It is so very, very rare that a recipe one imagines turns out just right the very first time that it’s important to call it out, celebrate it, tell everyone about it.
‘Cause this recipe is a keeper! (See the exclamation point?!) It turned out exactly as I wanted it to: a moist, tender, quick-to-make, quick-to-bake baking cake with LOTS of apples and just a hint of something extra.
That hint of something extra, would be some buckwheat flour, I decided. Buckwheat flour is big in Brittany because that’s what the big, emblematic Breton galettes (savory crêpes) are made of. Modern-day Breton bakers are adding buckwheat flour (called blé noir – black wheat- or sarrasin) to everything from bread to butter cookies these days as a tasty nod to their Celtic culinary heritage, so I thought I’d give it a try in a classic pound cake recipe. But not too much. I’ve worked with buckwheat flour enough to know that 1) its taste is strong (and delicious…nutty with a slight tang) and 2) it has no gluten—meaning it can really mess with a traditional baking recipe and make things dense and rubbery. Moderation is key. (I also threw in a tablespoon of cornstarch to hedge my bets.)
I spread the batter in a 9- x 13-inch baking pan (quarter sheet pan) to cut down on baking time (a loaf or Bundt pan would take about an hour to bake) then scattered a lot of sliced apples on top so that there would apple with every bite of the cake, kind of like a tart.
Et hop! as the French like to say. It went into the oven and came out about 30 minutes later so very perfect that I haven’t been able to stop snacking on it even though it’s *meant* to be for a dinner party tomorrow night. Oh well. I’ll just pre-slice it into squares. None of the guests will ever know the difference.
Recipe notes: If you don’t have buckwheat flour, you can replace it with whole-wheat, rye, or even almond flour. Or you can just make the base cake with all-purpose flour and it will be deliciously buttery as is.
Breton Buckwheat-Apple Cake
melted butter, for brushing the pan
1 cup (150 g.) all-purpose flour
1/3 cup (50 g.) buckwheat flour
1 Tbs. cornstarch
¼ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
7 oz. (14 Tbs./ 200 g.) salted butter (Breton cooking/baking is all about salted butter and since this is a “Breton” cake…), softened
1 cup minus 2 Tbs (7 oz./200 g.) sugar
4 large apples, peeled, cored, halved, and thinly sliced
PREHEAT the oven to 350˚F/180˚C. Brush the bottom and sides of a 9- x 13-inch (23- x 33-cm) baking pan with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, then brush the parchment paper with butter as well. The parchment paper makes it easy to remove the cake from the pan; you can also just skip this step and butter just the pan (and take your chances), or just leave the cake in the pan.
WHISK TOGETHER the flours, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside
BEAT the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time (this prevents clumps of butter from forming), scraping down the sides of the bowl from time to time. Beat the butter-egg mixture until thick and creamy. Gradually add the flour mixture until a thick dough forms. Increase the beater speed to medium, and beat the batter 2 minutes, or until it is smooth, thick, and a couple shades lighter in color.
SPREAD the batter in the prepared pan with a spatula. (The batter should be about ½ inch thick.) Scatter the apple slices over top, covering the batter completely with apples. (It’s OK if there are two layers of apples in places.) Bake 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tip of a knife inserted in the center comes out clean and the cake has begun pulling away from the sides of the pan.
COOL the cake 15 minutes. If unmolding, invert the cake onto a cutting board or the bottom of another same-sized baking pan, then flip the cake right side up onto the serving plate. Cut into squares, and serve warm or at room temperature.