For about eight years, I struggled with an eating disorder, which I largely overcame about two years ago. I hesitate to say I entirely overcame it because I still have moments in which I’m unhappy with my weight and consider dieting. But those moments are usually pretty fleeting. For the most part, I feel I’ve accepted myself and my body. I now love to bake and cook, and I’m in the very early stages of launching a cooking blog called Spirit Sandwich with a friend of mine.
Two years ago, when I first made this cake, it was a symbol of my desire to move forward with my life and leave my disordered eating behind. I was living in New York and, though I was still counting calories to a certain extent, I had begun taking baking classes at the Institute for Culinary Education. I loved what I was learning – and not just the technical skills. I also loved learning to enjoy food again. I was learning to remember the power food has to create and evoke memories and to bring people together.
This cake is also significant to me because it is a recipe handed down from my great-grandmother. My mom says she remembers my grandmother making it at Christmas each year when she was a child. Food has a history – cultural, familial and emotional. The story of a recipe, particularly a family recipe, informs and makes richer our food traditions. This is a very special recipe to me and it represents so many things that I am most grateful for, so I thought it appropriate, during this Thanksgiving week, to share this recipe with the Care2 community.
While I use organic flour, this cake is not whole grain. I also use organic cane sugar. My belief on this is that, while I don’t like to include refined carbohydrates as a part of my regular diet, allowing oneself to enjoy foods within moderation – and especially at special times like holidays – is an important part of developing a healthy relationship with food. As someone who severely limited the foods she ate for nearly a decade, I can tell you that feeling guilty and emotionally punishing yourself for eating a particular food is far more detrimental than anything one slice of cake will do to you. I am extremely eager to try more whole grain, gluten-free and vegan baking recipes – but I don’t consider it necessary to ditch family favorites like this one altogether.
Many people – including myself – have well founded concerns about sugar and I have often considered replacing the sugar in this recipe with another less refined sweetener. If you try that, please leave your comments here and let me know how it turns out! Otherwise, give yourself permission to enjoy this cake and all that it represents.
Time: 1 1/2 hours
Serves about 8
1 ½ cups apples, sliced
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 ½ cups plus 3 teaspoons hot water
2 ½ cups flour
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cups butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 cup raisins
½ cups pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place apples in pot or large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil for one minute then summer until apples are soft. Drain apples. Sprinkle baking soda over apples. Sprinkle 3 tsp boiling water over baking soda and apples and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Set aside.
In another large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in eggs. Add apple mixture to sugar mixture and combine. Gradually blend in flour mixture until combined. Stir in raisins and pecans. Pour batter into greased, 9″ bundt pan. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool in pan and turn out when completely cooled.