Let me put my biases & handicaps up front. I am not a fan of most low-fat, "healthy" baked goods. I think they're usually one note as far as flavor goes and are crammed with so much sugar that you risk putting yourself into an insulin coma after eating them. They're usually not much lower in calories than regular baked goods (again – because of all the sugar) and they don't satisfy me which seems to be a common problem with most low-fat baked goods.
I also am not that much of a baker. Oh, I can make cookies, brownies, quick breads and even make a good pie crust. But baking is not my strength so the idea of tinkering with a recipe is a bit scary for me. But I'm determined to get out of my comfort zone – the only thing I'm risking is that a recipe won't turn out and that's not that big of a deal, is it?
With that being said, when I was looking for a recipe that used apples I kept coming back to a recipe I had marked at one point in my favorite cookbook, Passionate Vegetarian. I had found several other recipes from other sources I thought would be tasty but something about this simple loaf cake intrigued me. The other recipes I was contemplating trying all sounded delicious but they all seemed to be drowning in fat with sour cream, cream and/or butter being used in such liberal quantities that the apples seemed almost an afterthought. Apples are so delicious and so in season now that I wanted a recipe that celebrated apples. I wanted a recipe that stressed that pure apple flavor, rather than smothering it.
Even so, I was a bit hesitant to use the whole wheat pastry flour that the author, Crescent Dragonwagon, suggested using instead of regular all-purpose flour. I didn't want the cake to be too heavy and even though I've had very good results using whole wheat pastry flour, I felt a bit reluctant to add another "healthy" substitution to an already fairly low-fat cake.
I don't know why I ever doubted Crescent. I'm sorry and it won't happen again. This is a seriously delicious cake. I made my husband hide it from me because during the course of two hours, I ate a third of it by myself, sliver by sliver, using the excuse that I had to neaten out the ends. This cake tastes like fall – redolent with spices and with such a strong apple flavor. It's got substance but it's in no way heavy. I loved it so much as is that I never even thought to try to make it with regular flour. Everyone I've served it to has enjoyed it and asked for the recipe. It's going in our regular rotation.
I'm not a huge fan of raisins or nuts in baked goods. Instead of using raisins, I substituted dried cranberries in for the raisins and left the nuts out. I think the cranberries went very well with this cake and I wouldn't hesitate to use them again, even if I was making this cake for devoted raisin lovers. I also decided to substitute butter in for the canola oil in the recipe. If you'd rather use canola oil, go ahead. Use 1/4 cup and increase the applesauce to 1 1/4 cups. It's delicious both ways but I'm a devoted user of butter in all things baked so I tinkered and found that I liked it with the butter just a little bit more so that's the recipe I'm posting. The recipe suggests sprinkling with powdered sugar for serving but I love it as is.
Please make sure you use high quality spices in this recipe. Don't use the canister of cinnamon that's been sitting in your pantry since 2004. My local food co-op sells bulk spices so you can buy very small quantities of whatever spices you need. You can also purchase wonderful spices online from Penzeys. I am in love with their Vietnamese Cinnamon. I also consider their double strength vanilla a necessity in my kitchen.
Sweet Harvest Applesauce Breakfast Bundt Cake
Adapted from Passionate Vegetarian
Makes one 9-inch bundt cake, one 8-inch loaf cake or three 5-inch loaf cakes
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, plus a little extra for the pan
1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8-10 vigorous gratings of nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
Dash of ground allspice
1/2 cup dried & sweetened cranberries
2-4 tablespoons walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons applesauce
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Equipment: 9 inch bundt pan, 8×4 inch loaf pan or three 5×2 inch loaf pans. (I used the 8-inch loaf pan)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Prepare your baking pan. Spray pan with cooking spray. Dust the inside of the pan with a little flour, knocking out the excess.
Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice. Reserve 1 tablespoon of this mixture and place in small bowl, along with the cranberries & nuts (if using). Toss this mixture well and set both bowls aside.
Combine the sugars with the egg, applesauce, melted butter and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix the flour mixture into the applesauce mixture. Stir until combined and stir in cranberries (and nuts if using).
Spoon the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes(My pan took 40 minutes). Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into loaf to see if it comes out clean. Remove pan from oven and let cool on a wire rack for ten minutes. Run a knife around the edges of pan and turn over onto the rack and rap sharply on the bottom of the pan to remove cake from pan. Let cool completely(if you have more will power than me!).