And so it was with this apple cake, which is more apple than cake, rather plain but very appealing in its simplicity: the chunks of apple make a bumpy, golden top, and so satisfying that we all went back for seconds. Despite knowing that it was futile, Greenspan asked for the recipe, and, of course, Marie-Hélène didn't really know. "It's got two eggs, sugar, flour, and melted butter - oh, and rum," she said. "I mix the eggs and sugar together and then I add some flour, some butter, some flour, and some butter." When asked how much flour and butter, Greenspan got a genuinely apologetic shrug, and when asked what kind of apples she used, the answer was, divers, or different kinds. Thank goodness Dorie was so tenacious, for she succeeded in transcribing Marie-Hélène's fabulous recipe for us all to share for evermore.
French Apple Cake
Adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups mixed apples, such as Fuji, Golden Delicious, or Gala
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp dark rum
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
3/4 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F and adjust the oven rack to the center of the oven. Using some of the melted butter, brush the inside of a 6 or 8-inch springform pan and place it on a baking sheet.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl and set aside. Peel and core the apples, then dice them into 1-inch pieces.
In a large bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk or electric mixer until they are foamy. Add the sugar, rum, vanilla, cardamom, and lemon zest and whisk to blend. Add in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it's coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and smooth out the top with the spatula.
Place the cake on a baking sheet and position it on the center rack of the preheated oven. Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the edge to loosen the cake from the pan and carefully remove the sides of the cake pan, making sure no apples are stuck to it. Carefully remove the bottom of the pan and turn the cake onto a serving dish.
Using a whisk or mixer, whip each of the crème chantilly ingredients together until firm peaks are formed. Spoon the cream into a pretty bowl and serve along with the cake.