My grandmother, who lived with us when I was growing up, had a serious sweet tooth and would bake something almost every day.
In the spring, it was coconut cream pie. In the summer, home-made ice cream and peach pie. And during fall apple season, she would bake this very simple apple cake and serve it warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
My mother and I loved this cake — it's so simple, yet so satisfying and comforting — and never thought to write it down before my grandmother died. For years, we searched her recipe cards to no avail until last summer when I was doing research for a new cookbook called "Steak and Cake." Happily, we came across a recipe card that looked like it might be the thing. I made the cake immediately and as my mother and I tasted it, we finally knew that we had found the one. Sometimes, the memory outshines the reality. But in this cake, it did not.
As I was testing recipes for the cookbook, I added my grandmother's apple cake to 10 other cakes, some classic and some new, for a neighborhood tasting — the cookbook writer's version of a "cake walk." Everyone gravitated toward my grandmother's cake.
I had to stop myself from adding a pinch of salt and a teaspoon of vanilla to the batter as I rarely make a cake without it, but I decided that I should preserve this cake just the way my grandmother made it. The batter is very stiff — like cookie dough — before you add the apples, but rest assured as soon as the apples give up their juice, the batter loosens and will bake beautifully.