apple-vanilla pound cake

and just like that, the first week of november is over.

the weather this past weekend was unusually beautiful – 70ºF and gloriously, blindingly sunny. what a contrast with four years ago – when philadelphia woke up to a chill in the air and grey and gloomy skies. the streets were hushed that day, voices murmuring with the solemnity of a funeral. but this saturday, I woke up and while at brunch with a friend, four years ended just like that.

I’ve heard some people hope for a return to normalcy in this next era. the fact is that we are now in a new normal – in a world altered for the foreseeable future by the coronavirus, a world destabilized by what felt like unending upheaval, from the wildfires that ravaged california and australia to the terrorist attacks in the uk and france, the war and seemingly ceaseless suffering across the middle east, the crushing of personal liberties in hong kong, while the united states government faced infighting and took a step back from the world stage.

in a moment of synchronicity, my sister (up in boston) and I (here in philly) both baked apple cakes once the election anxiety had lifted. there is still much uncertainty in our future, and what a gift it is to be reminded that those dearest to us will still be close in a sense, even when they are miles away.

makes 9•5-in loaf

115g (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1 tsp vanilla paste
45g (3 tbsp) heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, room temperature
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
165g (1 1/4 cup) cake flour, sifted
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, thinly sliced
1tbsp confectioners’ sugar


joanne chang. pastry love. new york: houghton mifflin harcourt, 2019.

1 preheat oven to 350ºF. place rack in the center of oven. line 9×5-in loaf pan with parchment paper.
2 in medium sauce pan, melt butter. add vanilla paste and whisk in cream and vanilla extract. let mixture cool to room temperature.
3 in stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip eggs and sugar until thick and lemony colored, 4-5 minutes on medium-high speed.
4 while eggs and sugar are whipping, sift and stir together cake flour, baking powder, and salt. when egg-sugar mixture is thick, add flour mixture and gently fold it in using rubber spatula. scoop a few large spoonfuls of batter into butter mixture and stir to until well-combined. add to batter and fold until completely combined.
5 scoop batter into prepared loaf pan. layer and shingle apple slices across top in two rows. bake for 50-60 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking time, until cake is golden brown and firm when pressed in the middle, and cake tester inserted in middle of cake comes out clean.
6 remove cake from oven and let cool in a pan on a wire rack until cool enough to handle, ~20 minutes, then remove it form the pan and sift a bit of confectioners’ sugar on top. using a sharp serrated knife, gently slice and serve.
7 cake can be stored in airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.