Brian and I have both been burning the candle on both ends as well as at a couple points in the middle lately, so when we were invited to brunch with friends to meet their new baby, we needed something to bring that was delicious and, more importantly, easy to make. Looking around the kitchen the morning of, I saw the makings of blood orange apple buckle and that’s pretty good luck.
Lately it hasn’t taken much more than “blood orange” to pique my interest. I’m in love with their sweet-tart taste and a buckle turned out to be the perfect vehicle for them. This silky, moist cake is studded with apples, and gets some citrus-y kick from fragrant blood oranges. The whole thing is topped off with a buttery crumb topping, a blood orange glaze, and just a pinch of sea salt. It turned out to be a perfect thing to bring to a brunch with friends, simple and delicious and beautiful in its home-y sort of way. But the real proof of this buckle’s belovedness was that, despite a first course of note, no one had just one piece.
for the crumb topping
1/2 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
zest of 1 blood orange
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9” round baking pan.
Combine the flour, sugar, salt, and zest in a small bowl. Using your fingers, mix in the softened butter until the mixture is sandy with small chunks. Set the bowl in your freezer while you prepare the cake.
for the cake
1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons corn meal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons blood orange zest
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
6 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup buttermilk, or 1/2 cup milk plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 cups apples, sliced 1/4-inch thick and cut in half
for the glaze
1/4 cup blood orange juice
1/3 cup sugar
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and soda, salt, zest, and nutmeg. In another bowl, use a beater to whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add in the sugar and beat for several minutes more until mixture is airy and pale. With mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, and then add the buttermilk. Scrape the sides if needed. Gradually add in the flour mixture, mixing just until combined. Fold in 1 cup of apples.
Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan. Scatter the remaining apples over the top, and gently press into the batter. Next, use a spoon to scatter the chilled crumb topping evenly. Bake cake for 45 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs.
Meanwhile, prepare the glaze. In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and blood orange juice, and cook over medium heat just until dissolved. Keep the mixture warm while the cake bakes.
Remove cake from oven and immediately drizzle with the glaze. Sprinkle a touch of sea salt over the top. Cool for 30 minutes and serve.