turned out to be tough, dry and rather biscuity (not in a good way). i think the flour measure should be closer to 150 grams, but i wouldn't try this cake out again.

Pille said...

Rika - sorry to hear that your cake turned out badly. However - I take no blame for that, as it's clearly stated in the recipe that you need 300 ml of flour (100 ml of flour is about 55 grams, so 300 ml is 165 grams of flour - about half of the amount you used!)

I'm amazed how much confusion the millilitres and decilitres (1 dl = 100 ml; there are 10 decilitres to one litre) cause in non-European readers! A cup - widely used to measure both liquids and solds in the US - is also a volume measurement (one cup being about 250 ml), so how is that different from simply stating the exact amount of millilitres? Metric measurements simply make so much more sense to someone who has grown up with them :)

However, I have also provided a helpful Culinary Converter on the right hand side bar for any conversions you need to make.

Shannon said...

This recipe looks lovely, but the measures are very odd. Millilitres (or decilitres) are measures for LIQUIDS not dry goods such as flour and sugar. While places like the US use cups and tea/tablespoons for both liquid and dry measures instead of metric measures such as grams or ml, it's not as accurate as using the metric or weight measures (in fact large scale baking is usually done with weight measures in the US versus cups). But 250ml just doesn't make sense when you are talking about flour just as 250g wouldn't really make sense if you were talking about milk. This is why there is so much confusion about the measures you've listed. I hope that makes sense. I've grown up in the US, but now live in the UK so have both sets of measures to contend with quite often!

Pille said...

Shannon - yes and no :) I lived in a student dorm without kitchen scales for years, and baked all my cakes using a simple 100 ml measuring cup. In the US, a cup is used both for liquids and dry goods, and all one has to remember is that 1 cup = 250 ml. As easy as that. (What I was arguing here is that I cannot see how 1 cup of flour makes sense to Americans, but 250 ml doesn't - we're talking about the exact same thing!!!)
I've got no problems mesuring milk or water in grams, as we were taught in school that 1 gram of water = 1 millilitre. So I know that 1 litre of water weighs 1 kg (and equals 4 cups).
This cake works well enough if you use volumes - I'm not giving a recipe for macaroons or other cakes that need much more precision!

PS I now have kitchen scales, and most of my newer recipes state grams now.

Ene-Mai said...

This is the second time I have made this easy yet yummy cake. Last week for an estonian choir I sing with Hapu Koor in Adelaide and tonight for an ozzie dive club meeting

Svenja said...

This is the best apple cake that I've ever tasted! I made it when I got home from work, and as soon as it came out of the oven I couldn't stop picking bits off the crumble topping and eating them! I had a hot slice with some single cream, mmmmm :) I can tell that this recipe is going to become one of my all-time favourites.

Pille said...

Ene-Mai - thank you for your feedback and kind words about the cake. PS "Hapu Koor" is the coolest name ever for a choir :) :D

Svenja - thank you!!! So lovely to hear that this cake is still a hit in good old Edinburgh!

lagastronomista said...

Out of curiosity I tried it out myself and it makes one fine apple cake, Canadian or not.

Anonymous said...

I believe the Canadian angle on this recipe might be that apples (tart McIntosh in particular) are abundant in eastern Canada in the autumn, so a forefather - or more likely a foremother! - probably originally baked this cake.

I will definitely try this. My current apple cake recipe (called 'Apple Dapple Cake") tastes great but never cooks evenly.

Love this site. I found it after googling 'piparkoogid'. I was born in Toronto but my parents (both now passed away) emigrated from Estonia->Sweden-Canada... and I find there are a number of Estonian dishes from my childhood that I crave and wonder about. Thanks for creating this connection for people like me. - Lana

Esther said...

I baked this cake today for Christmas lunch! My father in law is the type of person that reads the dessert menu before looking at entres and mains AND he loves anything with apple, so if there is apple pie, apple struddle or apple cake In the menu he always goes for it. So I was a bit scared of cooking an apple dessert but guess what he said today to me, 'this is the BEST apple cake I've ever had' I felt so proud :) Thank you for the recipe!

Pille said...

lagastronomista - thrilled to hear that!

Lana - I'm always glad to hear that another expat-Estonian has found Nami-Nami! Your theory re: the Canadianness of this cake might just be true..

Esther - I'm so happy that this cake pleased you - and your apple-loving dad!

LaLy said...

Väga-väga lahe, et Eesti blogia on suutnud endale väikese fännbaasi tekitada :D ülimalt lahe ja ma proovisin ka retsepti järgi, väga maitsev (Y)