Sophie's Apple Cake

PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PIAZZA / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY

This was my Russian grandmother’s recipe that I remember making with her as a little girl. She found out much later in life that her name was actually Sophia and, when the chance came, I named my own daughter Sophia. I can’t help but think of her when Sophia and I make it and when she is old enough I will tell her the story.

Like so many of that generation, this cake is a basic recipe: great apples, cinnamon, and a little sour cream—the kind of cake you would imagine your grandmother would make. It’s delicious for breakfast as well.

Cake:
4 ounces unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
½ teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 large firm apples, peeled and sliced into ½-inch slices

Topping:
1 egg, beaten
1 cup sour cream
½ cup powdered sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9-inch cake pan. In a stand mixer or with hand-held beaters, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well, then add the vanilla. Whisk together the dry ingredients and fold into the butter mixture. Stir to form a batter and spread on the bottom of the cake pan.

Arrange the apple slices on top of the batter (pushing slices into batter slightly). Combine topping ingredients and spoon over apples; dust with additional cinnamon.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the custard topping is set and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool before serving.

Lisa Sewall graduated from Johnson and Wales in Providence. She then came to Boston and worked at Biba, before going to Nantucket to work at the White Elephant, Summer House, and Wauwinet. She returned to Boston and was the Pastry Chef at L’Espalier (where she met, Jeremy, her husband.) For five years, she lived in Northern California as the opening Pastry Chef at Ondine in Sausalito. In 2006, she and Jeremy opened Lineage in Brookline. Lisa and Jeremy have three kids which keeps her out of professional kitchens for the moment!