The Apple Cake Project

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It was the beginning of May when we heard from an IT’S ALL ABOUT FOOD listener, Donna, to see if we might help her to modify an old family recipe for an apple cake, making it easy, healthier and gluten-free. Plus, she wanted to try using cassava flour. At Responsible Eating And Living Headquarters, we are sheltering in place and having fun with food. This seemed like a great project to take on.

Here is Donna’s original apple cake recipe which is not vegan: Mix together 2 cups flour, 1 cup sugar and 2 teaspoons baking powder. Then add 1/4 pound margarine or butter and 2 eggs. Mix well and spread in a greased pan. Two 9″ pans or 11″ glass dish. Arrange approximately 3 sliced apples on top. Sprinkle 1/2 cup sugar with cinnamon over top of sliced apples. Bake at 375 degrees F for 35 minutes.

We did our trials using half the recipe. This smaller size makes four servings. It can be a nice breakfast treat or dessert. Since we have not been shopping for food or for anything in stores we get everything delivered. Our neighbor has an account with Fresh Direct and was able to secure one of the precious, limited delivery times. She generously shared it with us and a few other neighbors. Thanks to her we were able to get four 3-pound bags of organic Pink Lady apples every week. We like to eat 2 apples a day and eating them in apple cake counts!

There are eight recipe versions below for variations on this apple cake. When the recipes below call for sugar we used vegan coconut sugar or Florida Crystals (evaporated cane juice). For butter, we make our own cultured vegan butter, using Miyoko’s Homemade Vegan Pantry recipe. Any commercial vegan butter will do. Our favorite version was made with our own gluten-free flour mix and half the sugar of the original recipe. See the last recipe, Version 8 below. The SOS-free versions, sugar, oil and salt free were all good, more like a bread pudding in texture and subtly sweet. We used homemade apple sauce to sweeten them.

We tried cassava flour for the first time here and then used it in other recipes. Donna recommended a Sweet Potato Cassava Flour Tortilla recipe that we loved! We prefer cassava flour for savory recipes, not sweet. It’s advertised as having a neutral flavor, but we found it to have a subtle, musty flavor. Perhaps the brand of organic cassava flour we bought was stale? We bought the flour a few times and the flavor was consistent every time.

The SOS-free (sugar, oil and salt-free) versions we created tended to have a gummy texture. The versions with sugar and fat were flakier. Although this is called an Apple Cake, Donna told us the texture was more like a cookie, like a snicker doodle. To me, this recipe is more like a tart, with the cake a bit like a pie crust.

We baked our apple cakes in pans oiled with organic canola. To avoid oil completely, the pans may be lined with parchment paper. To prevent the top from burning, we recommend covering the pan with parchment paper after baking about 20 minutes.

HERE IS THE VEGANIZED VERSION OF THE ORIGINAL RECIPE. While this recipe was delicious and very decadent it was far too sweet for us. We rarely use refined sugar, especially with apple desserts which are naturally so sweet.

VERSION 1, Vegan Version of Original Recipe, half recipe, serves 4
 

 
Cake
1 cup flour (we used organic Einkorn, the only wheat flour we recommend)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons (1/8 pound) vegan butter
1 flax egg (1 Tablespoon flax meal in 3 Tablespoons water)
 
Topping
1 apple, sliced thinly
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
 
DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder.
In another bowl, cream the sugar with the butter, pressing the butter with a fork into the sugar until smooth. In a small bowl, make the flax egg beating the water with the ground flax seeds.
Mix all the cake ingredients together well and spread in greased or parchment-lined 7-inch pan. For double the recipe use a 9-inch pan.
Alternatively you may mix all the cake ingredients together at once eliminating a few steps.
Arrange sliced apples on top. Sprinkle topping of sugar and cinnamon over sliced apples.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes.
 
 
VERSION 2, Vegan, half recipe, gluten-free flour, no oil, no sugar
While waiting for the cassava flour to arrive, I decided to start experimenting using my own gluten-free flour mix made of Steel Cut Oats, Millet and Garbanzo Beans. I made flours from each of these in a Vitamix and then made up 1 cup of flour combining the following: 1/2 cup oat flour, 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons millet flour and 2 Tablespoons garbanzo bean flour. Any gluten-free baking flour mix should work well.

 
Cake
1 cup gluten-free baking flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
 
Topping
1 apple, sliced
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
 
DIRECTIONS:
In a large bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder. Stir in the apple sauce and make a moist dough.
Spread in greased or parchment-lined 7-inch pan. For double the recipe use a 9-inch pan.
Arrange sliced apples on top. Sprinkle cinnamon over sliced apples.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes.
 

 
 
VERSION 3, Vegan, half recipe, gluten-free cassava flour, no oil, no sugar.
The cassava flour arrived the next day so we made the above recipe with this new ingredient. In addition to changing flours, we added sesame tahini to replace the butter in the original recipe. The tahini gives a rich flavor. The result was interesting. The flavor was good, mildly sweet. The texture was a but gummy. The flavor of the cassava flour was distinct.

 
Cake
1 cup cassava flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup tahini
 
Topping
1 apple, sliced
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
 
DIRECTIONS:
Mix tahini with apple sauce.
Add in flour and baking powder and mix to make a moist dough.
Spread in greased or parchment-lined 7-inch pan. For double the recipe use a 9-inch pan.
Arrange sliced apples on top. Sprinkle cinnamon over sliced apples.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes.
 
 
VERSION 4, Vegan, half recipe, gluten-free cassava flour, no oil, no sugar, with sesame tahini, walnuts, dates.
Since the last version was a little gummy, we tried aerating the dough with nuts and dates. The nuts and dates definitely added to the flavor but the texture was still gummy.

 
Cake
1 cup cassava flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup tahini
2 Tablespoons walnuts, chopped
2 Tablespoons dates, pitted and chopped (raisins may be used)
 
Topping
1 apple, sliced
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
 
DIRECTIONS:
Mix tahini with apple sauce.
Add in flour and baking powder and mix to make a moist dough. Mix in the walnuts and dates or raisins.
Spread in greased or parchment-lined 7-inch pan. For double the recipe use a 9-inch pan.
Arrange sliced apples on top. Sprinkle with cinnamon over top of sliced apples.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes.
 
 
VERSION 5, Vegan, half recipe, gluten-free cassava flour, no oil, no sugar, with sesame tahini, walnuts, dates, applesauce on top.
This time we added a little applesauce on top of the dough before laying the sliced apples as is done in the classic French Tarte Aux Pommes. Adding sugar in the original recipe to the sliced apples on top helps to soften and dissolve them a little. Without the sugar, they are dry and can peel off easily. The apple sauce gave the sliced apples something to sink into.

 
Cake
1 cup cassava flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup tahini
2 Tablespoons walnuts, chopped
2 Tablespoons dates, pitted and chopped (raisins may be used)
 
Topping
1 apple, sliced
2 Tablespoons applesauce
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
 
DIRECTIONS:
Mix tahini with apple sauce.
Add in flour and baking powder and mix to make a moist dough. Mix in the walnuts and dates or raisins.
Spread in greased or parchment-lined 7-inch pan. For double the recipe use a 9-inch pan.
Spread a thin layer of applesauce (2 Tablespoons) on top. Press sliced apples in the applesauce. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes.
 
 

 
 
VERSION 6, Vegan, half recipe, gluten-free cassava flour, no sugar, vegan butter and applesauce on top
In this version with cassava flour the tahini was replaced by vegan butter. It still had a gummy texture.

 
Cake
1 cup cassava flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 cup (1/8 pound) vegan butter
 
Topping
1 apple, sliced
2 Tablespoons applesauce
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
 
DIRECTIONS:
Cream the vegan butter with the apple sauce.
Add in flour and baking powder and mix to make a moist dough.
Spread in greased or parchment-lined 7-inch pan. For double the recipe use a 9-inch pan.
Spread a thin layer of applesauce (2 Tablespoons) on top. Press sliced apples in the applesauce. Sprinkle with cinnamon.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes.
 
 

 
 
VERSION 7, Vegan, half recipe, gluten-free cassava flour, vegan butter, 1/2 sugar of original recipe
We wanted to see if we could get a better texture by adding back in to the recipe some of the sugar and vegan butter. This recipe has the same amount of vegan butter as the original and less than half of the sugar. A little applesauce is used as the egg-replacer and added sweetness.

 
Cake
1 cups gluten-free cassava flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons (1/8 pound) vegan butter
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
 
Topping
1 apple, sliced
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
 
DIRECTIONS:
Cream vegan butter with sugar and apple sauce.
Add in flour and baking powder and mix to make a moist dough.
Spread in greased or parchment-lined 7-inch pan. For double the recipe use a 9-inch pan.
Arrange sliced apples on top. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of sugar with cinnamon over top of sliced apples.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes.
 
 
VERSION 8, Vegan, half recipe, gluten-free flour and 1/2 sugar of original recipe
The above recipe was repeated using our own gluten-free flour mix of 1/2 cup oat flour, 1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons millet flour, 2 Tablespoons garbanzo bean flour

 
Cake
1 cup gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
4 Tablespoons vegan butter (1/8 pound)
1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce
 
Topping
1 1/2 apples
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
 
DIRECTIONS:
Cream vegan butter with sugar and apple sauce.
Add in flour and baking powder and mix to make a moist dough.
Spread in greased or parchment-lined 7-inch pan. For double the recipe use a 9-inch pan.
Arrange sliced apples on top.
Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of sugar with cinnamon over top of sliced apples.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes.
 
 
After eight versions, what did we decide? We liked version 8 the best. It had an excellent crumb to the cake part. It was not gummy at all. It was sweet, but not too sweet. For the SOS-free version, we would opt for version 5 with our own gluten-free flour mix. Although the cassava flour may be used in the recipe, it’s not my first choice. We made the full recipe of version 8 too. Here it is:
APPLE CAKE, Vegan, gluten-free

This recipe used our own gluten-free flour mix of 1 cup oat flour, 3/4 cup millet flour, 1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour
 
Cake
2 cups gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegan butter (1/4 pound)
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
 
Topping
2 apples
2 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
 
DIRECTIONS:
Cream vegan butter with sugar and apple sauce.
Add in flour and baking powder and mix to make a moist dough.
Spread in greased or parchment-lined 9-inch pan.
Arrange sliced apples on top.
Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons of sugar with cinnamon over top of sliced apples.
Bake at 375 degrees F for 40 minutes.
 
 

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