Lumpy, Bumpy Knobby Apple Cake


This year’s apple crop, at least where I live, doesn’t seem particularly stellar compared to last year. Nonetheless, there are plenty for collecting before the deer get them, for making a few seasonal favorites. Of these, my most favorite is Knobby Apple Cake.

I could’ve sworn I offered this recipe here before, but as I poked through my recipe archive I could find no evidence of doing so. Even if I had, this recipe is worth repeating because it is so delicious and easy to make. There are more apples than cake, it has a crisp top, and a rich, apple-filled interior. It is suitable for a sweet breakfast cake; it works as a coffee cake; and it is perfect for dessert with or without whipped or ice cream.

This recipe came from Karyl Bannister on West Southport Island where for a long time, she published a dandy newsletter called “Cook ‘n Tell.” I miss hearing from Karyl. She had a great knack for finding easy recipes for tasty and practical home-cooking.

This cake will take any apple you throw at it. I use drops and foraged apples, because by the time I pare out rough spots, bird pecks, and bruises, I end up with a carved-up apple only fit for cutting into chunks roughly no larger than a half-inch. You don’t have to peel the apples unless you want to, and while the recipe calls for three cups of apples, my experience has been that you can figure on using three to four medium-sized apples, and round it up or down to the nearest whole apple.

It calls for nutmeg but cinnamon is fine, too. I always sprinkle cinnamon sugar on the top. The original recipe called for “shortening” so you can use your solid fat-of-choice, and since it only needs two tablespoons, I use butter. I’ve forgotten the order of added ingredients and once I folded the apples in last and still the cake came out right. The dough is tough and bumpy but it tolerates being pushed around. Just cram it into a pan and jam it into the corners and you will be all set.

This is Knobby Apple Cake all set for the oven: note the rough appearance.

This is Knobby Apple Cake all set for the oven: note the rough appearance.

P.S. Many thanks to Emily Muise who helped out this week by sending along yet another way to deal with garlic: “Another way to easily peel garlic is to zap it in the microwave for a few seconds. Slides right out.” By golly.

Knobby Apple Cake

1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups diced apples
Cinnamon sugar, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an eight-by-eight inch pan. Whisk or sift together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. Set aside. Cream together the sugar and butter and beat in the egg. Add the chopped apples and vanilla and mix well so all the apples have some of the sugar, butter, and egg mixture on them.

This is how the apple and sugar, butter, and egg mixture ought to look before you add the flour.

This is how the apple and sugar, butter, and egg mixture ought to look before you add the flour.

Add the flour mixture and toss together until the flour is taken up. Put into the baking pan, spread evenly. Sprinkle the top of the batter with cinnamon sugar to taste. Bake for thirty-five to forty minutes or until a tester inserted comes out clean. Let cool slightly, then serve warm.

Makes one eight-by-eight inch cake, usually enough for six to eight servings.

Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.