You can take the cook out of America, but no, you cannot take America out of the cook, I think each time I make a cake like this one. It is SO American! Not at all French!! Not that I don’t love all those creamy, swirly, crispy, yummy French confections like Napoleons, and Paris Brest, éclairs, and madeleines. But give me a great American spice cake any day, and I’ll be happy.
Gifts from the Swedes and the Finns
Fortunately, my French friends are captivated by cakes like these too; they consider them exotic. I suppose they are. And they aren’t truly American, but gifts from Swedes and Finns who made their way to the U.S. Their heritage included fantastic fishing skills, and wonderful recipes for cakes like these! In fact, one of the best cakes like this I ever ate comes from Sami, our Producer and resident genius/baker. During Covid we hadn’t yet met, but we were neighbors in the same apartment building and we traded yummy things to eat. One day, I opened the door to a generous slice of his spiced date cake. One day, he opened the door to a slice of this apricot cake. We were both in love…with the cakes (Sami is married; I’m otherwise occupied!).
Memories of Home
Cakes like this remind me of home, what any good cake is meant to do! Though when I say “home” I don’t mean the houses where I grew up, since my mother has a “fear of flour” and she didn’t make cakes unless they came from a mix. But home in the sense that a cake like this is warm, delicious, enveloping with flavor, and simply comforting to eat. So the minute I hit high school and met a group of fledgling cooks I began collecting recipes like this one. In fact, this comes from a high school friend from my senior year at Woodrow Wilson High School in Portland, Oregon. Despite being in an advanced set of classes I think maybe we were a little under-challenged, and we – with a few others – spent our spare time cooking and sharing recipes. This recipe has certainly withstood the test of time; that was a long time ago.
All Sorts of Fresh Fruits
My friend folded carrots into her cake; I fold all manner of fresh fruits and vegetables into the cake batter, from under ripe plums to carrots or zucchini, apples, pears, whatever was in season. The apricots are perhaps my favorite, so good I think you’ll always want to use them! But if you do veer from the apricot theme, make sure whatever fruit you use is slightly under-ripe so it doesn’t weigh down the batter, and it adds a touch of tart to the cake.
As for the frosting, this one is a real winner because it’s pure cream cheese, no butter or cream necessary. Try it; you’ll never turn back!
- 2-1/2 cups;365g all-purpose flour
- 1 cup;250g unsalted butter, at room temperatures
- 1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 cups;400g vanilla sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1-1/2 cups; 200g shredded coconut
- 3 cups diced fresh apricots (from about 1 pound;500g)
For the frosting:
- 2 cups;1 pound;500g cream cheese at room temperature
- 1/3 cup; 50g confectioner’s sugar, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C).
- Butter and flour a 11 x 15-inch (27.5 x 37.5cm) inch pan or line it with parchment paper, or line 2 dozen cupcake pans with paper.
- Sift together the flour, the spices, the baking powder, and the salt onto a piece of waxed or parchment paper.
- Cream the butter and the sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined, then fold in the apricots until they are thoroughly combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake pans or pour into the cake pan.
- Bake in the center of the oven until the cupcakes are mounded and golden, 20 to 25minutes; bake the cake until it is mounded and golden, about 50 minutes.
- Transfer to a cooling rack.
- To make the frosting, whisk the cream cheese with the sugar and the vanilla until it is soft and spreadable. When the cupcakes are cool, top each with frosting, or frost the cake.