My recipe stories seem to fall into a predictable rut: I had to feed a few people, and I needed something easy and simple, and so this recipe was born. But honestly, that's the way I cook. I look for recipes that give maximum pleasure at the lowest common denominator of work, ingredients, and convenience. The results aren't always worth talking about, but this recipe — oh, this one is. It's a moist cake with a crumb that's almost creamy, swirled with cinnamon, and juicy with small bites of apple. It will take you about 15 minutes to make, and regardless of whether my story gets old, this recipe never will.
This recipe materialized during a week of cooking for a group of scientists doing research in snowy Colorado. The first night we were there, I needed a quick, simple dessert. I had all the makings of a yogurt cake, like this simple, favorite recipe. But I had been craving spring's sweet fruits and berries. They were not really around yet, of course, but I wanted a bite of fruit. So I turned to apples.
Over-wintered apples are always available, and I love their mild sweetness and brightness when cut up very small and baked in a cake. They are juicy little pops of fruit. I also craved cinnamon, and so I spread a crumbly mix of cinnamon and brown sugar through the middle and over the top of this cake. This created a cinnamon streak running right through the cake, and a dimpled, puckered top filled with brown sugar glaze.
The beautiful thing about this cake, besides its moist lusciousness, is that it all mixes up in one bowl, and you don't even need beaters. It's only mildly sweet, too; much of the sweetness comes from the apples.
In fact, I came downstairs the morning after I made this and found only a corner or two remaining. My crew had evidently decided that this was good for breakfast as well, and attacked it with considered purpose. There were only a few moist crumbs left, two days later, but they were just as delicious as when I took the cake out of the oven.
This apple cake is not too sweet and goes perfectly with a hot mug of coffee or tea in the morning. Besides how easy it is to throw this together, I love that it's so moist it's almost like a bread pudding. I highly recommend using whole-milk yogurt here for the best flavor and texture. Also, metal cake pans bake faster than glass or ceramic pans, so check on your cake accordingly. Make sure to let it cool for one hour so that is has plenty of time to set up.
Christine, October 2017
Apple Yogurt Cake with a Cinnamon-Sugar Streak
Cooking spray or olive oil
1 1/2 cups whole regular or Greek yogurt, well-stirred
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 pounds apples (preferably tart, such as Granny Smith)
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch freshly ground nutmeg
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
1/2 cup packed light or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 350°F. Lightly coat a 9x13-inch baking pan with baking spray or olive oil.
Place the yogurt, granulated sugar, oil, lemon juice, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Peel and core the apples, then chop into rough 1/2-inch chunks. (Do not grate the apples or the batter will be too wet.) You should end up with 4 to 4 1/2 cups of apples. Add the apples to the yogurt mixture and stir to combine.
Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Stir just until no dry pockets of flour remain; set aside. Place the remaining 2 teaspoons cinnamon, brown sugar, and butter in a small bowl and smash with a rubber spatula to combine.
Pour 1/2 of the batter into the pan. Sprinkle with 1/2 of the cinnamon-brown sugar mixture on top, dropping it on the batter in small lumps. Spread the rest of the batter over the top, then sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon-brown sugar.
Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, covering with aluminum foil toward the end if the top is browning too much, 45 to 55 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and let it cool for at least 1 hour. Cut and serve the cake warm or at room temperature.
- Storage: This cake can be covered and stored at room temperature for up to 4 days, and it gets even more moist as it sits, due to the apples.
Updated from recipe originally published March 2011.