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tried & true

Some think that baking is a real endeavor. Sure, it can be laborious and extremely trying, but other times it’s as easy as a piece of cake (no pun intended. It can be as simple as throwing some tried and true ingredients and techniques together. When you’ve got a good reference guide that you’ve become quite familiar with, you don’t have to follow each step word for word. That’s the great thing about this book- you learn the basic skills that will help you figure out your style and way in the kitchen.

I like to think that I’ve grown quite comfortable in the kitchen since starting this blog. My first post was on a batch of chocolate cupcakes that now seem slightly forgettable but at the time they were exciting. Homemade! Cupcakes! By Me! What can I say, I am easily entertained. But now, the real excitement starts as I find myself adapting recipes to better suit my preferences. Case in point, this apple nut muffin cake.

My recent taste-buds have been crying out for raisins, apples and cinnamon. You’d think that it was fall or something, not spring or summer. Whenever I imagine that I am stranded on a desert island, I think of the foods that I’d dream about. Oatmeal, strawberries, chocolate, broccoli, and wheat thins. Random assortment I know, but those would be the things that I’d crave nonstop, especially oatmeal. Something about the warm bowl of oats makes me happy. Normally, my big bowl of oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins scattered about does the job, but this time it wasn’t cutting it. I wanted cake, in a big bad way. I scanned the Bible and fell upon this recipe for an apple nut muffin cake. A muffin cake? Yes, it started out as a recipe for muffins but when Dorie found herself in a crunch, she slapped the batter into an 8-inch square pan and discovered a fun treat. After reading through some of the ingredients like raisins and walnuts, I knew with some tweaks, it’d be the cake of my dreams.

Originally, Dorie asks for apple cider but I swapped that out for some unsweetened applesauce. Applesauce provides cake and other baked goods with great moist texture, working so well that some replace fat with applesauce. I didn’t go that far with this cake, but knew that the applesauce would be a welcomed addition. Also, I am a big believer in skim milk, so much so that I brave the baking gods by using it in place of whole milk. I only do it in baked goods that have some form of fat in them though, that way the cake doesn’t lose its moist texture.

Next up, I changed the amount of oats used. Oats rock my socks off, seriously. I upped the amount to 1 cup, and then tossed in a little more just for good measure. And lastly, I switched the quantities of extracts around. I prefer almond extract to vanilla any day because the nutty flavor is ten times better than simple vanilla.

After a quick 30 minutes in the oven, the cake came out golden and beautiful. With a huge cup of coffee, I smugly sat down with this cake, greedily grabbing chunks at a time. Between the applesauce and the cinnamon and the raisins, it’s safe to say that my craving for something reminiscent of fall was fulfilled. Every bite of this cake was soft and kind of spongy, thanks to the oats. The crumbs isn’t tight at all, probably due to the skim milk. I think regular milk produces a tighter crumb, but loose crumbs never bother me.

I know you are probably wondering, “Why is this girl even writing out the recipe if she changed it so freaking much?!” Because my adaptations came from a recipe that started great too. I can’t take the credit for a cake that would’ve been as delicious with or without my annoying alterations, right? Brunch, breakfast, snack, coffeebreaks… You name it, this cake works wonders with simple and completely tweakable ingredients.

Apple Nut Muffin Cake
adapted from Baking: From My Home To Yours

1/2 cup milk (I used nonfat, but any kind would work)
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 stick (8 TBSP) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup moist, plump raisins (I used dried raisins)

Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 400 degrees F. Use an 8-inch square pan, buttered and floured.

Whisk together milk, cider, egg, vanilla and almond extracts and butter in small bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, cinnamon, and salt to combine thoroughtly. Toss in the brown sugar, making sure there aren’t any lumps by running it through your fingers, then add the oats and whisk the dry ingredients a few more times to mix. Switch to a large rubber spatula and stir in the liquid ingredients, stirring just until everything is moistened–as with muffins, less mixing is better than more. Gently stir in the apple, nuts and raisins, and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for a couple of minutes before running a knife around the sides of the pan and unmolding the cake; invert and cool until warm or to room temperature. The cake will keep at room temperature well wrapped for up to 2 days.

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June 1, 2008 - 9:46 am

Dorothy - Wow, looks delicious! You have great pictures. I love the addition of the paper towel!

June 1, 2008 - 10:02 am

Celine - you are making me hungry. quit eet! :)

June 1, 2008 - 10:32 am

jessy - That looks delish!

June 1, 2008 - 2:43 pm

steph - muffins in cake form–yum! i love oats too…just finished eating oatmeal for breakfast.

June 1, 2008 - 6:06 pm

Teri Lyn Fisher - Yummm! I love apples, nuts and muffins. I’m gonna have to buy that book!

June 1, 2008 - 9:11 pm

My Sweet & Saucy - Looks delicious!

June 2, 2008 - 4:07 am

bakingblonde - Wow, I would love that for breakfast today!

June 2, 2008 - 7:42 am

mari - There is nothing better then a moist chunky wholesome piece of quick bread, and this one looks all that and then some!

June 3, 2008 - 9:22 am

Robin - I would love a piece of this right now… Dorie’s book is so fabulous, right? The directions are so to the point and inclusive that you feel comfortable making the recipes even if you don’t bake much.

Glad to see that the blog is helping you cook to your preferences more, the same thing has been happening to me ever since I started. :)

June 9, 2008 - 11:02 am

Debbi - I made this cake, using a bit less sugar (I usually cut the sugar a tad) and it came out to die for!! However, when I got to the end of the recipe, “Add the apple, nuts & raisins”, I wondered…what apple?? There’s none in the recipe!! Fortunately I had planned to add some fresh appl anyway so I had a few on hand. I just chopped one up & threw it in there. A magnificent cake!!! Thanks!!!

August 11, 2008 - 7:37 am

leonine - i love this kind of sweets for my breaks!

August 25, 2008 - 10:53 am

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June 18, 2009 - 9:12 pm

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November 4, 2009 - 9:30 pm

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