Using up leftovers is a mitzvah (good deed) in this house because I hate to see food go to waste. So I felt good as I set out to make a cake with dried apple slices I had received as a gift, leftover apple cider I bought for recent party, and walnuts from an impulse purchase gigantic bag that seemed never-ending (Costco, you will be my downfall).
At first, I thought I would throw all the ingredients into a pan with a bit of flour and a few eggs, add a bit of vanilla, and call it a day. But then I found an Ina Garten lemon cake recipe that started me down a garden path…
Although no step was difficult and each one led inexorably to the next, I will admit that my original plan had not included a cider syrup to moisten the cake after baking and a glaze to finish it off. No matter. When we cut into this glazed apple cider loaf cake, I was awed. Moist, subtly flavored, and not overly sweet, by the end of the first piece, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist. And two of us polished off the entire loaf in record time.
There are a couple of tips to making this loaf cake look and taste so good.
- Use dried apples, not fresh. The ratio of liquid to solids assumes that the apples are dried. Plus, the dried ones have a concentrated “appley” taste.
- Make sure the butter is room temperature and cream it well with the sugar. Advice from someone who should know better: take the butter out of the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature on the counter. Using a microwave to speed up the process, even at a low setting,is a chancy proposition that too often turns the butter into glop or a melted mess. The combination of room temperature butter, creamed with sugar gives the cake its airy texture and helps it to rise. (Eggs for baking should always be at room temperature. If yours are straight from the refrigerator, put them in a bowl of warm water for several minutes, until the outside of the eggs feel warm.)
- Follow the directions for alternating dry and wet ingredients – don’t take a short-cut and dump them in all at once.
- Use parchment paper to form a cradle for lifting out the cake from the pan. A few inches of paper on the longer sides of the pan become handles that you can use to lift the loaf cake out of the pan without turning it upside down or worrying about anything sticking to the bottom.
- If the top of the cake looks done before the inside is fully baked, lightly cover it with a small sheet of aluminum foil, which prevents the top from burning as you continue to bake it.
- Add the cider syrup while the cake is still warm and wait until it is quite cool before adding the glaze. The syrup needs the warmth to sink into the cake and the glaze has to be added only once the cake has fully cooled or you’ll end up with melted glaze that doesn’t look pretty.