Other countries are lucky to have snow so they can enjoy a beautiful white Christmas. People pick the perfect pine trees and fill them with lights and ornaments to bring a festive cheer to their homes. Huge red stockings hang by the fireplace and a traditional mouth-watering Yule Log cake waits on the table.
Though we have none of that in the Philippines, Christmas is still the most anticipated event of the year. It could possibly be the longest and merriest in the world, starting as early as September and ending in the first week of January. Western and Filipino traditions merge together during Christmas season. Children and grown-ups sing carols from one house to another and even inside the jeepneys (public transportation). Though made of plastic and not real pine trees, homes and shopping malls boast of the most wonderful christmas trees, colorful star lanterns and all other sorts of decorations. People exchange gifts and cards at home and at work. Children believe that Santa Claus will give them what they ask for during Christmas if they behave well.
Since most of the country is Catholic, Filipinos also have a tradition of going to church at 4:00 AM for 9 consecutive days that we call Simbang Gabi (Night Mass) from the 16th of December leading up to the eve of Christmas and then families enjoy breakfast together after every mass, eating native food that you only see prepared during Christmas season. On Christmas eve, there is so much food on the table you feel like you are eating at a buffet-style restaurant. Christmas is truly a time for families to be together and celebrate.
But I had my hands full the past few weeks with a friend's wedding and a class that I haven't really had the chance to start enjoying the Christmas season. I haven't bought any presents yet so I will be doing some last minute, frantic Christmas shopping! Oh boy, I almost can't wait for all of this to be over. I am really looking forward to my long holiday vacation with nothing to think about.
So in the meantime, here is my take on Marie Helene's little French Apple Cake by Dorie Greenspan. I LOVE apples and all desserts with apples in it! I was a bit skeptical at first when I saw that the recipe had rum but the marriage of vanilla, apples and rum was pure heaven. The flavor of the rum was subtle yet provided this little, "je ne sais quoi". The cake was moist and almost custard-like, with a texture like a clafouti. Pair it with vanilla ice cream or cinnamon whipped cream, then you have a real winner.
MARIE HELENE'S FRENCH APPLE CAKE
recipe adapted from Dorie Greenspan, stumbled upon at Kirbie's Cravings
3/4 cup + 1 tbsp all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3 very large apples, peeled, cored and chopped into 1-inch chunks
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 tbsp rum
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and line an 8-inch round pan with removable bottom with baking or parchment paper. Wrap the bottom of the pan with aluminum foil.
Sift and whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
Whisk the eggs in another bowl until foamy, then add the sugar. Whisk until smooth and incorporated. Add the vanilla and rum. Mix well.
Alternately add the flour and butter in two batches. Mix well and gently after each addition to have a smooth batter.
Fold in the apples with a spatula. Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly with a spatula.
Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the top of the cake is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool for 15 minutes before removing from the pan.
Since the cake is really moist, it is best to keep it uncovered or lightly covered at room temperature. I have also found out that it tastes better if you heat it quickly in the microwave for a few seconds before eating.
NOTE: Someone posted a message about the number of eggs to use in the recipe. I would like to apologize for causing confusion with a slight typo. The recipe calls for 2 eggs, not one. I made the correction and updated the recipe.
UPDATE: I've noticed that this recipe has received a lot of attention so I was inspired to do sort of a "spinoff" from the French Apple Cake.
APPLE RUM BREAD PUDDING WITH
BUTTERSCOTCH RUM SAUCE
Click on the photo for the recipe.