[x] On second thought, I don't want to search.

Many times, what I decide to bake is determined by some insatiable craving, or it’s an attempt to recreate something I had in a restaurant, or it comes to me by some other form of divine inspiration.

Other times — more often than I care to admit, really — it’s because I found some old thing in my pantry/fridge/freezer that I needed to use up.

This time it was apples. As usual, when apple season rolled around last fall, my eyes were bigger than my stomach and pie pan combined, and we ended up with a big bag of beautiful, juicy Arkansas Black apples that we just could not get through. They began to ripen a bit more quickly than I anticipated, and right when they were on the brink of rotting, I peeled, cored, and sliced them all, stuck them in the freezer, and promptly forgot about them.

When I discovered the frozen apples in my freezer, in January, I decided to make an apple crisp out of some of them, which turned out, well, all right. The apple flavor was exceptional (Arkansas Black apples aren’t my favorite for nothing), but I realized I had waited too long before freezing the apples, and as a result they were very mealy.

I still had one-and-a-half pounds of apples left, and I knew I needed to use them in some way where the texture would be a non-issue. The only thing I could think of was to make applesauce, but that didn’t seem very exciting.

So I decided to turn to one of my baking heroes, one with a penchant for apple recipes, and see if she had any ideas.

I’ve owned Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours for years now, but I still haven’t even gotten close to getting through all 300 recipes in the book. As I was perusing the apple section, looking for a recipe that would use up one-and-a-half pounds of apples, ideally in a way that pulverized them before they were baked, I came across her recipe for Double Apple Bundt Cake. The “double” apple component came from adding both a cup of store-bought apple butter and two grated apples to the batter. I was drooling already, but I realized I could kill two birds with one stone, improving the recipe AND getting rid of my frozen apple stash, by making my own apple butter.

To be honest, I had no idea what actually went into apple butter before I started this. What made it so creamy? Does it actually have butter in it? But then I looked online and realized that apple butter is super simple to make at home, as long as you’re OK with being tethered to the stove for a while. All it is, basically, is applesauce that’s been blended until it’s silky-smooth and cooked down for a long time.

I threw one pound of my apples (along with some water, sugar, vinegar, cinnamon, and salt) into a saucepan and hoped for the best. When my apple butter was done, it seemed as if I had performed some sort of arcane alchemy. My mealy apples had morphed into the smoothest, silkiest substance with the most unbelievable apple flavor. It took a lot of willpower not to just eat all the apple butter up with a spoon, but this apple butter had a defined purpose.

I followed Dorie’s cake recipe almost to the letter (although I did weigh out my dry ingredients), but I went in a totally different direction for the icing. The original recipe calls for a lemon glaze, but I didn’t have any citrus fruit on hand except for limes, so I threw together what ended up being one of the simplest icings I’ve ever made. Containing honey, confectioner’s sugar, and melted butter, the icing is warm-flavored and sweet, with a honey flavor that’s present but not over-the-top. You can, of course, make the cake sans icing (a dusting of powdered sugar would be perfect), but I’m almost always of the opinion that an “optional” icing is not actually optional.

double apple bundt cake

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Baking From My Home to Yours.

If the raisins you plan on using are not “moist and plump” as Dorie recommends they be, you can add some hydration by letting a small saucepan of water come to a boil, adding the raisins, and letting sit in the pan for about an hour. Then, drain the raisins, dry them off, and use as directed.

You can skip making the apple butter yourself and substitute 1 cup store-bought apple butter if you’d like.

for the apple butter

  • 1 pound apples, peeled, cored, and chopped into chunks
  • ¼ cup water
  • 0 – 3 tablespoons sugar (depending on your preference/how sweet your apples are)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of salt

for the cake

  • 2 cups (8 ½ ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 10 tablespoons (5 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups (11 ounces) sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 5 ounces peeled, cored, and grated apples (about 2 apples’ worth)
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) walnuts, chopped and toasted
  • ½ cup plump, moist raisins

for the glaze (optional)

  • ¼ cup (1 ounce) confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

to make the apple butter

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat. Continue cooking, stirring every so often, until the apple chunks are soft and mushy. Basically, at this point, you’re making homemade applesauce.

Once the apples are cooked through, process the mixture with either a food mill, blender, or immersion blender until no chunks remain. Return the mixture the saucepan and heat over low heat, for 30 minutes to an hour, until the mixture has significantly thickened and darkened. There are a number of ways to test for doneness, but the way I knew it was done was when the mixture stopped bubbling and was able to stand up on its own when pushed around with a spoon. If you can make a miniature sculpture with the apple butter inside the pan, it’s done.

Cool the apple butter to room temperature, then use as directed in the recipe, or store in a sealed container in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

to make the cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9- to 10-inch bundt pan and set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices and stir to combine.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Add the eggs to the batter one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.

Add the apple butter to the batter and beat until combined. Add the grated apples to the batter and beat on medium speed until the apples have essentially melted into the batter.

Add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix on low speed until just combined. With a rubber spatula, fold in the nuts and raisins.

Transfer the batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs.

Let the cake sit at room temperature for 5 minutes, then invert the cake out onto a cooling rack and let it cool to room temperature. You can then go ahead to glazing and serving the cake, or wrap the cake up and let it sit at room temperature overnight before serving the next day.

to make the glaze

Combine the powdered sugar, honey, and melted butter in a small bowl, and whisk to combine. If the consistency is too stiff to pour, you can heat up the glaze in the microwave for a few seconds. If it’s too runny, wait until the glaze cools off a bit, then if it’s still too runny, add a bit more powdered sugar.

Right before serving, drizzle the glaze over cake. Let the glaze harden a bit (5 minutes or so is good), and serve.

The cake can be stored, well-wrapped at room temperature, for 3 – 5 days.