There are a handful of recipes, aside from an occasional birthday celebration, that are saved for the holidays — my grandmother’s Italian meat pie, my husband Hans’ Swedish almond cake, our yearly gingerbread village cake, baked ziti and cardamom cream-filled cinnamon buns. With the kids home from school, it’s the quiet mornings with nowhere to go that are my favorite times of all. And it’s these mornings when the time to make something special feels both possible and luxurious. This cake is a perfect example. A close cousin to the coffee cake, or kaffekuchen, due to the addition of spice, it ventures into its own territory by leaving out the streusel topping.
There are endless possibilities for making this your own. I could easily see making this with blueberries, raspberries, chocolate or even nuts like pecan or piñon. A splash of orange blossom, rose water or whiskey would give it a fun twist, and the zest of lemon or orange would be a lovely pairing with the ricotta and olive oil. And if you’ve been reading my recipes for any amount of time, it would probably not surprise you that I felt an enormous pull to add some New Mexico red chile powder to the batter, but alas I resisted the temptation and gave our jars of chile a break.
The addition of cardamom gives a nod to my husband’s Swedish heritage, while the ricotta and olive oil wave a hearty hello to my Italian side. In our house, it’s the breakfast of our dreams, especially with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt and a cup of tea or coffee for sipping on the side.
Apple Breakfast Cake
Makes: 8-12 servings; total time: 1.5 hours
2 cups (240 grams) all-purpose flour, plus 1 tablespoon for dusting apples
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon or pumpkin spice blend
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large sweet apples, peeled, cored and small diced (around 2 cups total)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cold
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
¾ cup whole milk ricotta cheese
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons powdered sugar, optional, for dusting
Preparation: Preheat the oven at 350 degrees. Generously rub the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform or cake pan with butter and lightly dust with flour, tapping out any access into the sink.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. In a separate bowl, toss the diced apples with the 1 tablespoon of flour and reserve. This will help them from sinking to the bottom of the cake.
Let the butter sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or a hand mixer, cream the butter for a couple of minutes, then add the sugar. Continue to mix until the sugar is fully incorporated. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the vanilla, ricotta and olive oil, and mix until smooth. Now add the flour mixture and mix until a thick batter is formed. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer if using and gently fold in the apples with a rubber spatula.
Transfer the cake batter to your prepared pan. Bake for around one hour, or until a small knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes before inverting it onto a serving plate. Enjoy warm or cold, wrapping tightly once it comes to room temperature and storing in the fridge for up to five days.
Marianne Sundquist is a chef and writer who in 2020 co-founded Stokli, an online general store. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.