Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Neighbors apple cake

Cake with cream cheese and raspberry jam
I call it a Neighbors cake, because many years ago, when I was only 13, back in Lithuania, we used to live together with another family, sharing the kitchen. The lady taught me this wonderful easy to make, very tasty cake. To me it's no fail cake, because it's easy to make and always comes out very good. It brings a lot of good memories, when my biggest care in the world was homework and cake making...I used to love to cook and bake even then. My dear mother wasn't a very good cook. It was not tasty whatever she made. So I came up with the idea, to try to make something myself. And it worked. Anything I made, I always did it with my heart. That rule works until today, whenever I put a piece of my heart into my dish, it comes out great! I believe, with everything in life that you do, when you put your heart into it, the result is amazing. What comes from the heart goes to the heart. 

You will need:
4-5 eggs
1 cup of sugar plus another 1/3 of cup for the apples (may be used brown sugar)
vanilla sugar or extract (1 package or 1 tsp.)
4 tbsp mayo
2 tbsp sour cream (if you use one but not the other, just add 6 tbsp of whatever you have)
1 tsp baking powder (mix it with mayo or sour cream before putting into the batter, so there will be no aftertaste)
1 package margarine (450 gr)
about 4 cups of flour, sifted (anytime I use flour, I sift it)
8 apples
1 lemon juice
cinnamon to taste (optional)
raisins (optional)

In the picture, the filling is one of my substitutions, that I wrote about at the end of the post.

Separate the eggs. Take the yolks, put into the deep medium size dish, add sugar, vanilla and mix it until you get very light yellow batter that has almost tripled in size. The best to do this is with the electric  hand mixer. I still use mine that I bought on sale for 10$, works well. Small investment but very useful gadget for everyday cooking.
Once you achieved the desired consistency, add sour cream and/or mayo with baking powder.Mix some more. Then add by cutting straight from the package with the knife margarine. This simple technique is the easiest and leaves the least mess. Beat with the mixer for another few seconds, just until you get margarine divided into smaller pieces. Do not completely incorporate margarine into the eggs, the little pieces, that's  what makes this cake melt in your mouth.
Start adding flour, first mix with wooden spoon, then use your hands. They won't become messy. That is another reason why I love this recipe, you don't have to get your hands 'dirty'. Put flour that the dough wouldn't be sticky, but still soft. I usually need about 4 cups, however, don't put all flour at once. You may need less, depending on how much sour cream/mayo you put. I like to put generous amounts, because it only makes it taste better.
Separate the dough into two even pieces, one put in the fridge for about an hour, or less.
The other half of the dough roll with the rolling pin on the piece of plastic wrap on the counter, for easy transfer. In the original recipe, back home, when we had not even heard of plastic wrap, I would just nicely even out the dough on the baking dish, not forgetting the sides, with my hands. It takes a little longer, but it is all about the creation, using your most valued tool-your hands. The baking dish I use, is about 12 inches by 10 inches that usually come with your stove (that probably is applicable for the older version of stoves). It has to have small sides, at least 2-3 fingers thick. You can use 9 by 13 inches with sides, the most common one. I try not to make this cake too thick, I like when the pieces are about 1 and a half inches tall. But whatever you make, it will still taste good. These are just some references for you to keep in mind.
Put that aside. Wash the apples and grate them with the grater, medium size, meaning grate that it still would have some texture, not the mush. Usually, the grater has two main sides. Very fine that makes 'a mush' and the medium one, that leaves some texture.
Once you are done grating, add sugar to taste, depending on how sour or sweet your apples are. Add some lemon juice (not all, you will need the rest for the egg white topping). Add raisins, if using, cinnamon or whatever you like your apples with. Mix it.
Now, take the apple mixture and pour on top of the dough in your baking dish. Even it out.
Take another piece of dough from the fridge. Wash the grater you used to grate apples. Use again the same side, for medium grating. Take a small piece of dough and 'grate' it through the grater. You will see little crumbs coming out. Continue until you finish the whole dough. Try to put evenly on the whole cake.
Heat the oven 375 F, if you are not sure about your oven, start with 350 F. On the medium rack. Bake the cake until golder brown for an hour. When it's almost done, take the egg whites and beat them with the mixer. Make them nice and fluffy, almost white, but not quite. Don't beat to the point it will be 'standing', that is too much. Add lemon.
Take the cake out of the oven, nicely with the spatula, put the egg whites evenly on crumbled top. Bake for another 10 minutes. Watch it, as the egg whites tend to burn very fast! Bake until the top becomes slightly brown. Take it out and cut into desired size squares. You have to do that now, while hot, because the egg whites once cooled will become harder, making extremely difficult to cut.
This cake has to be refrigerated after two days! Can be easily frozen.
Since I like to come up with different fillings, I came up with one for this cake, too. For New Years, I made it with the new filling, the result was great. Instead of apples, mix 1-2 blocks (packages of 250 gr) of cream cheese ( light version is good) with half a cup of sugar. On top of cream cheese, layer any jam you like or have at the time. Proceed with crumbs. everything else is the same.
Come up with your own favorite filling and share.

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