Apple-Almond Custard Cake

Apple-Almond Custard Cake

By Cat, Jan 2017 (Photo, right, from Nutrition Action (1); see also photo of Cat’s dessert, below)

When I saw this in the weekly Nutrition Action newsletter, it reminded me of the apple-almond desserts in the Scandinavian countries I visited in 2006. Every community has a different version and each is delicious. In Bergen, Norway, I tried one very much like this recipe, so of course I have to try this one. (See Cat’s Blog: Bergen and Bryggen). This version is very similar to my Apfelkuchen recipe (in the German tradition), except Apfelkuchen uses all grain flour (no almond meal), apple halves/quarters are not sliced all the way through, and it doesn’t have almond slices on the top.

However, I don’t always agree with the nutritional recommendations of Nutrition Action, as they focus on low-fat ingredients, so I’ve updated my version to my preferences. For example, the original recipe calls for “2% milk;” I’ve updated that to “fresh whole milk, or ¾ cup whole milk, ¼ cup cream” in my version).

Apple-Almond Custard Cake

Cat’s Apple-Almond Custard Cake

Photo, right, by Cat, from Jan 10, 2010 test of recipe

This recipe is adapted from one by Kate Sherman on Nutrition Action website (1). It is similar to Clafoutis, in that it is a custard with wheat flour added and poured over prepped fruit. The flour gives the pudding a cake-like texture with the richness of a custard. But this recipe uses a mix of wheat flour and almond meal (flour).

About Flours:

The original recipe uses a combination of wheat and almond flour; wheat for the cake-like texture and almond for the texture and flavor.

Grain flour

I prefer to use sprouted wheat pastry flour or sprouted spelt flour (or whole wheat pastry or whole spelt flour could be used) in combination with almond meal/flour. Sprouted grain flour is the better version, because sprouting breaks down the toxic lectins (such as WGA – wheat germ agglutinin), and partially breaks down the gluten; most people with gluten sensitivity and some with Celiac can tolerate sprouted or fermented grains.

Whole spelt and wheat pastry flours are very similar (both are soft grains), but spelt usually requires less moisture or more flour because it isn’t as dry as wheat. I think the batter was a little too moist with my first test of sprouted spelt, because I didn’t adjust moisture.

Now that I’ve discovered a Montana company that makes sprouted grain flours: Granite Mill Farm in Trout Lake MT (2), I started testing their flour in this recipe (See testing below for details):

    •  9/11/19: used sprouted spelt flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour, along with the almond meal, in 10-inch pyrex pie pan.
    • 1/10/20: used sprouted spelt flour, almond meal, and golden delicious and honeycrisp apples, in 10-inch pyrex pie pan.
    • 9/5/20: again used sprouted spelt flour, almond meal, and gala and pink lady apples in 6×8 rectangular Pyrex pan. That used up the open bag of sprouted spelt flour
    • Next I’ll test with sprouted wheat flour and use the 10-inch pie pan.

Alternatives to Grain Flour:

Coconut flour: This is an alternative to grain flour, especially if you have a problem with gluten. Use commercial coconut flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill brand), or left-over shreds from using dried, shredded coconut to make coconut milk. For details, see Coconut (About), and scroll down to section on “Coconut Flour.” See also Coconut Flour (on gluten-free flours and starches menu).

I tested using commercial coconut flour instead of grain flour, and coconut milk instead of dairy milk on April 28, 2017  (see Testing, below). Or you could make your own coconut milk and coconut flour from a whole coconut, to use in place of dairy milk and wheat flour (See the section: “Coconut Milk from Dried Shredded Coconut” in my Coconut Milk posting for details).

Quinoa flour is another alternative to grain flour, but I don’t plan to test it.

Almond meal/flour: This flour is used for both texture and the almond flavor in the cake; I use Bob’s Red Mill brand. An alternative would be to use coconut flour and add more almond extract, but I’ve not tested that.

About Other Ingredients:

Sweetener: I prefer to substitute stevia extract powder for part of the sweetener, and raw, local honey for the remainder, but I give the all-sugar amount as an option.

Almonds: If you can find sliced sprouted almonds, that would be your best option; slicing your own sprouted almonds can be a challenge. Otherwise, I recommend presoaking then drying the sliced almonds before using in this recipe, to optimize the nutritional value of the nuts.

Apples: Using two or more varieties of apples generally improves the flavor of apple desserts. For recommendations, see the table of apple varieties in Apple Info (About). My personal favorites for cakes are Golden Delicious, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, and/or Rome Beauty. After peeling and coring, you can slice in half lengthwise then each half horizontally into rings; or vertically into thin crescent wedges.

Milk/Cream: My preference is raw milk with cream at the top (shaken before measuring). But if you have a problem with dairy, consider using coconut milk. If you make your own coconut milk, dry the fibrous shreds left over after the milk/cream had been extracted, to make coconut flour which you can use instead of grain flour. See the section: “Coconut Milk from Dried Shredded Coconut” in my Coconut Milk posting for details.

Comparing volumes of different recommended pans:

    • Rectangular 6×8 pyrex pan is about 2-inches deep, for 96 cubic-inches;
    • 9-inch round cake pyrex pan is about 1½-inches deep, for 96 cubic-inches;
    • 9-inch deep-dish pyrex pie pan is about 1¼-inches deep, for 64 cubic inches;
    • 10-inch deep-dish pyrex pie pan is about 1⅜-inches deep, for 108 cubic inches;
    • 10-inch round ceramic quiche pan which is about 1-inch deep, for 79 cubic inches.

The rectangular pan is about 1.34 times larger (area) than the average of the round pans, so for my first test I will follow the round-pan amounts above, which will not completely fill the 6×8 rectangular pan (tho it might rise above the top of the pan while baking, than shrink back after cooling).

Ingredients & Equipment (9″ or 10″ cake or quiche pan size, or 6″ x 8″ rectangular pan)

Serves 8 or more.

Method

  1. Prep, 1-day ahead: If not using sliced sprouted almonds, presoak slivered almonds overnight (optional); drain and dry (in dehydrator or oven on lowest setting – I use my pilot-warmed off-oven).
  2. Prep, Day of baking: Peel and core apples, then slice lengthwise into halves (or if apples are large slice lengthwise into quarters), then crosswise thinly, about ⅛″ – ¼″, into crescents; if not using right away, place them in cold water with a bit of lemon juice to keep them from browning.
  3. Generously butter baking pan and sprinkle with sugar.
  4. Arrange prepped apples flat in the baking dish, overlapping as needed to get them all to fit. You can arrange apples:
    • in a swirl starting at center of pan, slightly overlapping them; or
    • in rounds, slightly overlapped, starting at the sides and moving toward center.
  5. Cake: Preheat oven to 325°F.
  6. If using stevia, dissolve it in almond extract in small bowl; stir in milk. Add to eggs in mixing bowl and whisk lightly. Add milk mixture, sugar/honey/syrup, flour and almond meal; whisk into a smooth batter.
  7. Pour batter over apples in baking dish; sprinkle sliced almonds across the top.
  8. Bake until the center is firm and almonds are starting to brown, 55-65 minutes. If your apples have a lot of juice, it takes longer for the cake to bake, and not be liquid in the center.
  9. Serve warm, as is, or with whipped cream.

My original estimated amounts for 6×8 pan was based on square inch area of pan, rather than cubic inch volume, as follows (saved here for in-case):

  • Pan bottom: 2 tsp each butter, sugar;
  • 1 – 2 apples;
  • Custard: ⅔ cup milk/cream, 2 eggs, pinch stevia, 2 tsp honey, ½ cup almond meal, 2½ Tbsp flour, ¼ tsp almond extract

Partially-Diluted Coconut Milk (as substitute for half-and-half in dessert recipes)

Combine the following in blender and blend until well-mixed, then transfer to a Mason jar for storage. Makes 1 cup.

  • ½ cup Organic whole, or homemade coconut milk (See above)
  • ½ cup coconut water**** or filtered water

Or 1 cup of less rich version:

  • ⅓ cup Organic whole, or homemade coconut milk (See above)
  •  ⅔ cup coconut water**** or filtered water

‘**** Coconut water is amazing. It helps with dehydration because of the minerals it contains; plus it has a nice soft flavor. See Healthline (3) for more about its benefits.

Testing

1/8/17: Using 9″ round Pyrex cake pan, with 1Tbsp butter on inside bottom/sides of pan, and 1 Tbsp Rapadura sugar in bottom. Cut 2 peeled apples (1-honeycrisp and 1 golden delicious) in half lengthwise to core, then cut the halves crosswise into less than ¼” thick slices. Started laying them around pan bottom near sides, overlapping until reached center of pan. It only took one of each apple variety (2 total); perhaps I should have sliced them thinner to use more. I’m concerned that 3 large eggs will be too many after apples fill half way up pan…so used 3 medium eggs. Used ¾ cup milk and ¼ cup cream; and ⅛ tsp stevia/1 Tbsp maple syrup combo to sweeten. Otherwise as written. It took more than ¼ cup of sliced almonds on the top, closer to ½ cup. Into preheated oven 325°F at 5:20 PM. Checked at 6:15 PM; still moist in center. Almost ready at 6:22 PM. Cake is done at 6:25 PM, but almonds have not started to brown. I removed to cool anyway at 6:25 PM; 65 minutes total. Result: It rose during baking, then fell a bit while cooling, typical of egg-risen cakes. It has good almond-apple flavor, and has a nice cake texture (unlike a clafoutis), probably due to the almond meal. It is not overly sweet (I used less sweetener than the original recipe’s sugar). But the apple slices are definitely too thick, making the cake a bit chewy. I’ve updated the recipe accordingly, to slice apples less than ⅛” thick. However: After it rested in the fridge overnight, the apples had softened and melded with the cake giving it a bit more custardy texture. I LOVE this recipe! Next time: slice apples more thinly..

1/29/17: Used ingredients as written, with following differences in ingredients: 1 golden delicious and half of a honeycrisp sliced into crescents about ⅛″ thick using my mandoline; ¾ cup milk and ¼ cup heavy cream; 3 large eggs; ⅛ tsp stevia with 1 Tbsp maple syrup and no sugar. This batch of almond meal/flour was finer than for previous batch and tended to clump; perhaps should have mixed in my blender – will try that next time. Baked 55 minutes then cooled on counter before chilling in fridge overnight. Result: As before, rose during baking then fell a bit.

Feb 2017: Made as before using 1 golden delicious, ½ large honeycrisp, stevia, maple syrup. Forgot sugar before adding apples. Mixed batter in blender. When poured it over apples, the ones on the top layer floated to top, and consequently did not meld as well with the custard.Otherwise as written, baking 55 min when it tested done; but as it cooled, the uncooked custard bubbled up so put it back in oven for 20 min (to let it heat up again) and removed then removed. Result: Not as good as previous; the apple slices on top are tough – not fully cooked – making it hard to cut the cake.

3/17/17: Used 1 ½ Golden Delicious sliced a bit thicker than last time; otherwise as written using stevia and maple syrup (no sugar), and using whisk instead of blender. Forgot to sprinkle sugar on butter before adding apples. Into 325°F oven (to join braising corned beef for St. Paddy’s day) at 5:45 PM. Tested at 6:45: seems done but I got fooled last time so will let it bake another 5 min – almonds not browned yet. Removed to cool at 7 PM, total 1 hr, 15 min. baking time. Result: This time apple slices did get tender and melded with the custard; the cake cooked ‘done’ to perfection. Delicious, and I didn’t miss the sugar on the bottom.

4/28/17: Today I tested using coconut milk (made from dried, shredded coconut meat) instead of milk/cream, and coconut flour (the fibrous shreds left after extracting the milk from the dried coconut) instead of wheat flour. Otherwise made as last time (3/17/17). Oops, I baked 55 min at 350 instead of 325. Result: Unfortunately the apples rose to the top during baking, probably because I forgot to add sliced almonds on top…. After it cooled, I tasted a serving – delicious with a slightly different texture. The apples on top softened (unlike with my first testing), and the lower apples blended into the custard. But I missed the sliced almonds on top.

8/27/19:  Buttered pan and sprinkled with Rapadura. Sliced 1 Organic Fuji apple into crescent less than ¼″ thick using my mandoline, and arranged them, slightly overlapped, in rounds. Mixed batter as instructed (using stevia extract powder and maple syrup); unfortunately I used regular whole wheat flour instead of the sprouted flour I’d intended. Into oven at 6:40 PM; checked at 7:35: toothpick test indicates it is done but almonds have not started to brown. Check again at 7:40; done, so removed from oven to cool a bit. Result: Tasted small wedge at 8:15 PM: delicious. Apples have pretty much dissolved into the custard; almonds are lightly browned and chewy. Not too sweet.

9/11/19:  This is to test using sprouted whole spelt pastry flour. Followed instructions as before and remembered to sprinkle buttered pan with Rapadura. Used stevia powder and maple syrup as the sweetener as before. I used 1½ Fuji apples (I overlapped the slices more, to use more apple), and ¼ cup sprouted spelt flour (instead of regular flour) with ¾ cup almond meal. When I added the custard mix to the pan, the apples all rose to the top. Into oven at 10:10 AM. Checked after 55 minutes; one side of the cake had raised off the bottom of the pan; all was browning nicely but the very center was not quite done. Checked again after 60 minutes in oven; done, at 11:10 AM. Removed to rack to cool, then gently pushed down the high-side with a spatula so that it is more level. Result: I think I could have baked it a couple minutes more because it kinda falls apart easily; also perhaps I should have used a little less milk (since I used spelt flour), perhaps 1 – 3 tsp less. Or increase the amount of spelt flour. The apples mostly stayed at the top, just under the almonds, but that’s OK. It tastes just as wonderful as the previous batch.

1/10/20: I’d intended to use sprouted whole wheat pastry flour for this test, but I’m out; so I’m using sprouted spelt flour again, along with almond meal. For apples: 1 golden delicious and ½ honeycrisp. Followed instructions using the stevia and honey option in the custard, and Rapadura sugar on the 10″ pan bottom, and sliced almonds on top. Used slightly less milk/cream because spelt flour needs less added moisture. Into oven at 12:13 PM; out at 1:13 PM; nicely firm in center and almonds just beginning to brown. Result: So beautiful; see photo above. Apples floated to top as before, and it shrank in height as it cooled, as before. Has good texture (reduction in amount of milk/cream was just right). It tastes delicious; apples have pretty much melded with the custard/cake, as before.

9/5/20: Testing my 6×8 rectangular Pyrex pan with storage lid. For apples: 1 gala and 1½ pink lady (all are medium size); for custard: stevia/honey option, almond flour, sprouted spelt (need to use up bag that was opened a year ago), and slightly less milk/cream (spelt needs less added moisture). I forgot to presoak almonds, darn. Prepped pan and apples ahead of time (11 AM), placing sliced apples in bowl of lemon-water so they don’t brown. Cake: Set oven to preheat at 3:30 PM. Arranged apple slices in prepped pan; they filled about 1 – 1¼ inches up the side of the pan (about half-way). Prepared custard batter: mixed stevia into almond extract; added eggs and whisked. Added honey & whisked again; whisked in sprouted spelt flour and half of the milk/cream mix; added almond flour and remaining milk/cream mix & did final whisk. Poured over apples in pan. The batter filled in between the apples and then up sides of pan, filling pan 1½-inches up the side. Scattered sliced almonds over top. Bake: Into oven at 4:04 PM, setting timer for 55 min. 5 PM: it has risen nicely, but almonds need to brown a bit. Checked 8 min later: Doesn’t pass knife test and almonds still have not started to brown. 5:15 PM, not quite – almost passes knife test and a few almonds show a bit of brown. . 5:25 PM, removed from oven to set on a potholder to cool. Total 1 hour, 21 min. I note that my 70-year old oven’s temp setting is probably a bit lower that what it’s set at (set at 325°F might be only 300°F).  Result:  Apples floated to top, as usual. Cake sank a bit as it cooled, typical of egg-risen cakes. It’s good, but I think it is better when made in a pie pan – not as thick and apples aren’t over-cooked.

References

  1. Nutrition Action recipe: nutritionaction.com/daily/healthy-recipes/healthy-recipes-try-this-delicious-apple-almond-custard-cake/
  2. Granite Mill Farm: granitemillfarms.com for sprouted grain flours
  3. Benefits of coconut water: healthline.com/nutrition/8-coconut-water-benefits

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