Prize-Winning Apple Tea Cake With Lemon Glaze

Wherein yours truly bakes something fabulous and wins (sort of) second place.

[Editor's Note: This column originally ran last year. We're running it again this year just in time for apple season! What's your favorite apple recipe? Let us know in the comments below.]

My friend and colleague Pem McNerney told me about this recipe recently. I asked her if she wanted to be guest editor for the column this week, and she agreed. Do you have a recipe and a story you want to share? Let me know in the comment section below! Here is Pem's story:

Amidst all the sugar and sweetness of the holiday season, I recently learned from my friend Sarah-Jane that the masters program, in which we are enrolled, was sponsoring a baking competition.

A contest sounded good to me. I had a recipe in mind that I wanted to put up against the best that Wesleyan had to offer, an Apple Tea Cake with Lemon Glaze from Amy Traverso's The Apple Lover's Cookbook. Reading through the recipe, I saw it promised a tangy, flavorful batter layered with apples and cinnamon, then topped with a sweet, tart lemon glaze.

Game on.

While shopping for apples at Bishop's Orchards in Guilford, three people in the store - a manager, an employee and my friend Jane - commented on the beautiful picture of the tea bread in Amy's book, which I had on hand as I shopped for ingredients.

I made a first batch - or a first draft, as I referred to it - and delivered it to my friends Rachel, Isabelle, and, of course, Jane, who had admired the recipe in the store. Within minutes after returning back home, I had an email from Rachel requesting the recipe. This was a winner!

As I dropped off my entry at the contest table, I scanned the competition. There were quite a few entries, including a Swedish cake-like confection, tiny little rum balls, and, the one that had me worried ... a cracker pie, a dessert with an improbable name that packed a delightful mix of salty, sweet, soft and crunchy.

As the band played, the contestants pretended to make small talk while eyeing the judges as they circled the offerings and tasted a bite of this and a bit of that. It was like a scene out of the 1945 movie, State Fair. The judges finally took the stage and read off the winners. As it turns out, everyone who entered was a winner! Well, 'tis the season to be generous. I took second second place, which came after first (the Swedish cake), first first (the rum balls), and second. Sort of like 2B.The bright red ribbon makes a great bookmark in Amy's book.

I later got an email from Jane, who knew about the contest, who said, "I bet yours was the best!"

Well, one of them anyway!


Apple Tea Cake With Lemon Glaze

from The Apple Lovers Cookbook

By Amy Traverso

Makes: 1 cake

Active time: 45 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 15 minutes


For the cake:

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick; 113 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1 cup (205g) granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ (215 g) cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting pan
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (80 ml) low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 small (or ½ large) firm-sweet apple (about 4 oz) unpeeled, cored, cut in half lengthwise, and very thinly sliced (about 3 mm), preferably with a mandoline (note from Pem, I did not use a mandoline. Ever since an incident a while back that sent me to emergency room, it makes me nervous. Besides, I like the apples a tad bit thicker anyway.)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon


For the glaze:

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup confectioners sugar
  • (I also used lemon zest from the lemon to sprinkle on top of the cake)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and set a rack to the middle position. Butter and flour a 6-cup, (8 ½-by-4 ½-inch) bread loaf pan. Set aside.
  2. Combine the butter and sugar in a standing mixer, or, if using a hand-held mixer, in a large bowl. Using a whisk attachment, cream on high speed until pale, very fluffy, and almost mousselike. This will take between 6 and 8 minutes. Be patient, and be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically as you go.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
  4. When the butter and sugar are fully whipped, add the eggs and egg yolk, one at a time, beating well after each.
  5. With the mixer on low speed
    1. Add a third of the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated
    2. Add half the buttermilk, and briefly mix
    3. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture
    4. Then the remaining buttermilk
    5. Then the last of the flour mixture. Mix just until smooth, do not overmix.
    6. Pour a third of the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with an offset spatula or the back of a large stainless steel spoon. Top the batter with half of the apples, overlapping the slices. Sprinkle the apples with half of the cinnamon. Repeat with an additional third of the batter and the remaining apples and cinnamon. Top with the remaining batter and smooth with a spatula.
    7. Bake until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes.
    8. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze: In a medium bowl, stir the lemon juice into the confectioners sugar until smooth.
    9. Remove the cake from the oven and let sit for 5 minutes in the pan. While the cake is still warm, poke the top all over with a toothpick inserted all of the way. Pour half of the glaze on the cake and spread evenly with a spatula. Let sit for an additional 10 minutes to soak up the glaze, then remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack for 30 more minutes. When the cake is completely cool, drizzle generously with the remaining glaze, letting it run down the sides. Let the glaze dry for about 30 minutes, then serve.


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