When the leaves begin to turn and the air becomes laced with a chill, I know that fall has finally arrived. It’s my favorite season, the one that brings back memories of crunching through fallen leaves as a child, picking out the perfect pumpkin to carve, and sipping steaming cups of apple cider to brace against the cold.
This time of year it seems as though either pumpkin or apple arises as an individual’s favorite fall flavor. Pumpkin doesn’t have much of a place in traditional Norwegian cooking and baking, but apple sure does, with apple cake (eplekake) being a true favorite. Typically a rich buttery sponge cake with apple slices wedged in the batter, it’s as simple as can be, requiring little more than good ingredients to create a comforting cake.
I’ve begun experimenting with alternatives to gluten, dairy, eggs, and even sugar in my baking, and I recently decided to see if I could convert my own eplekake recipe into one that would work with a number of dietary restrictions. The first time I put it to the test, I used gluten-free flour, which I had never used before, swapped out the butter for a vegan butter spread, used coconut sugar instead of cane sugar, and tried my hand at a flax “egg.” Honestly, I almost didn’t serve it to the guest who was coming for coffee—I was nervous that I had tried too many modifications at once. But my guest was pleased and I think the results were just right; upon making the cake this way again since, I’ve found that I prefer it. While it’s hard to improve upon a classic, this version has a heartier texture and dare I say tastes a little healthier, which is a good thing when I want to enjoy a slice with my morning coffee.
If you’d rather use all-purpose flour, real butter, and brown sugar, then by all means go ahead. And the flax egg (which is simply ground flaxseed soaked in water) can be swapped out for two real eggs. I’ve made this cake both ways, and while the results are different depending on the ingredients, both versions of this cake are delicious.
Norwegian Apple Cake with Autumn Spices (Gluten-, Dairy-, and Egg-Free)
(Glutenfri norsk eplekake med høstkrydder)
2-3 large apples
2 cups gluten-free flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour)
2 tsps. baking powder
½ tsp. cinnamon, plus more for dusting
½ tsp. freshly-ground cardamom
¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup unsalted vegan butter spread (I use Earth’s Balance), at room temperature
¾ cup coconut sugar, plus more for dusting
2 tbsps. ground raw flaxseed/flaxseed meal
5 tbsps. water
2 tsps. vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350°F and grease an 8-inch springform pan.
Peel and thinly slice the apples and set aside.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and salt. To prepare the flax egg, stir the ground flaxseed and water in a small bowl and let rest for five minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter spread and sugar until it’s pale and silky and mousse-like, about 3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the flax egg, mixing well. Stir in the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and stir until incorporated.
Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Arrange the apple slices in a decorative circular pattern around the bottom of the pan, starting in the center and working your way out.
Dust cinnamon and sugar over the top of the cake. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, checking occasionally. The top will be deeply colored, but feel free to place a sheet of foil over the top if it’s coloring too quickly. Cool on a baking rack, then remove from the pan.
Makes 1 8-inch cake