We arrived home to Nantucket last week refreshed from our journey up north to the Maine coast. Maine is filled with such natural beauty. I find my spirit drawn to its rustic ways. It's hard granite coast line weathered and worn. Houses sat just in their place, some long abandoned others lovingly lived over generations. And the flowers, oh the wild flowers, fields upon fields of them. Purple-blue asters, ethereal Queen Anne's lace, bright yellow flashes of coreopsis and black eyed Susans all against wild grasses and greenery now graying with the changing seasons. In the mist it seems a scene from a dream, all at once haunting and alive, I inhale deeply a breath of wild sea air, pinching myself-"is this real"? It is real and I am grateful.
Wild (actually feral) apple trees are everywhere in Maine, scattered about along roadsides, along pastures and fields. Varieties long forgotten, some sweet, some mellow, some tart and crisp. We fill our baskets quickly alongside heavily traveled roads. Cars slow and passengers stare-"are they picking those"? Yes, yes we are. Foraging is free and the apples are plentiful. Some will have bugs, but that is ok, they have not been sprayed. These are heirloom varieties you cannot buy at the supermarket. As we pick I feel like they need to be documented least they may be forgotten forever. I believe there are some who do this work.
So, of late, I have been inspired by the changing seasons and the gifts of late summer/early fall. Apples are making an appearance at the table these days. This cake is a recipe I developed as an upside down version originally. Wanting to "pretty up" the top a bit I decided to reverse apple placement. My first attempt failed as the batter bubbled over the side and pooled at the bottom of the oven, burning. (The smell was fantastic, haha) A little adjustment of quantities and problem solved.
I could eat this any time of day. It's perfect with a cup of tea. So naturally it can be eaten at breakfast, afternoon tea or as dessert. I like to bring this along to potlucks this time of year. It's always a hit.
What seasonal ingredients have been inspiring you lately? Would love to hear from you.
Makes one 10" cake
2 large apples
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
¼ Cup maple syrup for coating apples
1 Cup whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder (non-aluminum)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (look for sweet cinnamon if you can find it)
½ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons flax meal
½ Cup unsweetened plain soymilk
¾ Cup real maple syrup (preferably grade B)
¼ Cup canola oil
Seeds of 1 vanilla bean or 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 Cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 Tablespoon oil or shortening for greasing pan
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack placed in the middle. Grease an 10” round baking dish with oil or vegan shortening and dust with flour.
Peel, core and thinly slice apples to approximately 1/8” slices. I sliced the apple horizontally instead of vertically for more half-circular shaped slices. Toss apples with lemon juice and ¼ Cup maple syrup in a bowl.
In a medium sized mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. In a large measuring cup or medium bowl whisk flax meal and soymilk together until frothy (about 1 minute). Whisk in maple syrup and oil and vanilla bean seeds until mixture is evenly incorporated.
Add wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir with a rubber spatula until evenly incorporated. Fold in walnuts if desired. Pour batter into greased and floured baking dish. Arrange apple slices on top of batter in concentric circles starting from the outer edge working inward. Reserve the maple juice the apple were tossed in. Sprinkle a little cinnamon over apples.
Place in oven and bake for 55 minutes or until top is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Transfer cake to cooling rack and let cool. You can paint the apples with some of the reserved maple juice they sat in if they look dry. Serve at room temperature. Will keep covered at room temperature for a few days.