( An occasional series in which staff members share a recipe that we turn to time and again )
Here in Food, we spend a lot of time trying to make complicated things simple. So for me, Easy Apple Cake goes against the grain. It makes something simple look complicated.
Beneath the fancy top of my most-made snack is a no-frills batter of six common ingredients, and I’m pretty sure you have all of them in your kitchen right now. I usually do, which is why this has become the treat I turn to when I need to make something sweet, and fast. It’s ideal with coffee, or to finish off a meal.
I scored the recipe from a co-worker. Years ago, in another millennium and another office, my colleague Amy brought in a soft, buttery cake decked out with a fan of apple slices. I hadn’t even known she could bake, and here was a surprising offering that looked professional and tasted great. Amy shared the recipe, and the rest is history. My original butter-stained copy is headlined Easy Apple Cake, but I’ve always called it Amy’s Easy Apple Cake, in her honor. Certainly, props are due for a recipe this simple and good.
For its big photo op, I tried to make my cake look fetching. Really, you can make the top as pretty as you want to — or not. I’ve been known to slap on the apples a bit haphazardly, if what I mostly want is to get a piece of cake into my mouth in the shortest time possible. But I’ve found that I enjoy the simple, repetitive exercise of placing the overlapping slices just so. These days I use a mandoline to get nice, uniform pieces, but for years I just used a sharp paring knife, and that was nearly as good.
Until I went to format the recipe for our Recipe Finder database (www.washingtonpost.com/recipes) I had never bothered to measure the amounts of melted butter, lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar that are brushed or sprinkled on top. You don’t need to, either, but I’ve included suggested quantities for those who feel they need a prompt. If you don’t, apply them according to your taste.
And until last week, I’d never made the topping with anything but apples, even though my original copy suggests that almost any fruit can be used. In the interest of science, I finally tried it with nectarine slices, which were a little unwieldy because they’re less stable than apple, and much juicier. But the result was still delicious. So I say: This is a forgiving creation. Go ahead and add whatever toppings you desire, with my blessing. And, probably, Amy’s.