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madeline’s cinnamon apple cake

I don’t often find myself in an extended baking mood, but everything the past few days has conspired to cast such a spell. Outside, the rain was falling in torrents, soggy leaves were blowing around our front door, sticking to the windows, filling our bird bath and our gutters.  An elderly neighbor of ours, a lonely sweetheart of a woman, lost her husband last year; I hadn’t seen her in a while and missed her.  I wanted something warm in my hands when I knocked on her door. And then, there were the apples, shiny and green, just fresh off their trees.

It wasn’t exactly a straight line, the weather – to my neighbor – to the cake. I tried several things along the way. One bombed completely; the other was decent, but only that; and then there was …

Madeline’s Cinnamon Apple Cake –

and it was lovely and mellow and warm…

  • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for preparing pan
  • ¾ cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 extra large Granny Smith apples
  • 2 Tablespoons, plus ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon (please see NOTE)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1¾ cups sugar, divided
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 3 large eggs (room temperature)

(NOTE on cinnamon: the type we buy in the grocery stores is seldom the “true” cinnamon, but a botanical relative, Indonesian cassia. It has more of a spicy bite to it than “true” Ceylon cinnamon, and in large amounts can be a bit overpowering. Ceylon cinnamon is quite distinct from cassia, with subtle and complex flavors, even delicate hints of citrus.  In any dish calling for cinnamon that doesn’t have other strong competing flavors, “true” Ceylon cinnamon is the cinnamon of choice. I made this recipe twice in the past 2 days to work out some little details. I put the cinnamons up against one another in the 2 versions, and Ceylon ran away with the prize, hands down. If you’re going to use the more traditional kind, I’d go a bit lighter than the recipe calls for – maybe 1½ Tablespoons tossed with the apples, and ½ teaspoon mixed with sugar for on top. If you decide to buy the Ceylon true cinnamon, you might want to check out The Spice House. I’ve given the link once before, and will again now.  For a 2 ounce shaker jar of the Ceylon cinnamon, the cost is $5.99.


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch spring-form pan.

Peel and core the apples. Slice them through their centers, from top to bottom; then slice each half crosswise in 1/4-inch slices. Generously sprinkle them with fresh lemon juice and then toss them in 2 tablespoons of cinnamon to coat evenly. (See note above about type and quantity of cinnamon.)

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, the baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using a large bowl and your electric mixer set on medium speed, beat together the cream cheese and 4 tablespoons of butter. Add 1½ cups of the sugar, the vanilla and almond extracts, scraping down the sides a couple sides, and then continue beating for 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition. Add the flour mixture, in three batches, mixing after each addition until fully incorporated. Fold in the apple mixture, mixing gently to combine. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. In a cup, mix ¼ cup sugar and ½ teaspoon cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over the top.

Bake the cake until lightly browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean – usually 50 to 55 minutes. Rest the cake, in its pan, on a wire rack for 15 minutes. Then remove the sides of the spring-form pan and slide the cake onto a serving plate. It definitely wants to be served warm!

~ Serves 12 ~

A thought – if you don’t have 12 to serve all at once while the cake is still warm from the oven, you might want to enjoy it reheated with coffee or tea for breakfast. I know some who do! (no names please). Or maybe run a few pieces next door. You’ll think of something.

(This recipe was inspired by one appearing in Nordstrom’s Entertaining at Home)

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a gorgeous recipe – I bet your neighbour appreciated this and your company!

    October 4, 2011
    • Happy you stopped by! It caused me to take a look at you. Love your site, chica! : )

      October 10, 2011
  2. I recently emerged from a long lasting baking spell too. I stopped because I remembered I’m trying to lose weight! This looks delicious by the way, perfect flavour combination.

    October 4, 2011
  3. Ali #

    One of my very favorite desserts for fall!! It’s so versatile, being popular with kids and grown ups alike, excellent warm or cold, and just as popular with me for breakfast or for dessert! Love, love, love and so will you!!

    October 4, 2011
  4. Classic combination of Apple & Cinnamon but you have made it look like something new that has to be tried ! Thank you for posting, great recipe

    October 4, 2011
  5. Oh how beautifully rustic, and what a dear gift for the neighbor lady. We will have to try this soon. Interesting about the cinnamon, too — I had no idea.

    October 4, 2011
  6. Looks absolutely delicious–apple cinnamon deserts in all their variations have always been among my most favorite. Me being me, the only addition I’d make would be some nuts, some plump fresh pecans or some crunchy walnuts to add a little more texture and taste. I also was ignorant about the two kinds of cinnamon and in the process of delving into this topic, found the following which may be of some interest:

    Coumarin is moderately toxic to the liver and kidneys, with a “Median Lethal Dose” (LD50) of 275 mg/kg — low compared to related compounds. Although only somewhat dangerous to humans, coumarin is a potent rodenticide: Rats and other rodents metabolize it largely to 3,4-coumarin epoxide, a toxic compound that can cause internal hemorrhage and death. Humans metabolize it largely to 7-hydroxycoumarin, a compound of lower toxicity. European health agencies have warned against consuming high amounts of CASSIA BARK, one of the FOUR species of cinnamon, because of its coumarin content.

    October 4, 2011
    • In response to Joe’s comment – Who knew? Does it make you wonder? How many cinnamon rolls must a rat eat before he dies of sheer sweet sticky bliss?

      October 4, 2011

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