This week marked the end of the first quarter for school and the teachers had work days to prepare report cards and attend staff development. Oh, how I remember those days! Even though I was an early adopter of electronic grade books—I kept all my grades in ClarisWorks spreadsheets on my first Mac—I always had tons of work to do on those days between quarters. Nothing has changed and teachers still have long lists of things to accomplish on those brief days without students.
I have fond memories of my years teaching, and though I’m no longer in the classroom, I continue to support educators and their work. Our PTA sponsored a luncheon for the teachers on Monday, and I volunteered to bring dessert. I had plenty of cakes I had made before, but I wanted to try another one of Dorie’s recipes from Baking From My Home to Yours, and I selected this Bundt cake since apples are in season. Dorie’s original recipe uses pears, but I have a slew of apples on hand because Michael’s parents sent us a wonderful gift of two boxes of Cortland apples from Beak & Skiff in New York, so a couple of them went into this cake.
The crumbs tasted delicious, and the boys asked me repeatedly for a taste as I sliced it and arranged the pieces on a serving plate. They were disappointed that none stayed home for them to enjoy. Apparently the cake went over very well with the teachers and staff, and I heard from one administrator about his disappointment that he didn’t get a slice, so this cake will definitely get a repeat performance.
BROWN SUGAR CAKE WITH PRUNES AND APPLES
Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan.
Makes 1 (12-cup) Bundt cake, serves 16.
stand mixer with paddle attachment (or hand mixer and large bowl)
small mixing bowl
12-cup bundt pan, greased and floured
2-1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts or walnuts (or 1/4 cup more flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1-1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract [link]
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract (only if you use the ground nuts)
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature (or 2 tablespoons lemon juice + skim milk to equal 1 cup)
2 medium apples or pears, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup moist, plump prunes, snipped into 1/4-inch pieces, or plump raisins (dark or golden)
confectioners sugar, for dusting
1. Place the oven rack in the center and preheat oven to 350° F/175° C.
2. In the small mixing bowl, whisk together flour, nuts (if using), baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of the stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until it’s light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and the almond extract (if using).
4. Reduce mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture and buttermilk, alternating 1/3 flour mixture, 1/2 buttermilk, 1/3 flour mixture, 1/2 buttermilk, and remaining flour mixture. Mix just until the ingredients are incorporated and scrape down the bowl as needed.
5. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chopped apples and prunes (or other fruits). Take care to not over mix.
6. Scrape the batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth the top with the spatula.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep in the center comes out clean.
8. Remove cake from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then unmold onto the rack and allow to cool to room temperature. Dust the top with confectioners sugar for serving. Cake will keep for up to 5 days at room temperature or 2 months in the freezer wrapped well in plastic.