Why It Works
- A Granny Smith apple is cooked in apple cider and then reduced to concentrate the apple flavor.
- Mace and nutmeg add that unmistakable apple cider doughnut flavor to the cake, while cinnamon is reserved for the cinnamon-sugar coating after it's baked.
With the end of summer comes the switch from pink and yellow peaches and garnet plums to apples in all their speckled and mottled varieties—gold and grassy green, blush pink and siren red lipstick. The wooden crates at the market stalls are overflowing with tart and crisp apples perfect for lattice-top pies and sweet little crab apples that look almost too precious to eat. But more often than not, I don't buy any apples. I head straight for the $1.00 cup of steaming cider and a cellophane baggie of apple cider doughnuts.
Tiny and chubby with a wrinkled belly button, the cakey doughnuts are covered in granulated sugar and a touch of cinnamon. They're irresistibly soft and I usually eat all but one, saving it for pre-bedtime snack when I'm tucked under blankets as the chill autumn wind seeps through a cracked window.
Since the doughnuts are so cake-like by nature, it was easy to turn them into an actual cake. This is a buttery cake, coated in the requisite cinnamon-sugar. Mace, the cobwebby exterior of nutmeg, is a must in this recipe as it adds that unmistakable doughnut flavor to the cake. There is no cinnamon in this cake other than in the coating because I find that it overwhelms the cake in general and the apple taste in particular. And now that we're on the subject, even though I love those farmers' market doughnuts, they're often wanting in apple cider flavor. Here, a tart apple is cooked in apple cider and then reduced to concentrate the flavor and make the cake live up to its name. How do you like them apples?
This recipe was re-tested in 2022 and lightly updated and edited to ensure the best results.
For the Cake:
9 tablespoons (4 1/2 ounces; 135g) unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
2 small Granny Smith apples (about 6 ounces/170g each), peeled, cored, and roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups (355ml) fresh apple cider
1/2 cup whole milk, at room temperature, plus more as needed
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (11 1/4 ounces; 319g)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon (3g) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or the same weight
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground mace
3/4 cup sugar (5 1/4 ounces; 149g)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar (3 1/2 ounces; 99g)
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup (60ml) vegetable oil
1 teaspoon (4ml) pure vanilla extract
For the Cinnamon Sugar Coating:
6 tablespoons granulated sugar (2 2/3 ounces; 75g)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume
For the Cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease a large (10- to 12-cup capacity) Bundt pan with 1 tablespoon butter.
In a medium saucepan, bring chopped apple and cider to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until most of the cider has been absorbed and apples are easily smashed with a fork, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove pan from heat, cool 5 minutes, then process in food processor until puréed, 60 to 90 seconds, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Measure out 1 cup apple mixture (if you have less than 1 cup apple mixture, add additional milk to reach 1 cup). Stir apple mixture into milk, set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and mace; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat remaining 8 tablespoons butter, sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, about 20 seconds. Add oil and beat until incorporated, about 45 seconds.
Decrease mixer speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with apple mixture, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Increase speed to medium and beat mixture just until combined, about 20 seconds. Add vanilla and beat once more, just to combine, about 10 seconds.
Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth surface with a spatula. Bake in preheated oven until a cake tester inserted in cake comes out with just a few crumbs, 45 to 50 minutes. Transfer cake to wire cooling rack set inside baking sheet and cool in pan 15 minutes, then invert directly onto wire cooling rack (see notes).
For the Cinnamon Sugar Coating: Combine sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a small bowl. While cake is still hot, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, using fingers to rub it onto sides. Cool cake completely, about 1 hour, then serve
To unmold the cake from the Bundt pan after cooling, use your fingers to gently pull the cake away from the side of the pan. Next, place the wire cooling rack on top, then quickly flip the whole thing over, using oven mitts to protect your hands. Once it's flipped, let the cake sit a moment or two. Then remove the Bundt pan carefully.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 10 to 12|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 15g||19%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||31%|
|Total Carbohydrate 55g||20%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||6%|
|Total Sugars 33g|
|Vitamin C 12mg||60%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|