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Apple(sauce) of My Eye

I adore apples: fresh, baked, sauteed, and pressed into cider but applesauce was never my thing.

I always viewed applesauce as baby food but one bite of this light, moist cake made me realize that applesauce is meant for baking! (The recipe is from vegetarian cooking queen Crescent Dragonwagon, author of The Passionate Vegetarian; it's a must for anyone who loves fruits and vegetables.) The cake is unbelievably easy to make and it tastes even better the next day. Keep the recipe on hand when holiday guests arrive for a quick breakfast or afternoon treat. If you really want to gild the lily spoon a little whipped cream on top.

Sweet Harvest Applesauce Bundt Cake

1½ cups unbleached white all-purpose flour or whole wheat pastry flour, plus
additional for the pan
1¼ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tsp. ground cinnamon
8 to 10 vigorous gratings of nutmeg (or two pinches ground nutmeg)
Dash of ground cloves
Dash of ground allspice
½ cup raisins
2 to 4 tbsp. walnuts, toasted and chopped (optional but it gives the cake a great crunch)
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1¼ cups unsweetened applesauce (chunky or smooth)
¼ cup mild vegetable oil (e.g, corn, canola, peanut)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Confectioners’ sugar (for dusting)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Decide on the pan: a 9-inch bundt cake pan, an 8 x 4-inch loaf pan, or three 5 x 2-inch loaf pans. Spray the pan(s) thoroughly with cooking spray. Dust each pan with a little flour, knock out the excess, and set aside.

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and allspice (if the baking powder and baking soda appear lumpy, sift them in, but the other dry ingredients do not have to be sifted). Reserve 1 tbsp. of the flour mixture and place it in a small bowl along with the raisins and, if using, the walnuts. Toss this mixture well and set both bowls aside.

Combine the sugars with the egg, applesauce, oil and vanilla. Using a wooden spoon, beat the flour mixture together with the applesauce mixture. Stir in the raisins and walnuts and spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake tests clean with a toothpick. The top will still appear a little glossy and feel sticky-tacky to the touch – 30 to 35 minutes for the large loaf or bundt cake pan, and 20 to 25 minutes for the small.

Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan(s) on a wire rack about 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inner edges of the pan(s) and invert onto the rack with a sharp rap. Let cool completely, then either tightly cover with plastic wrap for storage in the refrigerator or freezer or place on a serving plate, dust with a generous drift of confectioners’ sugar and serve.

Makes one 9-inch Bundt cake; Serves 12