My husband Lulu's favorite uncle (it's safe to say this because Daddy only has one brother) generously gave us two large bags filled with apples and pears freshly picked from his garden. They were so sweet that we ate a lot of them straight away.
After having our fill, I prepared several cakes with the remaining fruit. The recipe is fairly basic: simple cake batter, flavored with both vanilla beans and vanilla extract, poured into a non-stick mold and topped with cubes of three apples and one enormous pear. Once the cake was hot and ready, I drizzled it with a little bit of Calvados (apple-flavored liqueur) for extra yumminess.
Servings: 8 servings
1 vanilla bean
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ cup granulated sugar, as needed
11 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
½ cup warm milk, + 2 tablespoons
¼ cup light brown sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 apples, peeled, cored and diced
1 large pear, peeled, cored and diced
1 tablespoon Calvados (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
For the vanilla: Using a paring knife, scrape and gather all the grains of the vanilla bean (see tips).
Making cake batter:
Grease (I used 1 tablespoon of butter) a non-stick (9-inch) round cake pan.
Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl with granulated sugar until they're pale yellow; the texture of the eggs will be thicker. Add the vanilla extract and the vanilla beans.
In a separate bowl, sift 10 tablespoons flour, baking powder and salt.
Combine the egg mixture and the dry ingredients, alternating with milk so the batter is smooth. Add the soft butter and mix until the cake batter is formed. Finish with 3 tablespoons light brown sugar.
For the fruit: Combine the diced (about ½ inch) apples and pears. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon each light brown sugar and flour. Toss well.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan. Spread the fruit over the cake batter.
Bake for about 60 minutes until the top is slightly golden. A skewer or a toothpick inserted into the cake should come out clean. Remove from the oven, then drizzle the cake with Calvados liqueur (if using). Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.
Serve warm or at room temperature with a hot cup of tea.
You could replace the pears and apples with any fruit you have on hand.
Sprinkling the fruit with a bit of flour prevents it from sinking to the bottom of the pan while baking.
Sifting the dry ingredients helps to get rid of lumps of flour and also to aerate the mixture when liquid is added. It's very important for all of your baking so you get a moist result.
For a kiddie version, you could drizzle warm caramel over the cake instead of the Calvados.
After scraping the grains of vanilla, don't discard the remaining vanilla bean. Just place it in a jar and cover it with regular granulated sugar. Let it sit for a few weeks and you'll have nice, fragrant vanilla sugar.
You could also serve the cake as individual portions baked in a muffin tin.