Irish Apple Pie Cake – there are many names for this part cake, part pie dessert, and just as many recipes. I’ve usually see it as some variation of Irish Apple Pie Cake or Irish Apple Cake and sometimes it’s called a Kerry Cake. And the recipes vary just a bit, too, although they all contain chunks of apple and are made with what is really more of a wet pastry dough than a cake dough.
I first found out about Irish Apple Pie Cake while searching through my Grandma Irene’s recipe box. She left a vague list of ingredients (this is my Grandma that always listed of measurements as “some sugar” “a little salt”, bless her soul.) This time she did leave measurements, but no decipherable instructions, and so began my search to find the particulars. Sometimes old recipes are like that, written I suppose, for the user and not some future progeny!
About Irish Apple Pie Cake:
I had an idea, though, of what I was looking for and a vague idea of how it was supposed to turn out, so I kept muddling through the searches. It’s amazing how the same few ingredients, apples, flour, sugar, baking powder, butter, egg, and milk can be combined in so many ways (here’s another of my Grandma’s Apple Cakes) to produce an endless number of desserts! I may now be an expert on the Irish Apple Cake and how I wish I could have made and tasted them all…
It was the milk, though, that turned out to be the definitive ingredient and led me to two recipes that caught my eye, one by Rachel Allen and the other by The Irish American Mom, whose gorgeous version of the Kerry Cake was the earliest I could find of this much copied (and seldom credited) recipe. I was divided – my Irish heritage pointed to a more conservative recipe like Allen’s, something homespun like my Grandma would make – yet I could see how gorgeous the Irish American Mom’s Kerry Cake is. So I took a little advice from both cooks.
And what I ended up with is an easy, barely sweet, gently spiced (no cinnamon, just a little clove and nutmeg) apple cake. It’s a little more “pie” like the first day, slightly crispy on the top like a pie crust is and then by the next, this Irish Apple Pie Cake morphs into something more distinctively cake-like. And while some people like it better the first day, we loved it the next day, too. You’ll have to try it yourself and see which you like better.
Just a bit plain on its own, Irish Apple Pie Cake shines with my Custard Sauce but I love it with one of my caramel sauces too, particularly this quickie brown sugar caramel sauce, Easy Caramel Butterscotch. Another option is this fool-proof Old Fashioned Butterscotch Sauce. Personally, I think my darker Salted Caramel Sauce might be just a little too sophisticated for this dessert and overpower the subtle flavor of the Irish Apple Pie Cake, but give it a try if that suits your fancy. Suits your fancy?! Look I am channeling MY inner Grandma! Irish Apple Pie Cake may be served with softly whipped cream or a pat of butter over the warm cake.
Making Irish Apple Pie Cake:
One thing that interests me about the “crust” part of the Irish Apple Pie Cake is that it contains egg. I’m wondering if that’s kind of an Irish “thing.” See my Grandmother’s Pie Crust has an egg in it and recently, I made the Simon Pearce Quechee Quiche from the Simon Pearce Restaurant in Vermont, the Mill. That crust had an egg, as well. The Pearce family has long ties with Ireland.
This recipe does give you a stickier dough, and it can be too sticky if you aren’t careful and add too much milk. It’s best to work with floured hands to spread the dough on the bottom of the pan; drop it in small dollops first and work carefully. Try to cover as much of the Irish Apple Pie Cake on the top.
For the topping, I find it easier to just put a little flour on my hand press it kind of flat then lay it over the top rather than dollop the dough over the top and try to spread it across the apples. It isn’t an overly generous amount of dough, it’s too sticky to roll and you wouldn’t really want to roll it and have one sheet of crust across the top. It needs to form and meld into the nooks and crannies.
Saving Money on Irish Apple Pie Cake:
Apples, up North here, are pretty cheap – I just about died at the price in Georgia when I’ve visited my daughter. Generally, we can pick up bags of apples at a reasonable price, and again, I let the sales price determine what apples I buy. I chose regular old Granny Smiths because they’re a firmer apple, tasty when cooked and because they’re one of the most common (and cheapest) apples.
While apples are always going to be at the best price in the fall, around late January they begin to come out of cold storage in larger quantities. You may find some surprising sales. Store apples in a loosely closed paper bag in a cool spot and away from potatoes and onions.
If you’re reading this close to St. Patrick’s Day, chances are Easter is just around the corner. Other than the fantastic Winter Holiday Sales around Thanksgiving and Christmas, Just before Easter is the best time to stock up on any baking goods, including butter. If you find butter at a great price, stock up, especially if you don’t have a store like Aldi, whose prices rival the best grocery store prices. It is likely you won’t see another great low on butter until the pre-Thanksgiving sales. See my post on Easter & Lent, Leveraging the Sales.
Irish Apple Pie Cake
- 13/4 cups all-purpose flour plus 2 tablespoons additional to toss the cut apples in
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon clove, I shorted this amount by a hair
- a few gratings of fresh nutmeg or scant 1/8 teaspoon
- 1/2 cup butter, in small chunks
- 1/2 cup sugar, plus 1 1/2tablespoons for the apples plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for the topping
- 1 egg, beaten
- approximately 1/2 cup milk
- 3 large tart cooking apples or 4 medium-sized, about 14 ounces or so in total weight
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter (well) a 9-inch pie pan or an 8-inch spring-form pan.
Sift the flour, then measure, then sift with baking powder, nutmeg, and clove. This helps ensure a light, evenly mixed batter. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the texture resembles bread crumbs. Add the ½ cup sugar, mix in, then beaten egg. Toss with a fork to mix, then add just enough of the milk to form a soft dough. It should be on the wet side and will be a bit sticky.
Using about half the dough, dollop small bits across the bottom of the spring-form pan or pie plate. and with floured hands, pat it into place across the bottom. It’s not necessary to bring it up the sides but do give it a slight “lip.” It will be thin and you may need to add more of the dough.
Peel, core, and chop the apples into ¾-inch cubes. Add the apples to a bowl. Mix together the 2 tablelspoons flour, 1 1/2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sprinkle it over the apples and toss. Arrange the apples on the dough.
Gently, working with a small spoonful of batter at a time, drop the remaining dough on top of the apples. Using clean hands, spread as best as you can to cover as much of the cake as possible. Alternatively, you can put dollops of the dough onto your floured hand and press it out a bit then lay over the top. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar evenly over the top.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until the crust is golden and crunchy on the outside and the apples soft in the middle; check with a paring knife, it should go through the apples with little resistance.
Serve with softly whipped cream, caramel sauce, creme Anglaise, fresh cream or a dollop of butter on the slightly warm cake.
Rachel’s Tip: If the butter is cold (just taken from the fridge), grate it into the flour and it will rub in within a couple of seconds.
Nutrition: 1/8th of cake: Calories 361; Total Fat 13 g 20 %; Saturated Fat 8 g 40 %; Monounsaturated Fat 3 g; Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 55 mg 18 %; Sodium 258 mg 11 %; Potassium 129 mg 4 %; Total Carbohydrate 58 g 19 %; Dietary Fiber 2 g 9 %; Sugars 35 g; Protein 4 g 9 %; Vitamin A 8 %; Vitamin C 0 %; Calcium 6 %; Iron 8 %
Turn the bottom of a sspringformpan upside down (lip down rather than up) and a dessert may be easily removed intact for serving. No lip to get in the way.