Welcome to Better Than It Looks, a series in which we discuss the recipes we tried (and maybe failed) to execute, and the foods that were served to us by someone perhaps more talented than ourselves.

Despite a few years spent working at a bakery, and a past aspiration to become a pastry chef, these days, I barely bake. The precise degree to which you have to follow a recipe deters me, and I also don’t have a particularly intense sweet tooth. But a trip upstate a few weekends ago to go apple picking left me with, yes, a bevy of apples and no interest in keeping the doctor that far away. Per a recommendation from a friend who has not steered me wrong in the past with regarding fruit cakes via Smitten Kitchen (seriously, do this strawberry cake in the summer, it’s super easy and amazing), I took on the apple cake challenge.

To be honest, the meticulousness with which our good friend Deb Perelman approaches her recipes is not often for me. I find myself skipping steps she suggests, never to find out whether roasting the garlic exactly that way and then coating the pasta made much of a difference in the overall flavor. With a dinner, that’s fine, but as we all know, if you don’t use enough baking soda while baking (or, god forbid, accidentally use powder), you’re doomed. But I didn’t want a crumble or a pie, I wanted something new, and so after skipping over Deb’s bevy of apple cake options, I settled on the friend-recommended Sunken Apple and Honey Cake.

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Reader, what follows is a tale of me being very proud of following a list of instructions and having it turn out right.

This thing is decidedly delicious, and super easy to make, even though it (gasp!) requires that you separate your eggs and whip the whites. Shockingly, I didn’t even have to stock up on any extra ingredients, though not everyone is as obsessive as I am about having three lemons in their fridge at all times, or has a roommate who seems to love honey. It’s also really fun to make the apples and then arrange them on the batter.

My cake did not get as browned as Deb’s, because she’s Deb and I’m me, but also because I was a little worried about leaving it in for too long and having it dry out. Additionally, I skipped the step at the end where you make a honey salt glaze and brush it over the top of the cake. I bet that would have been good. But the final result was nonetheless great and I will prove it to you with written documentation from my coworkers, who got to eat the literal fruits of my labor when I brought said cake into the office because it’s not a good idea to have a full cake sitting around your apartment that you will start eating for breakfast because it seems like you have so much of it it must be a breakfast food.

What dessert did you make and give away to your coworkers this week, and are you as overly pleased with yourself for it as I am?


Contact the author at dries@jezebel.com.

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Image via I know I need to clean my stove