My sister made an apple cake for Mom’s 82nd birthday.
There was a baby in the apple cake.
The most surprising thing about the baby in the apple cake was that I never knew about the baby until now. I have Grandma Flora‘s recipes, her precious gold thimble, her linens, her chocolate set, and the list goes on. So why did I not know about the cake baby?
My sister said that Grandma Flora gave it to her decades ago with a little note saying that HER mother had baked the little black metal baby into birthday cakes. Again, WHY DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS? I adore tradition and fun games and family history so the baby takes the cake (pun intended)! I am so happy my sister held on to the baby all these years through her world travels and multiple lives, to bring it out and celebrate our mom’s birthday. And now that baby is out, nobody is going to put baby in a corner. Baby is invited to all the family occasions. At least until I find it in the cake!
We don’t know much about the origins of the baby. It is about the same size as the plastic Baby Jesus that is baked into a Mardi Gras King Cake, but it looks different. More like a baby and less like Baby Jesus. And it must be rather old because it is metal, very heavy metal, with fine details including a nicely curved buttocks! Mom remembers that Grandma baked it into birthday cakes too. And between my sister and Mom, they recall that Grandma told them the one who found the baby in the cake had good luck for a year. Whatever the intent, the baby has been reborn and will now have a new life as part of our family celebrations. I am happy about that.
The baby could be baked into any cake but my sister baked it into her go-to recipe for apple cake. It is simple and delicious. The perfect cake to introduce baby to the family again.
“Tradition does not mean that the living are dead, it means that the dead are living.” -Harold MacMillan
Baby in the Apple Cake
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 large apples (if you can, choose 4 different kinds)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Generously butter an 8-inch springform pan and put it on a baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper and put the springform on it.
Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt together in small bowl.
Peel the apples, cut them in half and remove the cores. Cut the apples into 1- to 2-inch chunks.
In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with a whisk until they’re foamy. Pour in the sugar and whisk for a minute or so to blend. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. Whisk in half the flour and when it is incorporated, add half the melted butter, followed by the rest of the flour and the remaining butter, mixing gently after each addition so that you have a smooth, rather thick batter. Switch to a rubber spatula and fold in the apples, turning the fruit so that it’s coated with batter. Scrape the mix into the pan and poke it around a little with the spatula so that it’s evenish.
Slide the pan into the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted deep into the center comes out clean; the cake may pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for 5 minutes.
Carefully run a blunt knife around the edges of the cake and remove the sides of the springform pan. (Open the springform slowly, and before it’s fully opened, make sure there aren’t any apples stuck to it.) Allow the cake to cool until it is just slightly warm or at room temperature.
Credit: This recipe is from Dorie Greenspan, known as Marie-Helene’s Apple Cake.