Abandoned Orchards and Apple Cake

First, I want to say thank you to all the people who wrote me such nice comments and messages last week when my Grandmother passed away.  It really meant a lot, and I appreciate it very much. I definitely cooked us boxed macaroni and cheese for a few nights (in a row, yes) when I was still really sad and not into cooking at all, but I want to share this cake recipe with you, one of the first things I made when I motivated to get back into the kitchen.  It’s simple and light-tasting, in the same vein as the pumpkin pie recipe I just wrote about. I mentioned then, I am very much not down with baking things that make me feel like I need to go to the gym after I eat them.  This is not that kind of cake.  This is the kind of cake that, now that the days are starting to get really short, is really relaxing and quiet to bake early in the morning, before the sun is up, and then eat warm with a cup of tea while the sun rises.  It is a lovely way to start off the day.    A few weeks ago, I got permission to pick the apples from an abandoned apple orchard way at the top of the mountain that I live on.  It was planted long ago, before people were living at all of the different properties along my road, and no one has bothered picking the apples for ages.  I picked bushels and bushels of apples —  it was fantastic.  I know everyone’s all about canning applesauce right now, but I decided just to stash them in the pantry and see how many we could use fresh.  Apples keep for awhile if you have a cool, dark space, and if fruit is excited about preserving itself all on its own, I’m all about doing less work.

This cake recipe is from my mom, which she told me was from Cornell Orchards, one of the best spots for buying apples where I grew up.  I believe it was just a recipe they were handing out for free, for people to make with their apples, so it’s alright to share here even though I didn’t really come up with it.  If anyone knows differently, feel free to let me know…

For real: before you turn all your apples into apple butter, you should definitely make this.  Apple Cake, ever so slightly adapted from the recipe from Cornell Orchards’ recipe

Cook Time:  around an hour


  • 2 tbs. butter
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 medium eggs, slightly beaten (or, if you’re using jumbo eggs from the store, 1 egg)
  • 3 c. peeled, cored and diced apples
  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 heaping tsp. of salt
  • 1 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the beaten eggs, and mix well.  Stir in the apples and walnuts.  Sift together the nutmeg, flour, salt and baking soda, and stir into the apple mixture.  (It will be thick and chunky, it’s okay).  Pour into a greased 8″ cast-iron skillet or a square baking dish.  Bake for about 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out fairly clean. (There’s so many apple chunks it’s hard to get it perfectly clean).

Top with whipped cream if you want, but it’s wonderful on its own, both warm out of the oven and cold later on.

Triple Citrus Glazed Butter Cake

citrus cake with our peach-raspberry jam

For the past week or so, we’ve had fantastic magical California paradise weather, and I’ve been working in the gardens almost all day long.   Late winter veggie starts went in the ground, and one last batch of garlic.  I also planted seeds for calendula, love-in-a-mist, bells of ireland, and poppies, along with the dahlia tubers I picked up at the store the other day.  This fantastic triple citrus butter cake is all that sunshine and good weather on a plate, no matter where you live! The flavor is bright and refreshing, and it’s lighter than all these 15 layer chocolate death cakes that are floating around with Valentine’s Day coming up so soon.  Those are awesome, but this the kind of cake that you can vaguely rationalize eating for breakfast, and those are important cakes to have in your life.


fresh eggs make better baked goods!

This recipe is an adaptation of the Lemon-Glazed Butter Cake recipe in the April 2009 issue of Gourmet. I’ve substituted skim milk and added some new citrus- I hope you like it!

Triple-Citrus Butter Cake


  • 1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (or whatever milk  you have in your fridge is fine)
  • 1/2 tbs. lemon zest
  • 1/2 tbs. tangelo zest
  • 1/2 tsp. clementine zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon hazelnut extract (I was out of vanilla, you could use that too)
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs (the original recipe suggests bringing the eggs to room temperature, but you could also just walk to the chicken coop and get three fresh ones that never were in the fridge at all)
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/4 cup fresh citrus juice (combine 1/8 c. lemon, 1/8 c. tangelo, and eat the clementine. Or a different combination, it doesn’t matter.)
  • Optional: top with confectioners sugar and jam (I used Peach-Raspberry, but any fruit would be fine).  Whipped Cream would be good, but we didn’t have any when I made it.
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and butter and flour an 8″ round cake pan, which I don’t own, so I used a glass dish…
  2. 2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, citrus zest, and hazelnut extract.
  3. 3. If you have an electric mixer, now’s the time to get it out: Cream together the sugar and softened butter until it’s fluffy and fully incorporated (about 2 min.)  Next, add in the eggs (one at a time, and mix well in between each egg).
  4. 4. Turn the mixer on low, and mix in the flour in batches, alternating with the milk mixture. (Make sure not to over mix the batter).   Pour the finished batter into the prepared cake pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to get rid of air bubbles, and put it in the oven.
  5. 5. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a pick inserted in the cake comes out clean.  When the cake is out of the oven and cooling, whisk together the confectioners sugar and citrus juice until it’s completely smooth.  Remove the cake from the pan and put it on a cooling rack if you have one(I don’t have one of those either, you can tell I’m totally not a baker…. I put mine on a big plate with paper towel). Brush the cake with the glaze and let it cool the rest of the way.
  6. 6. Eat the cake! (If you’re thinking about cake-dinner menu pairings, we had fried chicken, braised kale from the garden cooked with our home-cured bacon, and mashed potatoes with country gravy, and the refreshing citrus flavor went absolutely wonderfully with all that).