If you’re like me and you look forward to a day of apple picking each fall, you may be in for a rude fruit awakening this year. May frost took its toll on many orchards, leaving them without any apples for pickers, or with a smaller crop that (to be honest) isn’t looking its best. Still, with a little planning (or luck!) you can still get out there among the trees in search of hidden beauties to take home for eating and baking.
Last weekend I set out with fellow Yankee staffers Heather and Brenda for a day of outdoor fall fun in Vermont, with plans to hit up the Brattleboro Farmers’ Market and Scott Farm in nearby Dummerston for apple picking. When we learned that Scott’s entire pick-your-own crop had been damaged from the late spring frost, we soldiered on with a scenic drive in hopes of coming across a more fortunate orchard.
We found one at Harlow’s Sugar House in Putney, Vermont.
The friendly folks at Harlow’s let us know that their crop wasn’t ideal, but that they were still letting pickers do their best with it. Because of the poor condition of most of the apples the normal pick-your-own routine was suspended, meaning the trees weren’t marked, but not wanting to waste what fruit there was, willing pickers were allowed certain amount free up front, with a fee if they wanted to pick more.
The free amount was around a 1/2 peck each, and it was plenty for me (thank you, Harlow’s!) to bake this cake and snack on a few out of hand or tucked into an Apple & Mustard Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
It was a gorgeous day, and bad apple season or not, the orchard was sunny, fragrant, and a welcome sight for those of us that look forward to our annual seasonal New England traditions. It’s just not fall without apple picking!
When I got home, despite not knowing exactly what kinds of apples I was working with, I cored, peeled, and chopped up 5 of them to go into this easy sheet cake Apple Cake. Fortunately, it turned out great. The batter was chunky with apples to the point where I was worried there wouldn’t be enough “cake” to fill the spaces in between, but sure enough, the baking powder got to work in the oven and everything puffed up beautifully.
Studded with apples (some tart, some sweet) in every bite, the cake’s mellow sweetness perfectly complimented the punch of the fruit. I enjoyed my apple cake unadorned with coffee for breakfast, but you could easily dress it up with ice cream, whipped cream, or a caramel sauce for a sweet fall supper ending.
*Note: The recipe calls for 6-8 apples but I thought 5 large apples was plenty. The batter should be chunky, but use your judgement.