Recipe Review: French Apple Cake Recipe by Once Upon a Chef

I love the idea of an apple cake but until I saw this recipe, I did not know a 'french apple cake' existed.


I have been trying to find an apple cake that is light, fluffy and has a strong apple flavor. This is what I was looking for when i found this recipe.

French Apple Cake

I found this French apple cake by 2 am after a long and stressful day. This recipe has over 220 reviews and most of them are good reviews.  The next day, I went to the store to grab some apples. I made this recipe twice in one day. Here are the results I got after making the French apple cake recipe from Once upon a chef.

French Apple Cake

  1. Making the recipe as directed
  2. Grating instead of chopping the apples
  3. Leaving out the sugar topping on the apple cake
  4. Reducing the number of apples in the recipe

Making the recipe as directed

This French apple cake recipe is easy to make. All the ingredients are things you may have in your pantry.  I baked this cake in an 8 inch round pan and while the author said to use a 9-inch pan, I chose not to.I made this change because some recipe reviewers complained about the flatness of the cake.

I creamed the butter and sugar but when i added the eggs, the batter curdled. I followed the instructions and baked the cake as directed. 

The result was a moist, flavorful and very light cake that rose slightly. The rum used in this recipe complimented the flavor of the apples.

I used red gala apples and the apples were soft after the cake was baked.  The apples were big so i felt the using 2 large apples was too much. I decided to try the recipe again with less apples.

Four out of the five people that tasted this apple cake enjoyed it immensely.

French Apple Cake

Reducing the number of apples in the recipe

The french apple cake recipe calls for 2 large apples. After making the first cake with 2 apples, i used 1½  apples for the second cake. I cut the apple into smaller chunks as well. I can honestly say that i prefer the cake made with less apples.

The ratio of apple to cake batter was much better and the light crumb texture of the cake was more obvious. This cake was liked better than the first apple cake.

Grating instead of chopping the apples

Boy... was i wrong. In the comment section of the recipe, some one said they grated the apples and the outcome was a nice cake. I also felt like grating the apples would provide a finer and even lighter cake. I grated 2 apples and baked as directed. The result was a dense french apple cake pudding.

 The flavor was amazing and i imagine that eaten warm with ice cream, this would make a fabulous dessert. The crust of this variation was beautiful, buttery and a little chewy. If you want a pudding textured apple cake, i recommend grating your apples.

Leaving out the sugar topping on the cake

When i baked this cake for the first time, i sprinkled some sugar on the cake before baking. I found that the sugar in the apples and in the batter were enough and the topping was not necessary. The cake with the topping was sweet and i was careful to not use too much sugar.

 Subsequently, i chose not to include the topping. The result has been moderately sweet french apple cakes. If you prefer the sweeter desserts, you should top the cake with a little sugar.

Do i recommend this recipe?

Yes! This recipe is one that you should try. If you can, do not leave out the rum or pure vanilla extract. I used an almond rum the last time i made this cake and the flavor profile of this dessert was amazing. This cake can be made by even amateur bakers.

Overall, i like the original recipe but with a reduced number of apples. If you prefer a custard like or pudding like apple cake, you should use more apples. If you want a taller cake, you should use a 7 inch pan and increase your baking time.

I think you should go over to Once upon a chef, grab this recipe, bake it and serve it with ice cream (vanilla or caramel) or a little whipped cream.

Tips for making this recipe

  • Use a liquor or spirit of your choice when making this recipe. If you do not like rum, try something else that you feel will compliment the flavor of the apples.
  • If you prefer soft apples in your apple cake, use a softer variety of apples to make this recipe. You could also cook your apples in  a tablespoon of butter and sugar for a few minutes. This will soften the apples slightly before baking.
  • Cut your apples into smaller chunks if you prefer a cakey french apple cake.
  • Do not throw away the apple peel and cores from making this recipe. Put the peels and cores in a mason jar, fill the jar with brandy, rum or vodka to make your own apple spirits. You can drink it or bake with it.  

Recipe Review: Cider Cake by Paul Hollywood

So I decided to make a dry cider cake. This is not a recipe I would make regularly but In the spirit of the holidays, I decided to check for an amazing cider cake recipe. When you think of holidays, cinnamon, apples, and baked goods come to mind alongside some warm cider. 

Cider Cake

I searched for a cider cake recipe and I found a cider cake recipe by Paul Hollywood on the internet, With his reputation, I had no doubt that I would make this cake. 

The description of this recipe made it clear that this was more of a tea cake as it was not overly sweet and it has notes of apple, cider, and cinnamon.

Cider Cake

The recipe and Instructions

This recipe closely resembled a regular butter cake. The only different things were the cider and cinnamon that were included In the ingredients list. If I removed the cinnamon and cider and added some milk and vanilla, this was a simple butter cake.

This cake is made using the creaming method. Here, you cream the butter and sugar until they are fluffy then add the eggs one at a time. Scrape the batter after each addition. After this, you add the flour and cider, alternating between the two and ending with the flour.

Then you turn the batter into your baking tin and bake for 30-40 mins. My cake was done at the 30 minutes mark so I suggest checking your cake after 30 minutes and not waiting for the 40-minute mark. 

While baking this cake, my home smelled like cinnamon, everywhere smelled like spice, however, I could not smell the cider. If you bake this cake in the early hours of the morning or late at night, it will give your home a warm, cozy, holiday-esque feel. 

After the cake was baked I let it cool before sprinkling on some powdered sugar.

SN: Mix in your flour and cider into your batter by hand. I used a mixer and I had to be very careful when mixing. The introduction of any loose liquid invites the possibility of gluten development.  I was initially afraid that I overmixed my cake but I did not.

Cider Cake

The Texture

The cider cake by Paul Hollywood is soft but slightly dense. Not dense enough to be called a chocolate cake though.

The Flavor

The first taste of the cake gave me a cinnamon overload. This recipe called for 1 tsp of cinnamon and that was a bit much. I believe ½ a tsp would be better. The taste of the cider is barely noticeable. I tried to taste the cake reflectively, trying to get some cider notes but all I could taste was cinnamon. The butter was invisible in the flavor profile. 

The cake as a whole is not very sweet. It is not your regular cake and it is rightfully called or described as a tea cake. I like the slight sweetness but this is not for everybody. A taste tester told me they didn’t like this cake because It was not sweet enough and I even dusted my cake with powdered sugar. 

if you will be serving this cake to children or people with a sweet tooth,  i recommend a glaze made with cider or apple juice and some powdered sugar. Do not add cinnamon to the glaze though. You can serve the glaze separately and allow your guests to decide if they need the glaze. 

While people who do not like sugary things will like this cake, children may not share this sentiment.
Is this the best cake I have baked? NO, as I was reminded by a taste tester (such high standards in this house).

Cider Cake

Do I recommend this recipe?

Yes but I recommend that you cut the quantity of cinnamon in this recipe into half so that the flavor of the cider can shine through.
It is a great tea cake, not a dessert cake. Pair this with the cake with some sweetened whipped cream. Pour on some cider or apple glaze, add a tiny bit of brandy or rum for an enhancement of the apple flavor.

I used this cake to make cake pops and they were nice. The cake pops were not cloyingly sweet because the buttercream added sweetness to a cake that was not overly sweet, to begin with.

Know your audience before you make this cake, children and sweet lovers may not appreciate this cider cake. 

Thank you for reading my review. Check out more posts from my holiday eats series by clicking the holiday eats labels and find my reviews and recommendations for things you should make during the holiday period.

If you have any recipes you feel I should review, leave it in the comment section.

Tips for Baking in an Oven with a Hot Spot

Baking in an oven that has a hot spot is tricky. It can ruin even the best recipes but there are ways to tackle this problem. 

Image from pixabay

I had an electric oven when I started baking. While I was not baking anything advanced, this oven never gave me any problems. Because of how well my previous oven baked, I did not know there was such a thing as a hotspot.

After almost 2 decades of working, my oven stopped working one night while baking a cake. While it was getting fixed, my mother bought me a huge gas oven.

I quickly learned that the oven had a hot spot in the most inconvenient place possible, the middle. A hot spot causes a particular area in the oven to get higher temperature than others do.

This means that when baking the thing in that part of the oven is cooked faster. In some cases, it is over baked and even burnt while the baked goods in the other part of the oven are just cooked.

This can also cause uneven oven temperature and consequently uneven baking. I still bake with this oven but have learned some tips to improve my baking experience.

Five Tips for baking in an oven with a hot spot

Tip 1: Identify the hot spots in your oven.

It is quite important to do this especially if you bake a lot. Pointing out the areas of higher temperature in your oven is important in deciding how to tackle the problem. To identify your oven’s hot spots, use the white bread method. If your oven has a cold spot, this will also help you identify it. The white bread method is easy to do and can be found HERE.

Tip 2: Where possible, avoid the hottest areas in the oven.

When I am baking a small item or using a smaller sheet pan, I simply do not place them in the hot spots. Due to my hot spot being in the center of the oven, I place my smaller pans on the left or right sides of the oven.

Tip 3:   Flip your pan or sheets halfway through baking.

Ordinarily, even without oven hot spots, some cooks recommend flipping your pans for even baking. If your hot spot is on the right or left side, flipping your cookie sheet or baking pan will ensure more even cooking.

Tip 4: Use a buffer.

 When baking in oven with uneven temperature, adding another baking sheet on a lower rack or even a pizza stone as seen HERE is beneficial. The added pan or pizza stone absorbs some of the heat and this will help to ensure a more even temperature.

Tip 5: Double or triple the parchment paper used in the hotter part of the oven to slow down browning.

 If you cannot avoid the hot spot or are using a large cookie sheet, this a great tip. This also acts like a buffer as seen above. While the parchment paper will not absorb the heat and regulate the oven temperature, this will the reduce the rate at which your baked goods in the hot spot burns.

I would love to hear any other suggestions for baking with a oven with a hotspot. If you have other suggestions for dealing with this problem, leave it I the comment section.

Recipe Review: French Yogurt Cake by Epicurious

Have you ever had a cake that was just perfect? Okay, not perfect per se but balanced. For me, it was the French yogurt cake recipe I got from Epicurious. I love yogurt, vanilla yogurt in particular so I decided to make a yogurt cake. 

I was looking for a recipe that did not require the use of a mixer and i wanted a recipe that was not too sweet and would not require any special add-ons.

 In summary, i was looking for an amazing yogurt cake recipe I could make any time.
I searched and found the French yogurt cake recipe from Epicurious. 

The recipe and instructions

The ingredients in this recipe are basic items I always have in my pantry and the only special items were yogurt and the lemon zest.
I ended up using a tiny amount of lemon extract because I did not have enough lemon zest.

 The instructions were easy to follow. It involved mixing the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another. Afterward, you add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients and fold it until just combined. Then you pour it into a loaf pan and bake it.

I made half of the written recipe, turned it into a 5-inch loaf pan, and baked it for 40-45 minutes.

When this cake was done, the smell was as if I was burning a lemon-yogurt candle; the smell wafted through my house and was divine. I could actually smell the yogurt.  

The mixing process was easy; I used a whisk and sifted the dry ingredients so I would not have to fold too much before the batter was smooth. 

After baking the cake, I made a thin glaze out of yogurt, powdered sugar and vanilla. 

The texture

This cake baked up high, and I was not surprised because there was a lot of baking powder in this recipe.  I attribute the amount of baking powder to the fact that there was no creaming in this recipe so there was no opportunity for the aeration of the batter to occur. 

This cake was very fluffy, a little dense yet still light.
It was light enough to make you want to eat a ton of this cake without feeling guilty or heavy. 

The french yogurt cake  was also very moist. The yogurt and oil in the recipe guaranteed that dryness would not be an issue.  The texture of this cake was very enjoyable. 

The taste

This is where the French yogurt cake shines. The taste was where the balance was most prominent. 

It was lightly sweet. Sufficiently sweet to be a breakfast item but not so sweet that eating a slice would make me feel guilty. There was a balance to the sweetness. With a little fruit by the side, this was a breakfast slice.

I could taste the lemon notes. Rubbing the lemon zest into the sugar helped to release the oils in the zest and made it easier to taste. The aroma of the lemon was there, but the cake was not tangy or acidic. 

The vanilla note was slightly there.  It complimented the lemon notes without being overpowering.
This is why I say that this cake is well balanced. It is not too sweet, not bland, not too lemony or a vanilla overload.

Do I recommend this cake?

Definitely. This would make an excellent addition to any recipe book and would be a great holiday dessert. Serve with some fruits and whipped cream for breakfast or with a thin glaze and fruit as a dessert. 

Pair this cake with fruits, cream, very light jam or curds but DO NOT sully this delicately flavored cake with buttercream. The buttercream will overpower every other flavor and you will have what seems like a bland cake. 

Overall, this is an amazing recipe. I hope you try it and enjoy it. Get the recipe Here

Recipe Review: Buttery Vanilla Shortbread by Food and Wine

According to my mum, my love for shortbread has spanned the ages. 

Ok, I will try to avoid dramatics but since I have been in diapers, I have been eating shortbread cookies.
Now, I still eat it but not as much.

Buttery Vanilla Shortbread

Shortbread cookies are definitely a holiday staple. It is a treat for any day really but I always buy mine. I have never had any reason to make it myself; maybe I just do not care enough. I liked the shortbread I grew up eating, so I never saw the need to make it myself. 

That said, this is a part of the holiday eats series. You can find other holiday-themed recipe reviews by clicking the holiday eats label beneath this blog post.

I decided to try the shortbread cookies recipe from food and wine. I have never tried any recipe from this website before so this was a first. I chose this recipe because it looks simple and I had all the essential baking ingredients available.

If you have not seen it, check out my list of essential baking ingredients, this will be especially helpful during the holidays.

Back to my review of the Buttery Vanilla Shortbread recipe from food and wine

Buttery Vanilla Shortbread

The recipe and instructions

The ingredients are things you probably have already. There is no rice flour or corn flour in this recipe. The instructions are simple to follow. It involves mixing the dry ingredients, then add the butter and vanilla. 

After mixing, you roll the dough in between two parchment sheets and take off the top parchment sheet. 

Then you score the cookie dough into the number of cookies you want and poke the dough with a fork or skewer. Afterward, you put it in the freezer until firm and proceed to bake it. 

When the baking time has elapsed, you cut the cookies into bars using the shallow cuts you made before baking.
Overall, it was a simple process, however; the cookies had burned even before the baking time elapsed so I believe the stated baking time is too long.

Buttery Vanilla Shortbread

The texture

As bad as this may seem, aside from the easy to follow recipe and instructions, the texture was the next best part of this recipe. These cookies had the right shortbread texture. It was tender but not soft. It held together well but still left little crumbs on the plate.

The taste

This is where this review takes a downturn. The shortbread cookies made with this recipe were practically tasteless. The sweetness is minimal, and that was expected but there was no prominent flavor in this cookie. The butter did not shine through and the vanilla flavor was MIA.

 I gave this cookie to a taste tester, and she said that the cookies tasted like bland bread. The taste of the flour though, was obvious.

The appeal of shortbread is in the taste and the texture but this recipe lacked the most important thing, the flavor.

It made me wonder if this recipe was tested before being posted on the food and wine website. I tried to leave a review but could not. This recipe also has a 5-star rating with over 2300 people rating yet there was a single negative comment below the recipe.

Do I recommend this recipe?

Definitely not. It may seem like a simple recipe but why use the time and ingredients to make tasteless and over baked shortbread.

I feel the proportions of this recipe was wrong and this shows in the yield of this recipe.

Thank you for reading my recipe review, if you enjoy it and would like to read more reviews, subscribe and follow me on social media. I love to read from you.

Recipe Review: Roll out sugar cookie Recipe by Semi Sweet Designs

Sugar cookies are one of those recipes that I believe everyone has a recipe for.

Roll out sugar cookie

I prefer cookies that keep their shape when you bake them. This is becauseI hate having to guess the outcome of a cookie recipe when I try it for the first time. Some cookies have to be pressed down slightly before baking. Too much of a press and you get flat cookies. Not enough and your cookies are like domed mounds of a cake and cookie hybrid.

The best solution I have found is a sugar cookie that is rolled, cut and baked because it does not spread out. 
While on Pinterest (my new favorite obsession), I saw a picture of really cute flower shaped sugar cookies. I decided to try out the recipe from Semi Sweet designs and i made a great choice.

The recipe and Instructions

The recipe of these cookies is like that of most sugar cookies. The ingredients included most of the items I always have available. The only not-so-common ingredient is the almond extract. I do not like almond extract so I reduced the quantity  I used.

The instructions for making these roll out sugar cookies are straightforward. It involves creaming the butter and sugar then adding the eggs and extracts. After this, you add the flour and when the dough comes together, you use it. Roll out the cookie dough between two parchment sheets, cut out the cookies and bake it for a few minutes.

If you are not ready to use the cookie dough, you can freeze it for later use.

Roll out sugar cookie

The texture

This cookie dough was very sticky after I added all the flour the recipe called for. I had to add some more until the dough came together. 
The cookie made from this dough had slightly crisp edges but they softened after a few hours. It was soft in the center and tender as well. If you prefer a crunchy or crisp cookie, this may not be your favorite.

The texture of this cookie was a bit crisp when cold. I put a few of these in an airtight container that I put in the fridge. I found the harder texture a bit more enjoyable.

The part where this cookie shined though, was in the flavor.

The Flavor

I was not sure what to expect with this recipe but the flavors in this cookie worked together. The butter, vanilla extract, and almond extracts complimented each other beautifully.
I could taste the subtle notes of the almond extract. The creaminess of the butter was in the front row of my taste buds. If these cookies were not soft, they could pass for shortbread cookies. 
These were not overly sweet and the ratio of sugar to butter was balanced.

I hate cookies that are cloyingly sweet, even a bite can make you feel guilty. The sugar cookies from semi sweet designs were well balanced in flavor and just sweet enough.

Tips for making this recipe

  • Sometimes you will need more flour when making this recipe. Factors like humidity, size of your eggs and moisture in your butter or margarine should be considered.
  • If cannot use butter, margarine is a good replacement. I recommend using a teaspoon of butter extract to improve the flavor.
  • If you do not have parchment paper, dust your work surface with powdered sugar and roll your dough on it. It is important to note that your cookie dough may brown faster and your cookies will be slightly sweeter. 
  • The almond extract elevates the flavor of these cookies. If you do not like almond extract, reduce the quantity of almond extract you use instead of eliminating it completely.
  • To freeze this dough, wrap it in clingfilm first. Leave it out in the fridge overnight to defrost it when you are ready to use it. About 30 minutes before you want to use the cookie dough, leave the dough out in the kitchen so it comes to room temperature and is easier to work with.
  •  To roll out your dough evenly, put two dowel rods on either side of your dough and using your rolling pin, flatten out your cookie dough. The dowel rods will ensure that the cookie dough is flattened evenly before you start cutting out the shapes. 

Do I recommend this recipe?

Yes. Regardless of the fact that this was not a crunchy or crisp cookie, I enjoyed it all the same. My taste tester enjoyed this recipe because it was not too sweet. If you want a basic sugar cookie that you can eat as is, add a filling to or use to make other desserts, you will love this recipe.

NOTE: My opinion is based on my following the recipe but reducing the quantity of almond extract used.

If you have any recipe suggestions, leave it in the comment section. I love to read from you all.

How to clean piping tips

 Every baker or cake decorator has used piping tips at some point. The problem is that after decorating a cake, cleaning piping tips is the last thing you feel like doing. 

How to clean piping tips

Aside from the inconvenience of washing small piping tips, washing buttercream stained tools can be a pain.

5 easy ways to clean piping tips

1.    Use hot water

This is the easiest way to clean piping tips. Immediately you are done using the piping tips, pour some hot water over them and stir. The hot water will melt the buttercream and leave a film of oil.

Throw away the oily water and add some dish washing to the piping tips. Pour some warm to hot water over the piping tips and stir. 

This will get rid of any residual grease that was on the piping tips.  Rinse the icing tips in cool water and dry them off immediately.

2.    Use the microwave method

This is like a shortcut of the above-stated method. Put the piping tips in a microwave safe bowl, add some dish washing liquid and enough water to cover the piping tips.

 Turn on the microwave and leave the piping tips in for 2 minutes. When you take the bowl out of the microwave, leave it on the counter for another few minutes and afterwards, throw away the water in the bowl.

Rinse the tips in clean water and dry the piping tips thoroughly.

How to clean piping tips

3.    Stovetop method

If you do not own a microwave or have a large number of piping tips to clean, this is a better method for cleaning piping tips. Put your piping tips in a deep saucepan with soap and enough water to cover the piping tips.

Put the pot on the burner and leave it to boil rapidly then switch off the flame. Stir the nozzles around with a spoon and throw out the now dirty water. Rinse the piping tips very thoroughly with cool water and dry them.

4.    Dishwasher

If you own a dishwasher, a no-fuss way to clean piping tips is to use a dishwasher. Simply add your piping tips to the small basket compartment or the compartment for smaller sized items and leave the dishwasher to do the rest.

Some piping tips could get discolored in the dishwasher so I suggest proceeding with caution. Wash only 1 or 2 tips first to see the outcome.

5.    Use a mini bottle brush

Cleaning piping tips this way is a little more labor intensive when compared to the other methods on this list.

Mini bottle brushes can get into the nooks and crannies of piping tips and are usually flexible. If you do not have access to mini bottle brushes, buy a pack of disposable mascara wands.

You could also wash a used mascara wand thoroughly and use it for cleaning your piping tips. Use a little dish soap on your bottle brush or mascara wand to get rid of grease on piping tips.

These are 5 ways you can clean piping tips. If you have suggestions that were not mentioned here, leave it in the comment section. I love to read from you.
Professional Blog Designs by pipdig