Apples are versatile fruits enjoyed fresh, made into applesauce and as the main ingredients of pies, cobblers, tarts, breads, pastries and cakes. Apple varieties range in taste from tart to sweet and have textures from soft and yielding to crisp and substantial. The best kinds for making cakes and other baked goods are tart and firm-textured, to accommodate the added sugar in recipes and let the apples maintain their shape when exposed to heat.
Green and Yellow Apples
Granny Smith apples are preferred by many cooks and bakers based on their sour flavor and dense, crisp flesh. They have very little juice, so they maintain their shape in baked goods and do not oversaturate batters or crusts. Crispins are sweeter and have a lot of juice, but are very crisp and substantial in texture. Golden Delicious apples have a sweet-tart flavor and a minimal amount of natural juices.
Red and Pink Varieties
The vivid red skin of a Cortland apple covers a creamy white interior. Their slightly tart flavor makes them good cake ingredients. Ida Reds, one of the oldest apple varieties, have pink-tinted flesh and a tangy flavor that works well with the sugar and spices in cake recipes. Winesap apples have a distinct spicy flavor that adds depth to apple cakes. Jonathans are almost as tart as Granny Smith apples and maintain their shape when used in baked goods. Honeycrisps, a fairly new variety, have crisp interiors and a unique honey-tart taste.
Some of the best baking apples have been developed through crossbreeding lesser-known strains with more familiar ones. Pink Lady, also called Cripps Pink, is a hybrid of Golden Delicious and Lady Williams. Braeburn apples, a cross between Granny Smith and the less familiar Lady Hamilton, have the firm texture of the former and the sweet-and-sour flavor of the latter. Fuji apples, a mixed breed of Red Delicious and Virginia Ralls Genet varieties, are firm and taste good in cakes, although their juice may necessitate reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe. The result of crossing McIntosh and Red Delicious apples, Empires have firm flesh and a tart flavor that goes well with sweet cake ingredients.
Selecting Baking Apples
With new strains of apples being introduced each season, it is hard to determine which are best for baking. Ask your produce manager for help or buy a selection of apples and test them for firmness, juiciness and tartness. Many recipes benefit from including a variety of apple types, so don’t hesitate to use several kinds in one cake.