One of my favorite and earliest cooking memories is of baking a cake with my grandmother. My little sister was bouncing around our feet, jabbering away to us. Grandma, in the patient way she could admonish without belittling, told my sister to leave me alone because I was a new cook who needed to concentrate on the recipe. I wasn’t happy with this remark; even at 10-years-old, I didn’t want to be thought of as a novice in the kitchen.
Since then, food has transformed my interest into a passion, taking me to culinary school and jobs in professional kitchens. Through all this, I’ve never forgotten that afternoon with my grandmother. I wish we could cook together one more time.
This Apple Stack Cake is very different from the one my grandma used to make. My recipe is vegan and calls for nourishing ingredients such as spelt flour, unrefined sweeteners, raw coconut oil…plus a little bourbon (I couldn’t ignore its affinity for apples). Best to get started the day before serving to allow the apple butter filling to moisten and infuse the dark, rich layers of spiced cake.
Bourbon Apple Butter
2 tablespoons unrefined Coconut Oil
8 medium Apples, cored and chopped
8 Medjool Dates, pitted
Good pinch Sea Salt
1 tablespoon ground Cinnamon
1 tablespoon Blackstrap Molasses
2 tablespoons Bourbon, or to taste
- Place the oil, apples and dates in a large pot over med-high heat until they begin to sizzle. Stir in the salt and cinnamon, then cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook the apples, stirring occasionally, until they’re completely tender.
- Once tender and cooled slightly, use an immersion blender or food processor to puree the apples. At this point, measure out and refrigerate 95 grams (about ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons) of the puree. This will be used in the cake batter.
- Return the remaining puree to the pot and place over medium heat then stir in the molasses. Cover the pot, leaving the lid ajar, and cook the apple puree for 1.5 to 2 hours, until it’s reduced, thickened and darkened. Stir frequently and adjust the heat periodically to prevent the bottom from scorching.
- Once the apple butter is thickened, remove from heat and stir in the bourbon to taste. Store covered in the fridge up to 1 week.
½ cup (125 milliliters) Plant-based Milk (I used a mixture of almond and coconut)
1 tablespoon White Vinegar
½ cup + 1 tablespoon (170 grams) Blackstrap Molasses
1 ½ teaspoons fresh Ginger, grated
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract
1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons (184 grams) Light Spelt Flour
1 ½ cups + 2 tablespoons (184 grams) Whole Spelt Flour
½ teaspoon ground Cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons ground Ginger
¾ teaspoon Sea Salt
1 tablespoon Baking Soda
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
½ cup (113 grams) unrefined Coconut Oil
½ cup + 1 tablespoon (113 grams) Coconut Sugar
¼ cup + 2 ½ tablespoons (95 grams) Apple puree (see above recipe for instructions)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the plant-based milk and vinegar then set aside for at least 10 minutes to sour. After 10 minutes, whisk in the molasses, fresh ginger and vanilla extract.
- In a large bowl, sift together the flours, cinnamon, ginger, sea salt, baking soda and baking powder.
- In a stand mixer, use a paddle attachment to beat together the coconut oil and coconut sugar until fluffy. Then, mix in the apple puree.
- Change to a whisk attachment on the machine. On low speed, whisk in a third of the dry flour mixture. Once incorporated, whisk in a third of the soured milk mixture. Stop the machine and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Continue alternating between the dry and wet mixture for two more batches, until everything is fully incorporated.
- *To bake, divide the batter into 3 mostly equal portions. Use a small spatula to spread one portion of the thick batter evenly across the bottom of a small cast iron skillet, coated with coconut oil. Bake each layer for 17-20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly crisper than the middle and a toothpick inserted into the cake’s center comes out with dry crumbs attached. Allow each layer to cool in the skillet for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire cooling rack.
- Since this is a rustic dessert, there’s no need for the layers to cool completely before spreading the apple butter between each layer and on top of the cake. The cake’s flavor and texture will only improve over the next few days. Store covered in the refrigerator, but bring to room temperature before serving.
*You can also transfer the entire batter to an 8” round cake pan, coated with coconut oil and dusted with spelt flour. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test. Allow the cake to sit in the pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before cutting into 3 layers with a serrated knife.
Marci Cornett is a (mostly) plant-based chef who promotes health-supportive cuisine and the development of sustainable food systems. After graduating from the Natural Gourmet Institute in New York, she worked in several professional kitchens including the renowned vegetarian restaurant, Cafe Paradiso, in Cork City, Ireland. She develops and publishes nourishing recipes and writes about the latest thinking concerning nutrition and food issues on her blog, marcicornett.com. Connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Imagery by Sarah Jane Sanders.