Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recipe for Apple Pumpkin Walnut Cake

Apple Pumpkin Walnut Cake
In 2010, this Apple Pumpkin Walnut Cake was The Dessert of autumn. I brought it to late afternoon committee meetings, enticing and sweetening collegues to stay just a little bit longer. It went to church, to potlucks, to grieving friends.

Once or twice, I may have baked it for my husband. Sometimes he gets that look and asks, “Who are you baking for this time?”

It’s still a favorite one year later. I’ve been looking forward to baking this cake for months, waiting patiently for apple season to arrive. Last year, there were two abundant apple orchards within a couple miles of our house. If I had drawn a 5-mile circle, several more would have come into view.

The smallest farm I enjoyed most. It was a bit shaggy around the edges, the old house and barn nestled in the soft hills of west Michigan. Small and homey — I loved it. I’d pull in to the circular driveway and then spend a half hour chatting with the gal in the barn. She’d toss me one apple after another for tasting and then I would settle on a variety or two.

The whole fruit scene caused me some worry when we moved to Iowa. Would I find good apples or would there be the same old same old? I already knew blueberries and cherries were out of the question. (Pause for slight whimper.)

When I heard about Wilson’s Orchard in Iowa City,  I went for a visit, hopeful. In a conversation with one of the employees, I waxed a nostalgic about what I missed in Michigan. I talked about the tart cherries and the blueberries, which are the best in the world, yes they are. Then I learned that Wilson’s Orchard is now owned by a man from west Michigan who grew up in the apple business. And somehow, you know that made everything OK.

The orchard at Wilson’s is beautiful. Rows and rows of many dozen varieties of apples on a very hilly patch of land just north of Iowa City. Bucolic, the painters would say. In fact, this is the kind of place that makes you wish you were a painter.

In the barn they sell already picked apples, condiments and two very good desserts. The tender, flaky crusts of the apple turnovers are dusted with granulated sugar. I would say the apple pie is the best I’ve ever tasted but that award goes to the one my in-laws make. Wilson’s is a very close second.

Now, back to the cake. The recipe is based on one that King Arthur featured in its autumn 2010 catalogue. KAF called it the Secret Ingredient Apple-Spice Cake, owing to its use of cherry concentrate. Having no cherry concentrate, I substituted my good friend pumpkin for that and for the modicum of applesauce. I still have no idea how the original version tastes. I kept going with the pumpkin and haven’t looked back.
Wilson’s Orchard also has a pumpkin patch.

This recipe is a keeper, though. I’ve made it by hand using only a whisk and I’ve gone full blown with the stand mixer.  In a pinch, I used all vegetable oil when I discovered there was no butter. Easy and adaptable. 

Whatever kind of apples you use, I hope you enjoy this cake.

Apple Pumpkin Walnut Cake
adapted from King Arthur

1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c vegetable oil
1 3/4 c sugar
2 t mixed apple pie spices or a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice
1 t salt
2 t baking powder
4 large eggs
3 c unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 c pumpkin puree
3 c apples chopped into 1/2 in. chunks
2 c chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 10 in. 10- to 15-cup capacity tube pan or Bundt pan.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, oil, sugar, spices, salt, and baking powder until light and fluffy, about 4 to 5 minutes. (You can use an electric mixer for this or mix by hand using a whisk.)

Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition until the batter looks fluffy. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.

Beat in half the flour, then half of the pumpkin puree. Scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl, then beat in the remaining flour and pumpkin.

Fold in the apples and nuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 55 to 65 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Remove cake from the oven, and let it set for 10 minutes. Then turn it onto a cooling rack.


  1. A very nice story....we had a favorite apple farm that we would go to when I was a kid. Besides apples, you could also buy fresh honey from the beehives on the farm.

  2. Thanks for reading, Jill! Oh...fresh honey, nothing like it. Both the apple orchards I mentioned are off West Main St. ; )


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