Apple Cake or Not?

November 19, 2008 § 1 Comment

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been buying apples at the Greenmarket, preparing to make an apple cake. It’s true that there are better things to do with apples (pies, for example) and better kinds of cake (too many to list) but I love the word, thing, idea of apple, and worship cake in all its forms, so the prospect of baking an apple cake pleases me far out of proportion to any pleasure I may get from eating it.

I love the smoky blur on the skins of certain freshly picked apples, that color that’s like looking at autumn leaves through a car window in the rain. I love the names: Winesap, Macoun, Gala, Pippin, Northern Spy, Ida Red, Rome Beauty. I love that they were always around in childhood, unlike pomegranates, star-fruit or papayas.

For an apple cake you need apples, flour, butter, brown sugar, eggs and pecans. Rum, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. You can do half and half apples and plums, substitute cognac or calvados for the rum. You can eat the whole thing yourself over the course of a week, or serve it to your girlfriends for afternoon tea if you have any girlfriends you can convince to come for tea. Once, I had many girlfriends and a good number of them were self-employed, or worked freelance, or were artists with a little inherited money, or stayed home with children, and were thus free to join me after the morning’s work for psyche-laundering, spiritual maundering, and the mostly well-intentioned exposure of our significant other’s faults and peculiarities.

Now I have a boyfriend who will eat cake if I provide it—then immediately feel guilty for the calories. Since he lives in a perpetual state of guilt in regard to his many faults and peculiarities and I have wrung more righteous pleasure from this self-castigation than any woman could want, I hesitate to inspire more. A slice of apple cake is too lovely, too fragrant, too tempting and yet motherly—too redolent of childhood afternoons outdoors with a book—to be pushed into the maw of middle-aged male, raised Catholic, married-and-possessed-of-a-girlfriend self-hatred.

Forget all about that now, I say to him. You’re separated. I’m separated (and my husband has been reunited with his first love). But then I’m just playing my usual role—Eve holding the apple, naked, while Lilith paces outside the garden, inventing unpronounceable names for demons.

See? She has a good job. Who wouldn’t want that job?

I think of my cake and don’t bake it. The apples wait in the dark and I eat them one by one. I live alone. I would like a dog. I would get a dog—really I would—if it would sleep until afternoon and I could feed it cake.

5 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 ½ cups flour

2 eggs

3 tablespoons rum

I tablespoon fresh, finely chopped ginger

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon nutmeg

2 cups chopped raw apple

1 cups lightly toasted chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 8 inch square pan or small bundt pan. Beat butter until creamy. Gradually add sugar and blend well. Add eggs, ginger and rum; blend. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and sift into batter. Beat until smooth. Add chopped apple and nuts. Bake for 35 minutes, give or take.

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