Double-Apple Crumble Cake

Season: Fall / Winter | Active Time: 45 minutes (not including making the All-Purpose Crumble Topping)
Total Time: 2 hours 15 minutes, plus time to cool | Difficulty: 2 (Easy, but with several steps)

This double-apple crumble cake is so-called because it combines fresh apples and apple butter. The full cup of apple butter in the easy, stir-together batter means the cake bakes up extremely tender with a concentrated apple flavor. Even though it’s an extra step, I sauté the fresh apples in a skillet before adding them to the batter to ensure they come out fully cooked. This precooking also helps eliminate some of the moisture in the fruit, which, given that there are four whole apples inside the cake, could otherwise make the interior wet and unappealing. This is the kind of cake I love: loaded with fruit, topped with a sweet, crunchy top, and oil-based so it never dries out.

Serves 10 to 12

Special Equipment: 9-inch springform pan ①

3 tablespoons unsalted butter (1.5 oz / 43g)

4 medium Pink Lady apples (about 1¾ lb / 794g), peeled, halved, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices ②

Butter for the pan

2 cups all-purpose flour (9.2 oz / 260g)

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1½ teaspoons baking powder (0.21 oz / 6g)

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt

1 cup apple butter (7.8 oz / 220g) ③

1 cup sugar (7 oz / 200g)

½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream (4.2 oz / 120g)

¼ cup neutral oil, such as vegetable or grapeseed (2 oz / 57g)

2 large eggs (3.5 oz / 100g)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

All-Purpose Crumble Topping (this page)

Precook the apples: In a medium skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons butter over medium heat. When the butter starts to foam, add the apples and cook, tossing often, just until the slices have begun to soften and turn slightly translucent, 10 to 15 minutes (it’s okay if some of them start to brown, which could happen if you’re using drier, cold-storage apples). Remove the skillet from the heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven and prepare the pan: Meanwhile, arrange an oven rack in the center position and preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly coat the bottom and sides of the springform pan with room temperature butter, then line the bottom with a round of parchment paper, smoothing to eliminate air bubbles. Set the pan aside.

Mix the dry ingredients: In a large bowl, whisk the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to combine. Set aside.

Mix the wet ingredients: In a medium bowl, whisk the apple butter, sugar, crème fraîche, oil, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.

Mix the wet ingredients into the dry: Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the apple butter mixture. Whisking from the center of the bowl outward, incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet just until you have an evenly mixed batter.

Fold in the apples: Using a large flexible spatula, fold the cooled apples into the batter, leaving any liquid behind in the skillet and mixing thoroughly to distribute the apples evenly.

Fill the pan and top with the crumble: Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Sprinkle the crumble topping evenly over the batter, breaking up any pieces larger than a marble.

Bake and cool: Bake until the crumble is browned and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake slides easily through the apple slices and comes out clean, 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Serve: Cut around the cake with a paring knife, then remove the ring. Use a serrated knife to cut the cake into slices.

The cake, well wrapped and stored at room temperature, will keep up to 4 days.

① Use a 10-inch springform pan if you don’t have a 9-inch. The cake will be slightly thinner, so start checking it for doneness after about 1 hour 15 minutes.

② Use whatever variety of apple you prefer, just as long as it’s very firm and has some natural tartness. Try to avoid older apples that have been in cold storage for a long time and have a tendency to turn mealy when baked. To test an apple for freshness, press the tip of your thumb firmly into the skin. If you can’t make an indentation easily, it’s a good apple.

③ Don’t use an apple butter with added sugar or spices. Try to find one that lists apples as the sole ingredient.

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