In my book, an apple-cider donut is one of the best bets in the bakery box, both in flavor (apple and spices) and texture (crunch, crunch of sugar-salt-cinnamon-nutmeg coating).
This loaf cake captures those lovely traits.
The apple note comes from reducing apple cider to intensify the sweet-tart beauty; it’s used in the batter, atop the cake just out of the oven (poured into puncture holes made with a toothpick), and again combined with melted butter and brushed on the cake’s exterior. That final flourish helps the sugar and cinnamon mixture adhere to the surface.
Apple Cider Donut Loaf Cake
Yield: 8 servings
8 tablespoons plus 1 tablespoon butter, divided use, plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal salt or 1/2 teaspoon Morton kosher salt, plus a pinch more
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided use
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, divided use
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar, divided use
1. Place rack in middle of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Lightly butter an 8 1/2-by-4 1/2 inch or 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Line with parchment paper, leaving an overhand on both long sides (this will act as a sling to remove the cake easily from the pan). Bring cider to a boil on high heat in a saucepan; reduce heat and simmer until reduced to 3/4 cup, about 8 to 10 minutes.
2. Pour 1/4 cup reduced cider into a small measuring glass or bowl and set aside. Transfer remaining reduced cider to a small bowl and let cool 5 minutes. Stir in sour cream and vanilla (don’t worry if there are small clumps of sour cream that don’t blend in – it will all work out in the mixer). Set aside.
3. Melt 8 tablespoons butter on low heat in same saucepan (no need to clean it). Let cool slightly. In separate bowl, whisk flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal or 1/2 teaspoon Morton kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg in a medium bowl to combine.
4. In a stand mixer bowl, add eggs and 3/4 cup sugar; beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping down sides if needed. On medium speed add butter in a thin steam, beating until thoroughly combined. Reserve saucepan. On low-medium speed, add flour in 3 additions, alternating with reserved sour cream mixture in 2 additions; beat until combined, scraping down sides as needed. Batter will be thin. Scrape into pan with a silicone spatula. Place on rimmed baking sheet.
5. Bake, rotating halfway through, until deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 65 to 75 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and poke top of cake all over with a toothpick. Spoon 3 tablespoons reserved reduced cider over (I found that it helped spread the cider around with a pastry brush); let cool 10 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, mix a (tiny-if using salted butter, large if using unsalted butter) pinch of salt, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg in a small bowl. Melt remaining 1 tablespoon butter in the reserved saucepan and mix into reduced cider.
7. Using parchment paper, lift cake onto rack and set rack inside rimmed baking sheet. Peel away parchment from sides. Brush warm butter mixture over top and sides of cake. Sprinkle generously with sugar mixture to coat every surface (use parchment to help rotate the cake and collect any excess sugar). Remove parchment and let cool completely before slicing.
Do Ahead: Cake can be made 4 days ahead. Store cool cake airtight at room temperature.
Source: adapted from Bon Appetit magazine