Saturday, November 19, 2011

Grammie's Apple Cake

My grandmother died yesterday.

She spent the last 10 years grieving for my grandfather in a constant state of Alzheimer’s-induced confusion. This is her release.

But I miss her.

Grammie loved to bake. Even these past few years, she still hovered in the kitchen, lost but trying to help. Maybe she thought she could bake her way back: muffin crumbs illuminating for her the path of lost memories. It was a hard thing to keep her fingers from my batter. Sometimes, on good days, she could sit on her stool and lick the spoon with that wicked mischievous grin lighting her face. I think on those days she remembered what it was like to be young.

I remember baking muffins in her kitchen, green with the forest’s morning light, with the blue jays yakking beyond the window and the soap that smelled like sap. She always produced an extra wooden spoon for me to lick while she filled the tin.

She taught me a lot about baking in that kitchen. We made applesauce every autumn while Granddad pressed apples on the cedar deck just outside. Her sweet tooth sugared the sauce as if she were making apple candy, not a topping for oatmeal or side for pork chops. On Thanksgiving, we always made two types of pie: pumpkin and mincemeat. I learned how to roll the crusts round enough and how to fudge it when they came out oblong. She’d charge me with beating the pumpkin filling while she put the final touches on the mincemeat. Yams, turkey, cranberries, and green beans can wait. You make dessert first.

Her apple cake starred at many family gatherings. Though the original recipe came from a magazine, she made this cake her own through years of use. When I found I couldn’t eat gluten, her apple cake was one of the first recipes I tried to replicate. That delicate crispy top and dense moist body eluded me for years. Just a couple of weeks ago, I finally perfected it.

This is my eulogy for her, the last of my grandparents. She loved people through her baking and never grew too tired to make cookies with her granddaughter. Here is her apple cake made safe from gluten. Bake. Share with your friends and family. Love. There is always time for dessert.

Grammie’s Apple Cake
Makes 9x9-inch pan

65g (1/2 cup) brown rice or sorghum flour
40g (1/3 cup) sweet rice flour
30g (4 Tbls) tapioca starch
60g (1/2 cup) gluten-free quick or rolled oats
200g (1 cup) brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup canola oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp molasses
2 cups skinned and chopped apple

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil and flour a 9x9-inch glass pan.

In a large bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. Mash out any brown sugar or baking soda lumps. Toss chopped apple with dry ingredients then set aside.

In a separate bowl or measuring cup, beat egg into oil with vanilla extract and molasses. Stir into dry ingredients, mixing just until everything is saturated. Batter will be very thick. Spread out evenly in prepared pan and bake 45-50 minutes. Cool before cutting.

At my wedding: Aunt Charlotte, Grammie, Uncle Stan, Mom


  1. Big, giant hugs! Thank you for sharing the recipe, what a lovely remembrance. I'll try it soon, I think I even have the flours called for.

  2. What a beautiful tribute to your grandmother, Adrienne. I hope you find comfort in baking, remembering and sharing with your family.

  3. Thanks to both Lavon and Hannah!