Friday, October 24, 2008

Almost Virtuous Apple Cake ...

I can hear the cries of shock and horror now ... yes, that is vanilla ice cream next to the cake ... but before you send the sugar squad out to cite me for SB violations, do know that this is not a picture of *my* plate. The husband and I entertained a dear friend for dinner last night and said friend has a deep personal commitment to ice cream enhanced desserts. She's almost unable to eat a piece of pie or cake without icy accompaniment. I don't share her commitment. I really never have understood the appeal of soggy cake, not even when I was a child. Ice cream and cake do not share space on my plate. Period. And that has nothing to do with any diet, South Beach or otherwise.

The cake, however, does have something to do with my chosen style of eating. Its my updated version of a Mama Diva classic. Blessed with a bag of crisp Empire apples, I decided to give her Easy Apple Cake a semi-beachy make-over. I'm well pleased with the results. I replaced the white flour with whole wheat, added a bit of extra spice, and opted to replace half the sugar with agave nectar. Having only recently begun to explore the wonders of agave, I was a bit gun-shy and decided not to replace all of the sugar. I'm still a bit unsure when it comes to using this product and need to spend more time baking with it. I'm working my way up to it - but if you're confident in this area, by all means give it a go and use just the agave - about a scant 1/2 cup should do it. The nectar is pretty sweet.

Mama Diva had already reduced the amount of sugar in her version - she uses a half cup while the original calls for a full cup. Frankly, I can't imagine that. I think it would be entirely too sweet. Though, I suppose it depends on the apples you've got. If they're tart, or if you like a really sweet cake, you can certainly up the amount. Trust your judgment!

Almost Virtuous Easy Apple Cake:

  • 4 Empire Apples (or any other firm variety), peeled, cored and diced
  • 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup of agave nectar*
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp. of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, optional
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.

Place the diced apples in a mixing bowl and to them add the sugar and agave nectar, stirring well to combine. Let the mixture stand for 30 minutes. Then add in the beaten egg and the oil. Stir to blend. Reserve.

Place the whole wheat flour in a small mixing bowl and to it add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, baking soda and salt. Stir well to combine, using a wire whisk. Add the flour and spice mixture to the apples and stir to blend. Add the vanilla and walnuts, if using, and stir to blend. Turn the batter out into a well-greased and floured 8 inch square glass or Pyrex baking pan, and smooth to fit the pan. Bake in the middle of the oven for approximately 40 to 45 minutes*, or until cooked throughout. Serve warm from the oven or allow the cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack.

*There are conflicting theories about oven temperature as regards the use of agave nectar in baking. Some websites insist you reduce the oven temp to 325 degrees, others assure that doing so is unneccesary ... I have no idea which is correct. I can tell you that this cake baked up really fast in my 350 degree oven, so don't let it go unattended. Begin checking for doneness after 35 or 40 minutes, if using agave, and proceed from there. Or go ahead and try it at 325 degrees ... and by all means report back.

I'm delighted with whole wheat substitution - it lends a nice, almost nutty flavor to the cake that pairs really well with the apples and walnuts. I like to serve this cake un-frosted, but you could certainly opt for a light glaze of some sort or a dusting of powdered sugar if you're of the non-Beachy mind set. The finished cake has a moist, tender crumb and is densely populated with apples. Frankly this one's more about the apples than it is the cake and that's as it should be. Its apple season and they are to be featured, not buried!

Lastly, feel free to play around with the spice combination here as well. The original calls for just the cinnamon, but I happen to love nutmeg and ginger. Do as you see fit. Either way you'll be rewarded with a yummy, apple-y dessert that's just this shy of being virtuous. Why its practically a health food! I hope you'll try it.

So, what's your favorite fall dessert? Hungry Diva wants to know.

Bon appetite!


The Bear said...

The apple cake sounds dreamy, Diva, but I really crave pumpkin-oriented things come October. Do you have any offerings in that area?

The Diva on a Diet said...

I do indeed, darling Bear! I have a very yummy pumpkin bread that I will make and write up for you next week. Its simple and simply wonderful.

Beyond that, I know you've had my pumpkin cheese cake ... must find that recipe. Of course, its none to Beachy - but the holidays approach and the people will have their pumpkin! :)

Michele said...

I'm with Bear on the pumpkin goodies. I'll be posting my favorite...pumpkin coffee cake on Monday. I have made apple cake three times this season already. Phil loves the stuff in his lunches.

Veriance said...

That looks divine. I too have a prediliction for "ice cream enhanced desserts"

What is this agave nectar and where might I find it?

I do know that I will be procuring apples at the farmer's market today!

Deb said...

Ah Diva I too am a fanof anything apple in the fall. A lovely old fashioned apple pie which alas escapes me since the simple pie crust is something I too often struggle with. My mom made great crust and I believe her success has me intimidated. But I have not given up and still try occasionally, practice makes perfect after all.


pixelgal said...

I've given up on piecrusts in favor of the frozen ones. The secret of a great one is to use lard, like my 98 year old Mother in law. Hers are the bomb or were when she used to make them. Then cooking them is an issue as the bottom crust is always too gooey. I tried some new things for my strawberry rhubarb pie this year like painting the bottom crust with egg white and cooking it a bit before filling. So enjoy all you apple freaks while the apples are still great.

Deb Schiff said...

How yummy!

The Diva on a Diet said...

Stay tuned for some pumpkin recipes Michele. I've opened a can and now have to use it! LOL

V - agave nectar is a natural sweetener derived from the agave plant. Apparently, it has less of a glycemic response than sugar and so is approved for both the SB diet and diabetics. Its something like 6 times sweeter than sugar, so if using it as a substitute, do not use a 1 for 1 ratio. I found mine in the natural section of my supermarket - and I'm sure Whole Foods must carry it. If you're interested in exploring it, do check out Deb Schiff's blog - just click her name here in the comments - as she has a wonderful, sugar-free - agave centric blog. She's an amazing resource.

Deb - I ditto what pixelgal said ... I don't make my own pie crust either. No need when you can purchase perfectly acceptable frozen crusts!

Besides ... we're not supposed to be eating pie crust! LOL and j/k

Deb Schiff - I defer to your expertise in using the agave. You can see that I still have yet to master it!