I assumed I'd mis-read the recipe, as it calls for just a tiny bit of butter and a mountain of fruit. I thought I was embarking upon an Italian version of tart tatin or apple cake of some sort, but really what this Farm Cake is all about: a mountain of pears with just enough pancakey sort of batter to hold the sliced fruit together. What a revelation! Once I understood the recipe's true nature, I had to make it. I tweaked the recipe slightly (added apples in place of pears, reduced the sugar, replaced bread crumbs with cornmeal) and I suspect there could be more tweaks next time. It's such a glorious concept though, very virutous (ha!) with mostly cooked, slivered fruit and not much else. A slice is grand for breakfast with a little cheese to offset the tart/sweet or with tea and dessert, accompanied by a blob of creme fraiche or even whipped cream. Marcella knew how to do this!
The farm cake called for an impromptu gathering of ladies who also adore nibbles and know how to clink porcelain tea cups with the best of them. We gathered in my living room, everyone brought some divine treat (brownies, sandwiches sans crust, almond/sea salt cookies and salmon on endive, no less!) and we kibitzed until it we were stuffed and high on caffeine, whereupon we toodled downtown and girled out at a few shops. Absolute bliss! tea, company and a new cake, AMEN.
adapted from Marcella Hazan's version (she calls for pears, more sugar and bread crumbs in place of cornmeal)
serves about 8
1/3 cup milk
1 splash vanilla
dash of salt
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
2 pounds apples, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
butter for greasing/dotting the top
cornmeal for dusting
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a round 9" springform pan and dust with thin layer of cornmeal, tapping out any excess into the trash.
Peel and cut the apples, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the egg, milk, vanilla, salt and sugar together. Add in flour until combined. Stir in apple slices until all pieces are covered in a thin layer of batter. Pour mixture into the prepped pan. Dot top with a few small cubes of butter (I did about 10, 1/4" nobs of butter), evenly covering the top of the cake.
Bake for about 50 minutes, let cool for 5 minutes, slice and serve. Reheats well in a low oven the next day.