Joni Woolf: Fresh Apple Cake recipe still ‘Fresh’

Published 2:12 pm Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Last weekend I traveled to Saluda, North Carolina, to visit my old friend and business partner, Lynn Cass, a woman with Americus connections. She was last here for the memorial service of her aunt, Sarah Jo McKay Roush, but we stay connected — through the internet, through recipes, through memory. She had recently written for two Cottage Living Recipes that fortunately I had saved — tarts for brunch occasions that I have featured here. I knew before going that I wanted to take a cake of some kind — not fancy, just good to eat any time of day. An apple cake sounded good, so I searched my cookbooks as well as the internet. Martha Stewart had an interesting sounding one, but a better one, I thought, was found in a 1983 cookbook called “Georgia Entertains.” Called Eleanor’s Apple Cake, it sounded simple enough, and I had the ingredients, except for the Granny Smith apples. After a trip to the grocery store to find the apples, I went to work.
The recipe follows as it appears in the cookbook. I’ll list alterations I made to suit my personal taste, and perhaps yours.

Eleanor’s Apple Cake
4 cups peeled, cored, chopped cooking apples (I use Granny Smith)
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 eggs, separated (or not, as you will see)
1 cup vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups finely chopped nuts, or 1 cup chopped nuts and 1 cup raisins or currants, lightly floured

Brown Sugar Glaze
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup evaporated milk
½ cup (1 stick) butter or ½ cup light cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Toss apples in a bowl with sugar and lemon juice. Set aside. Beat egg whites until stiff, and then gently fold into beaten egg yolks. Add oil and stir. Sift flour, salt and baking soda together; add to batter and stir well. Fold in apples, vanilla, nuts and raisins. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in a greased 13 by 9 by 2 inch rectangular pan, or for an hour in a 9-or 10-inch Bundt or tube pan. Glaze with Brown Sugar Glaze.
Shortening variations: In place of cooking oil, use 1 cup vegetable shortening. In this case, cream shortening with sugar, and add eggs one at a time, not separated, beating well after each. Fold in sifted dry ingredients and proceed as above. This is somewhat faster, and gives a fluffier batter. Toss apples with only a little of the sugar, and lemon juice.
For the glaze: Cook in double boiler over boiling water for about 5 minutes, and spread over cake. Wrap in foil or plastic wrap when cool, or place in covered cake box, and keep cool until time to serve. Serve at room temperature. Note: This cake is much better 2 or 3 days after baking.

Well, I made some changes. I prefer butter to vegetable oil, so I opted for the “shortening” version, indicated above. (I also prefer butter to vegetable shortening such as Crisco.) I don’t particularly care for raisins in cakes, so I omitted them and still used only 1 cup of pecans.

Of course, something went wrong. I thought I had left the oven on 325 degrees F., where I had toasted the pecans, so I placed the cake in the oven and after an hour, opened the door. I found a cold oven and a cake that was still “raw.” So, I turned the oven on, heated it, put the cake in, and after an hour, removed it. It was lovely. But by this time, I was running late, in a hurry, and wanted to finish up. So, after 7 or 8 minutes, I tried to remove the cake from the Bundt pan I had used: half of it came out perfectly, while the other half came apart. I knew better. I should not have hurried the process. Let this be a lesson, and learn from my experience. I cut the “good” half from the damaged portion, and glazed it with confectioners’ sugar mixed with a bit of water. The other half I turned upside down to the “pretty” side, and gave it to my family up the hill.
Considering all the changes I made along the way, and the mistakes I made, the cake turned out very well. It was delicious, and the folks in North Carolina ate it throughout the weekend — as an afternoon snack or later as dessert. So, I recommend it highly. Just follow directions, and let it cool as it should, at least 15 minutes before removing it from the pan.

We’re never too old to learn.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at