Fall is upon us and the Autumn Equinox (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) has just happened. Many Earth-Centered religions have also just celebrated Mabon, and last night was the harvest full moon in Aries. A busy couple of days! Traditionally, this time is considered the last harvest of the year. To celebrate, I made a variation of a cake that I love from Gather Victoria, tweaked to incorporate traditional foods that are harvested at this time: Corn and Apples. With the crispness beginning to hang in the air, it also calls to mind fond memories of my childhood when we would spend time with my extended family in upstate New York: Cider presses, Fall festivals, playing in leaf piles, and piping hot apple cider. Apples and spices (real talk, just a fancy name for herbs) go hand in hand in my world, so naturally I couldn’t resist incorporating them here into the syrup topping the cake. This will make for a gently spiced, slightly crumbly (due to the corn meal) and not overly sweet cake. Think of it as cornbread that’s “extra”. With that said, if you typically like a little more spicy zip to your cider, I heartily suggest you double the spices and let the cider sit overnight before adding the sugar to make the syrup.
Spiced Apple Cider Mabon Cake
For the Cake
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup of corn meal
2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
2/3 cup of unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup greek yogurt (full fat, if you can get it)
3/4 cup Spiced Apple Syrup (see below)
Spiced apples (see below)
For the Spiced Apple syrup
1 small apple (I used Honey crisp) - sliced with skins still on
3 cups Apple Cider (preferably from a local farm!)
2 tsp of cinnamon chips
1/2 tsp of ground allspice
1/2 tsp of whole cloves
Zest of 1 orange
1 & 1/2 cups sugar
For the Syrup
Combine Apple cider, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and orange zest in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil
Turn temperature down and simmer ingredients for 20 minutes
Simmer for another 20 minutes or until mixture is reduced by half. It should be about 1 1/2 cups at this point.
Remove apple slices and then strain spices/herbs out
Add sugar and gently boil until it thickens to a syrup, ensuring it doesn’t burn **note** If you want a deeper, spicier flavor, you can prepare the apple cider the day before, letting the apples and spices/herbs further infuse covered in the fridge and then strain and proceed to finish preparing the syrup
For the Cake
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Grease a round pan with butter (a glass pie dish also works like a charm) and dust with flour.
Sift the flour, corn meal and baking powder together into a bowl.
In another large bowl, beat the sugar and butter together until light, pale, and creamy.
Add the eggs into the sugar mixture, 1 at a time, beating and combining well after each addition.
Gently stir in the flour/corn mixture.
Add yogurt into the mix and stir ensuring that everything is well combined.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and smooth out the surface. It will be thick.
Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The top is typically golden brown. (**note** I am cooking this at high altitude, so do keep an eye on your cake!)
Transfer cake onto serving plate and then cool.
Once cooled, use a skewer (works best) or a toothpick to poke holes in the top of the cake. Pour 1/2 of the Spiced Apple syrup over the cake and let it soak in for a couple of minutes and then repeat. Arrange apple slices on top and around edge of cake and enjoy!
As with most things, this would also be delicious with freshly whipped cream added on top!