Growing up, my troubles melted away at my grandmother’s little kitchen table. I learned to cook by having her at my side, peeling potatoes, grating onions. In these moments, the food was almost incidental: We would talk about life and I would get some cherished moments with my favorite person. (My grandfather was right there, too, part of the set of the best grandparents in the world.) Troubles at home, stresses at school, worries about life - everything just faded away at that little Formica table.
My bond with my Grandma Dora was so important to me that I worried when I first went vegetarian (and later vegan) that we would lose some of our connection when I was no longer eating the same things, using the same ingredients. Food is emotional and can be a deep connection to the ones we love, I think, especially when some of that bond is forged over food itself.
My grandmother was a little concerned when I stopped eating meat but it turns out that our bond was made of much stronger stuff than that. I can enjoy the foods we cooked together, just a little different, any time I miss her. Baking is especially a way to remember my grandmother, because while everything she prepared in the kitchen was infused with her magic, she was especially gifted in baking. While I don’t use eggs or dairy, I can still summon her wonderful spirit - generous, funny, kind, dynamic, an amazing listener - every time I bake. This Apple Cake is reminiscent of something she would have baked: Simple, elegant and perfect. I hope you enjoy!
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed 3 tablespoons aquafaba or water ½ cup vegan butter, softened (I used Miyoko’s) ½ cup sugar ¼ cup plus two tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used almond) ¼ cup applesauce or finely minced, peeled apples ¼ cup vegan sour cream 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 2 cups gluten-free flour blend (I used Bob’s Red Mill) 2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon ground ginger ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon ¼ teaspoon cardamom ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg ¼ teaspoon salt
3 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4 -inch pieces (I used gala) 3 tablespoons brown sugar ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon ½ teaspoon ground ginger
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan.
Mix together the flax and the aquafaba or water and allow to gel in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
Place the vegan butter and sugar in the large bowl to use a handheld mixer or the bowl of a stand mixer. Cream together. Add the flax gel, non-dairy milk, applesauce or finely minced apples, sour cream and vanilla and mix until integrated.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour blend, baking powder and spices, including the salt, mixing until smooth. It will be a very thick dough. Spoon into your prepared pan and flatten the top.
Layer your prepared apple slices in concentric circles, starting from the middle. Press down a little once the top is covered. In a cup, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Sprinkle over the top of the apples, covering all.
Bake for 35 minutes, turn 180 degrees, and bake 25 more minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, run a knife along the edge of the pan, then release the springform. Slice and serve when cooled completely.