WFSB Channel 3
For this segment, I used sublime heritage apples from 18th Century Purity Farm At The Hall Homestead. This beautiful antique orchard is owned and cultivated by Paul and JoAnn Desrochers. Visit them Saturdays from 1-6pm at 156 Plainfield Pike Road in Plainfield, CT.(860.564.8733). If you aren’t able to visit Paul and JoAnn for heritage apples, try contacting these other small Connecticut orchards, or vendors your local farmer’s market.
CARMEL CARRANO’S APPLE CAKE
2 sticks butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamonSix cups granny smith apples or any tart firm apple, coarsely chopped and peeled
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a bundt pan.
Melt butter and slowly cream with sugar.
Add eggs one at a time and continue to blend.
Slowly add flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and mix well.
Add coarsely chopped apples and mix with a wooden spoon.
Pour into bundt pan.
Cook on the middle rack of the oven for approximately 60 minutes.
Test cake by inserting a knife; if the cake is ready, the knife will come out clean.
Be careful not to overcook.
The story behind the cake….
Carmel was a friend of the family. She and her husband Al were customers at my grandfather Lou’s appliance store in New Haven. She had a big personality and was loud just like my grandfather. Her house was modest and always impeccably clean; my mother tells me she could always see Carmel’s house from two blocks away because her windows glistened so brightly. This was a woman who washed her walls.
But Carmel’s real claim to fame was her baking.
After my grandmother died, Carmel would call my grandfather up on the phone: “C’mon over Lou. Have a cup of coffee.” Inevitably, she’d to complain about an appliance she had bought from him 10 years ago, or ask him to bring his tools so he could fix something for her- a stove, a door knob, a washing machine. He would say- in the affectionate vernacular of my family- “Oh that Carmel is a pain in the you-know-what but my God… those cream puffs.” They’d spend the afternoon drinking coffee and shouting, while eating some delicacy fresh from Carmel’s oven.
She taught my young mother how to make all the classic Italian Easter pies (rice, wheat, cream…). However, it was her Apple Cake that became legendary in our family. Moist, sweet and delicious, this cake bursts with the flavor of fresh apples. She shared her recipe with my mother, and taught her to make the cake.
Back then, when my parents were young and broke and my mother’s clothing consisted mainly of her nurse uniforms, one Christmas my father bought her a very swank outfit – which she promptly returned to buy her first KitchenAid Mixer, so she could bake like Carmel Carrano.
My mother has made this cake every autumn, for as long as I can remember. When I spent my junior year of college in Paris, she spent $50 to mail this cake to me. The postman tried to talk her out of it, reminding her that I was living in the pastry capital of the world,but she knew it was worth it.
This sublime cake is quick and easy to make. I can’t live without it. Thank you, Carmel Carrano.
Notes on the apples used on the Better Connecticut:
The Esopus Spitzenburg is best known as Thomas Jefferson’s favorite apple, this sweet red fruit is extremely juicy and floral.
The Calville Blanc D’Hiver has a pale yellow green skin dappled with hints of a pale red. Very lemon-y tart and juicy, with a hint of sweetness.
My tribute to this glorious cake: