May 16, 2016

apple cake with sugar and cinnamon topping

We've had this unusually warm spring this year, and my husband wants to know if I've received the memo about that, because the other day I made gingerbread, and last week I made this apple cake. Both seem like the type of thing more suited towards cooler, sweater-ish, misty weather.


I'm here to tell you, apple cake is good any time, any weather, and gingerbread as well, but I'll touch on that in a different post I have planned. Of course, now the weather has changed and cooled off and we're supposed to have a week of overcast skies.

I mentioned recently on Instagram that I love the cookbooks of Tessa Kiros, and her book 'Apples for Jam' is one of my great great great favorites. So great in fact, it sits in a permanent place of honor on my kitchen counter, one of only five cookbooks to do so, and I'll talk more about that later. I've only been promising to talk about what my all time favorite cookbooks are, for about....three years I think??

I checked out 'Apples for Jam' over and over again from the library until Andrew finally put me out of my misery last year and got it for me for some holiday or my birthday, I can't remember which. I remember the first time I saw it, actually - it was in a bookstore in Hawaii, when I was there visiting my dad, and I saw the cover and was like what??? It's like someone created a cookbook JUST TO MAKE ME HAPPY. How nice. Tessa, thank you!

The photos in this book.....if I were doing my own cookbook, I would want them just like these. There are pictures of Tessa's children just doing nothing in particular, candids, Poloroid style. Art scribbles done by the kids. There are baby pictures of her grandparents. Snapshots from the holidays. And the food....whimsical and colorful and rustic and charming and not too fussy - the photos in this book are as much fun as the food. The art direction, styling and photography are really well done.

I'm slowly working my way through the book, and I've been wanting to make the apple cake recipe for ages, so I just went ahead and did it. This is a sad time in our lives at the moment, because we're going to lose my beloved stepfather any day now. I've been doing a lot of baking, and making a lot of photo books. Last week I made nine photo books, I think I mentioned - because I just don't know what else to do except grasp at memories. And make treats for my daughter.

I didn't grow up having proper afternoon snack. I don't think it was A Thing in the late-70's, or maybe it was, but just not at my house. I either grabbed a spoonful of peanut butter (or 4), or stole Pop Tarts (I really did that. Just once.), or used my allowance to go buy candy bars at the golf store down the street from my house, near the beach in Hawaii.

But I was always reading constantly about cakes and milk and afternoon teas and dinner and 'supper' and all of that jazz in my storybooks, so I became obsessed with two things when I grew up - casseroles and afternoon snack. My daughter probably thinks I'm crazy because she'll be running out the door to go play and I'm shrieking behind her, "BUT YOU HAVEN'T HAD YOUR SNACK!"

So if you're looking for a lovely treat/snack for you or a friend or your kids, make this. It has a lot of walnuts, which I adored, and my more nut-ambivalent daughter and husband didn't even notice. There's so much crumbly topping going on, I think to delete the nuts would be taking away the wholesome grounding nature of the cake, but if there's a nut allergy present in your life, by all means just leave out the nuts. Actually I take that back - there's so many nuts in the bread and topping, that if they are a problem for you, best to find another apple recipe I think.

Apple Bread with Sugar and Cinnamon Topping ~ via 'Apples for Jam'


scant 3/4 cup sugar
1/4 pound plus 3 tablespoons butter, softened
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
2 apples, peeled, cored, and coarsely grated
2/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla extract


2/3 cup walnuts, finely chopped
1/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 12 by 4 inch loaf pan. (i think mine was 10 by 6 inches and it was fine, and I just lined it with a sheet of parchment paper.) Beat together the sugar and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs and beat them in well. Mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom, and cinnamon and pinch of salt, and then mix well into the butter/sugar mixture. Add the apples, walnuts, and vanilla and mix those through well. Scrape the mixture into the pan.

For the topping, mix together the walnuts, sugar and cinnamon, and then scatter abundantly over the top of the batter - bake for about 45 minutes or until the top is crusty brown and skewer poked into the middle comes out clean. Check after 30 minutes and cover the top with foil if it is already quite brown.

Cool slightly before turning out carefully. Do this over your serving plate so that you don't lose any topping. Serve slightly warm, or at room temperature, on it's own, or with whipped cream, or with vanilla ice cream. (if you use parchment, you can just lift the cake out no problem from the pan)

This little cake was MARVELOUS. Moist, light and nicely dense at the same time, how??  And check out the book - you won't be sorry!


  1. Melissa, I'm so sorry to hear that your stepfather is ill. Your family will be in my thoughts.

    The cake looks delicious, it reminds of the cakes they used to serve at my mother's coffee klatchs. Seems like it would be perfect with coffee or tea.

    We didn't have afternoon snacks growing up, but I definitely instituted the custom with my daughter. It's a nice break in the afternoon, and keeps you going till dinner.

    1. thank you so much Maureen, I appreciate that so much!

      this cake indeed would be lovely with tea or coffee! and i do think afternoon snack is totally necessary to keep going until dinner time :)

  2. I'm so sorry about your stepfather. {{{hugs}}}

    This looks lovely. I have to take a break from sweets and baked goods for a while, as I was a bit appalled at my checkup at the doc the other day. BUT if I have an excuse to make something yummy and sweet sometime in the future...

    1. aaah yes I hear you. two gingerbreads later, I'm like, um I think I need a lot of salads.....