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brain over heart

Recipe: aspen apple cake

If you ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you that I’m pretty social. I really look forward to spending time with the people I like. But, I tend to be ambivalent when it comes to plunging myself into an environment where I only know a few of the people or none at all. My emotions run the gamut from very excited when I RSVP to feeling like I would rather do anything else just before it starts. It has happened frequently enough that I know I will come away happier for having gone. My brain overrules my heart and I make myself attend. So it was with PodCamp Boulder 2 this weekend, run by the awesome Jeremy Tanner.

brainstorming discussion topics friday night

session on copyright and creative commons licenses

PodCamp is an unconference where people get together and talk tech about SEO, CMS, blogging, social media, podcasting, video, photography, storytelling, design – whatever the group wants to talk about. They break out into sessions and everyone participates as much or as little as they like. It’s free, it’s fun, it’s informal, it’s spontaneous. I learned quite a lot and was even able to share some knowledge and information of my own (who knew!?). I connected with more of this fine community and consulted with my go-to guys (Andrew and Jeremy) on holding and hosting workshops.

andrew joins us for some intersession banter

jeremy addresses how to host events

What’s that you say about hosting a workshop? Why yes, I’m hosting a workshop on food photography this summer in Boulder, Colorado! I’ve been hammering out the details and consulting with my fellow instructors on syllabus and logistics. You may have heard of them… Helen of Tartelette, and Todd and Diane of White On Rice Couple? You can just imagine how excited we are putting it all together. Be sure to stay tuned for the announcement in a few weeks!

amazing sunrise the other morning before we went skiing at breckenridge

Between all of the things I have going on, I did manage to squeeze in a recipe that I’ve had dog-eared for over a year. When Aran recently told me that tomato season is starting in Florida, I nearly choked on my breakfast. I can’t let myself start thinking about spring produce let alone summer produce right now. No, this cake is all about warm flavors and apples because it is very much winter here (with snow in the forecast – squeeeeeeeeee!).

whisk the dry ingredients together

peel them apples

This cake is chock full of stuff: apples, raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It’s a big cake – the kind you dump into a large bundt pan and then divvy among friends and neighbors or take into the office. Moist and dense, it is a perfect breakfast or afternoon snack cake. Jeremy reports that it’s lovely with coffee or tea. He tested that several times and the guy doesn’t even like raisins.

toss the goodies with some flour mixture

mix the wet ingredients

It comes together quickly once you have the apples peeled, cored, and diced. I’m wondering where it’s been all my life because I have never had a favorite apple cake of any sort. This is totally my favorite apple cake recipe now – at least my favorite that bakes reliably at my altitude. For anyone baking at elevation, I highly recommend Pie in the Sky because it has helped me figure out several of my baking issues in Colorado.

add the goodies to the batter

pour the thick batter into the prepped pan

My greatest source of stress when baking a bundt cake is that it will rise too quickly, disembowel itself onto my oven floor and burn to a crisp. This is not uncommon at elevation. I consider it a great victory when the cake bakes through properly. The next greatest source of stress is when the cake sticks to the pan after clearing that first hurdle. I mean, what a kick in the pants, right? That is another reason I love this cake, it released like a dream. Perfection.

cooling completely on the rack

serve with a dusting of powdered sugar

Aspen Apple Cake
[print recipe]
from Susan G. Purdy’s Pie in the Sky

Note: The listed recipe is for sea level. All of the measures in parentheses are for @8500 feet above sea level. All measures in brackets are for @5000 feet asl.

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour (3 cups + 2 tbsps @8500 ft.)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda (1/4 tsp @8500 ft.)
1/4 tsp salt [1/2 tsp @5000 ft.] (1/2 tsp @8500 ft.)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
3 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup (6 oz.) raisins
1 cup (4 oz.) walnuts, chopped
1 1/2 cups canola or light olive oil [1 1/2 cups @5000 ft.] (1 1/3 cups @8500 ft.)
2 cups sugar (1 3/4 cups @8500 ft.)
3 large eggs [4 eggs @5000 ft.] (4 eggs + 1 yolk @8500 ft.)
2 tsps vanilla extract
3 tbsps whole milk [3 tbsps buttermilk @5000 ft.] (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp buttermilk @8500 ft.)
confectioners’ sugar for sifting (optional)

With the oven rack in the center of the oven, preheat to 350°F [@5000 ft., preheat to 375°F and bake at 375°F] (@8500, preheat to 375°F, but bake it at 350°F). Grease and flour a 12- to 16-cup capacity tube or bundt pan. I used butter because I didn’t have any butter-flavored shortening. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the spices. In another bowl, mix together the apples, raisins, walnuts, and 2 tablespoons of the flour mixture. Toss together to coat. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla, and the milk (buttermilk @8500 ft.) and beat everything together on the lowest speed. While the mixer is still running, slowly add the flour mixture, scraping down the sides until combined. Add the apple mixture until it is well blended into the batter. It should be pretty thick. Empty the batter into the pan and smooth over the surface. Bake 75-85 minutes at sea level or 55-60 minutes at 5000 ft. or 65-70 minutes at 8500 ft. or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes. Mine flipped out of the pan perfectly without any problems, although to be safe, you may want to run a sharp knife along the sides before releasing. Let cool completely and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

35 nibbles at “brain over heart”

  1. Kim says:

    Hmmmm . . . I’ve been on a lifelong quest for THE great apple cake myself, and I’m just down the highway from you in Jefferson County (a little closer to sea level). This may be it!

  2. tami says:

    Your workshop may be just the thing that lures me to Boulder!! What an amazingly fun time that would be :)

    The apple cake looks delicious. Been thinking of you – hope you’re well!


    – tami

  3. Geneva says:

    I left my bundt pan at my sister’s place. Would this cake work well in a regular cake pan? If so, what size would you suggest and would the cooking time change?

  4. Dave -nibbleanibble says:

    Apple cake! Just what I’ve been looking for.

  5. Jennifer says:

    That sounds all very exciting! :D I don’t know that I will ever take blogging and photography so seriously that I might join up in one of those things one day, but who knows? Never say never, right?

    Food photography.
    I love it.
    I don’t do enough of it, but I love it.

    I would assume it would work the way my mind works anyway with regular photography: make sure you have good lighting, capture texture, color and fluidity well and angle the pictures and focus in on the pictures so the most can be captured even with the tiniest of things…

    Anyway… Being nearby to listen in on something like that would be cool… Too bad I’m too far away and probably not really suited for that type of workshop anyway…

  6. Rosa says:

    A delightful cake! I bet it is deliciously moist…



  7. Janet says:

    I am so psyched about your upcoming food photography workshop!!! Besides being an avid reader of your blog, I am an enthusiastic amateur cook and former professional baker who actually lives in Boulder. I just started my own food blog and I desperately need help with my food photography! How can I learn more details?

  8. Dani H says:

    This cake looks and sounds delightful! I’m going to have to try it VERY soon.

  9. Kristin says:

    Wow…you, Todd & Diane & Helen? In Colorado in the summer? Maybe I should start photographing my food. How kind of Jeremy to be so willing to test your cake with a variety of accompaniments. That was only partly tongue in cheek. My husband is picky with a capital P & many exclamation points.

  10. Lindsey@pickyeatings says:

    I wish I lived anywhere near Boulder, as I would be all over your food photography workshop! I am always looking for tips, as my food photography is nowhere near as good as yours. You should come do one on the east coast, hint hint!

  11. Manggy says:

    Ooooh! I was wondering why it was called Aspen Apple Cake. That batter is beyond dreamy. I love apple desserts (incl. cake ;) and to see one that is so chunky and unabashedly appley is just fantastic.
    That is serious beardage on Andrew! :)

  12. TheKitchenWitch says:

    I knew you were a cool chick, but anyone who uses the phrase “disembowel itself” when discussing baked goods is a Rock Star.

  13. Ruth Ann says:

    Wow, sounds like an amazing photo workshop with you, Helene and Todd and Diane. Please let us know when it will be.

  14. Sarah Welch says:

    Yes, yes, yes! I’ve been wanting to take a food photography workshop, very, very, very much. Throw Boulder in the mix & I’m in. Hopefully by then I’ll live in Boulder & the trip will be a very short one :)

  15. Diane and Todd says:

    Can’t wait to get out Photo Mojo on with you and Helen!!! This is going to be the baddest-assed workshop, evah!!
    Hello beautiful Boulder, Colorado, here we come!
    Thanks for putting this together Jen!!!! You rawk rock wok walk girlfriend!

  16. jennywenny says:

    What a beautiful cake! I’d absolutely love to attend a photo workshop, we’ll see if I can fit it in!

  17. Ruth says:

    Beautiful as always!!!! a must try, looks moist and delicious!!!

  18. Steve Warburton says:

    Looks scrumptious! Mary doesn’t like raisins either, so Jeremy’s approval is a good sign. Hope all is well. Only 5 more months til Colorado! Woo!

  19. Phoo-D says:

    Apple cake is one of the most comforting foods on the planet! Love that you cooked it in a bundt pan. Boulder this summer? Count me in! Sounds like a marvelous time with the best people.

  20. Linda says:

    Funny you should mention high altitude baking. I’m at my sister’s in Santa Fe, and we baked for 2 days for a memorial service for her partner. I brought my recipes from Northeastern PA, elevation about 1500, and crossed my fingers. The pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting were a hit. Came out perfectly with no issues, although seemed to cook faster, but that could have been the different oven. My butter toffee (candy making! What was I thinking?!) separated, even though I stopped it 15 degrees lower temp, but I poured off the oil, slapped on some bittersweet chocolate, and it still got rave reviews. I think I’ll buy Pie in the Sky for my sister, though. Thanks for the apple cake recipe. I love a good apple cake and can’t find my old favorite, so it is definitely next on my list when I get home.

  21. shirley@kokken69 says:

    I wish I am living closer so that I can attend your workshop. Your photos are absolutely beautiful and your apple cake is indeed a visual treat. That cross-section slice did it for me!

  22. Dani says:

    I want a piece! With a cup of strong, black coffee, please :)

    I would love to attend your workshop, but I’m afraid Boulder might be a little far for my meager income right now :(

  23. Denise says:

    I’m going to make this cake on Saturday. I’ve had a hankering for an apple cake and my goodness the recipe just appeared. Thanks! Can’t wait to hear the details of the photo workshop.

  24. Maria says:

    Apples are always my go to fruit. I have to eat one every day or I am not a happy person. So why not enjoy them in cake form? I am ok with that. I will be trying this recipe very soon! Thanks!

  25. Kristi says:

    I had to go ahead and make this cake last night (put the name “Aspen” in front of almost anything and I’m game!) What a yummy cake. I made it with whole wheat pastry flour and it came out great. My kids love it, too! Thanks for the post.

  26. Ina says:

    Really funny – baked I similar cake last week. It’s called Bustrengo and a traditional recipe from Bologna/Italy. Instead of nuts you use dried figs; and part of the flour is substituted with polenta. I don’t like polenta this much, so I should try this one soon …

  27. heather says:

    omg – i want this cake STAT! i will so be baking this this weekend. eeeeeeee!!

  28. Mikka says:

    This cake looks awesome! I was introduced to your blog early this year and think it’s terrific! The photographs are superb, the recipes all look delicious, and your writing is very compelling. BTW I feel EXACTLY the same way about gatherings with strangers. Usually come away happy but often dread them beforehand. Anyway, thanks for your blog!

  29. Mrs Ergül says:

    Hmmm I have been wanting to try an apple cake. I will make sure I get to these soon!

    The thing about the workshop made me feel like I want to fly half way across the globe now Jen! I hope you can have it videoed, in part if not in full and share it with poor folks like me who just live too far away and do not have all that financial resources to impulsively buy a ticket that will send me to Jen-land…

    I wish you a lot of success for it!

  30. jenyu says:

    Hi all – sounds like a lot of my local Colorado folks on the plains want to make this cake, so I updated the recipe to include the instructions/adjustments for baking the cake at 5000 ft. (minor adjustments, but we want it to be perfect, right?) :)

    Regarding the photography workshop, a website and registration page will go up in late February (hey, I’m the one building the page in my “ample” spare time) when we get all of the details worked out. I’ll definitely announce it here too.

    Tami – I certainly hope we’ll get you out here!

    Geneva – it doesn’t say anything about standard pans. If you do use a regular pan, I’d just keep checking the cake starting around 30 minutes every 5 or so minutes until it’s done. Good luck!

    Manggy – yeah, Andrew is building a start up and he’s not going to shave until it’s live :)

    Ina – that sounds awesome.

  31. Trolleira says:

    I made the cake yesterday – mmhh yummy! I posted the recipe at my blog, translated in German, hope it is ok for you!

    Just love the cake, and it was so fast to make! Definitly a keeper!

    Thanks for sharing such a great recipe.

  32. Sarah says:

    Just put this in the oven. My housemates are very excited about it– it looks delicious already!!

  33. Leigh says:

    Yum! I made this at much much closer to sea level, and with cranberries filling in for raisins (since neither my boyfriend nor I particularly like them), and it was delicious! The spices were just right, the apples were still warm and gooey when we cut into the cake, and the batter itself was tasty. I could have chopped the walnuts more, but I wanted to get this in the oven.

    Thanks so much for posting the recipe!

  34. cindy says:

    that sounds like a fantastic workshop…i can’t wait to hear more details!

    and the cake looks delish too!

  35. Katje says:

    Trying it today; cooling right now. I used a stick of melted butter along w/1 cup of light olive oil – used up my canola oil in a pumpkin cake the week before! As with the pumpkin cake I added my new favorite spice, GARAM MASALA! I LOVE it in savory and sweet things. The apple cake smells divine!

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