Apple Tea Cake

Tea and novels go hand in hand, and children’s books are certainly no exception. Today, I’m co-hosting this post with my good friend Danielle Davis from This Picture Book Life, a brilliant blog about children books, both classic and modern.

When Danielle asked me to recreate a recipe showcasing Julie Paschkis’ charming book, Apple Cake: A Recipe for Love, I jumped at the opportunity. With all the beautiful apples available at the market this fall, I knew that I could easily create a cake to celebrate the book’s whimsical imagery and endearing theme of expressing love through cooking.In the book, a boy makes a girl an apple cake to get her to stop reading and notice him. She’s the apple of his eye. He takes 1 green apple, 2 red apples, and some other yummy spices and ingredients to create a beautiful cake for his sweetie.

Success! The cake is enticing enough to catch her attention. At the end of story, they share the cake together, a heart full of love between them.

Staying true to the book, I used 1 green apple (Granny Smith) and 2 sweet ones (Honeycrisp) in this Apple Tea Cake recipe. The sour apple is mixed into the cake batter while the 2 sweet apples are cubed, dusted generously with cinnamon sugar, and scattered over the top of the cake to create a rustic topping.

My personal ingredient addition not included in the original recipe of the book is buttermilk. The baked apples meld together with the buttermilk based batter to create an almost custard-like texture to the cake–moist, tender, and deliciously creamy!

Brimming with apple goodness, this is a scrumptious cake that’s simple enough to make any day of the week. I’m not sure what the exact difference is between a coffee cake and a tea cake, but in my opinion a tea cake is lighter both in texture and in flavor so that it enhances a tea instead of overwhelming it.

Adagio Tea’s Candy Apple Tea goes perfectly with this Apple Tea Cake. It’s maple-like sweetness highlights the golden baked apple chunks and adds a touch of caramelized richness to each bite. The blend is good on its own, but great with this cake.

Tea, cake, and an adorably sweet love story like Apple Cake: A Recipe for Love? Now that’s a trio worth exploring.

A sincere thank you to Danielle Davis of This Picture Book Life for the opportunity! Please hop on over to her site to check out some of the beautiful illustrations from Julie Paschkis’ book.

Apple Tea Cake

Makes 1-8″ cake.


{Cake Base}

4 Tbsp butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

pinch salt

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2″ cubes

{Apple Topping}

2 Tbsp butter, melted

2 Tbsp sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 Honeycrisp, Gala, or Fuji apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2″ cubes

sifted powdered sugar for serving (optional)


8″ baking pan (I used a spring form for easy removal), sprayed with non-stick spray

large mixing bowl

medium mixing bowl

rubber spatula

peeler and paring knife

small heart-shaped cookie cutter (optional)


1.)  Make the Cake Base. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the 1 cup of flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg. In a large bowl, cream the 4 Tbsp of butter and 1/3 cup of sugar. Add in the egg and vanilla and mix them in. Gradually add the flour mix into the butter mixture until barely incorporated. Gently mix the Granny Smith apple chunks into the batter, then pour the batter into the baking pan. Use the back of the rubber spatula to smooth and even out the batter. Set aside.

2.)  Make the Apple Topping. Place the Honeycrisp apple chunks into the medium bowl. Pour the remaining 2 Tbsp of melted butter over the apples, then dust with the cinnamon and sugar. Toss the apples so that all the spice, sugar, and butter is evenly distributed. Topple apples over the cake batter evenly, then lightly press them in so that they adhere to the top surface of the cake.

3.)  Finish the Cake. Bake the cake for 30-35 minutes or until the top is lightly golden, the apples look slightly dry, and a toothpick comes out clean. Wait for the cake to cool for at least 15 minutes before removing from the baking pan. Dust the top of the cake with sifted powdered sugar just before serving. For an optional decorative touch, top the cake with red apple heart cut-outs. Enjoy!

apple cake cutouts

Tea of the Week: Samovar’s Apple Ginseng Oolong

Earlier this year, I visited Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco. To say that it’s a place to get tea is a severe understatement as the shop embodies the idea of serenity in a cup. Samovar is unlike any traditional tea room you’ve ever been to and elevates tea to an almost spiritual pastime. If you are in San Francisco and love tea, it is not to be missed!

Apple Ginseng is one of Samovar’s popular oolong blends. The tea has a wonderfully earthy quality where plentiful chunks of dried apple and mildly sweet licorice root make help to mellow out the soft bitterness of ginseng. If you’ve ever had plain ginseng tea before and didn’t like it or if you’ve never had ginseng tea before and are curious, you should definitely try this blend.

Together, the fragrant Taiwanese oolong and sweet apples lend a floral essence to this blend that the ginseng tea itself wouldn’t have otherwise. The steep has a sunny, honey-like character to it, making it a yummy partner to breakfast items and brunch time baked goods.

I’m presenting this tea to you Samovar-style today, where the guest is offered a small wooden tray with a pot of tea, a teacup, and perhaps some extra tea for additional steepings. This is the signature way that Samovar Tea Lounge serves any brew. It’s a simple, unique way of treating every brew with a sense of ritual, focus, and respect.

The addition of both ginseng and oolong in this blend mean that it has a fair amount of caffeine, so this an excellent AM steep to help get your day moving along. Samovar hails this tea as one that promotes “vital energy and libido.” I can attest that the first part of this equation is true. As for the second part, don’t expect any reports back from me…you’ll just have try some and find out for yourself!

Tasting Notes for Samovar’s Apple Ginseng Oolong Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  212 degrees F for 5 minutes. I generally like to drink any ginseng tea hot. Good for several steepings.

THE BLEND:  A mix of Taiwanese oolong, dried chunks of organic apple, organic white ginseng, organic licorice root, and natural apple flavor.

THE SCENT:  Smells of wood, tree branches, and earthy fallen leaves. Like a serene autumn walk through the woods.

THE STEEP:  Each sip starts with slight astringency from the ginseng root. The astringency is followed by the woody, earthy taste of oolong, and then tamed by gentle sweetness from the apples. This is a sunny, refreshing alternative to your morning cup of Joe.

GET IT:  You’ll find this blend at all of Samovar’s vibrant tea lounges in San Francisco, except for their latest Tea Bar on Valencia St. The tea is also available online at Samovar’s website or on Amazon.

FOOD PAIRING:  Apple Ginseng Oolong pairs perfectly with fall breakfast treats like french toast, pancakes, or a thick slice of Maple Brick Toast. It’s also exceptionally delicious with Mochi Banana Bread or my favorite fall treat…Crisp Apple Strudels!

The cute sticker comes tucked inside the box of tea!

Rosy Apple Tisane

rosy apple tisane

I gave up drinking diet sodas earlier this year, right before summer began, and haven’t looked back since.  Early on, my go-to replacement when I was craving a diet soda was fruit-infused water— a bit of extra work but totally refreshing and satisfying.  If you haven’t had them already, infused waters are created by taking fragrant fruits like strawberries, pineapple, or even cucumbers (preferably organic) and letting them sit and mingle with water.  Consider this recipe the fall version of those refreshing summer steeps.

Rose bud tea is picked when roses are still very small and haven’t bloomed yet.  Tea blenders often add rose buds into black, green, or even oolong teas to perfume them with rosy fragrance.  This recipe showcases the rose bud tea’s aromatic beauty while using apples to complement with subtle, natural sweetness.

Rose Water and Buds Revised

It’s important to note that calling rose bud tea a “tea” isn’t actually accurate.  As these buds are considered to be caffeine-free, the brewed infusion is more accurately referred to as a tisane—in this case, we are blending a flower tisane (rose buds) with a fruit tisane (apple).

I actually like brewing this tisane several hours before I plan on having it.  This allows the rose buds and apple to thoroughly infuse the water with delicate sweetness.  I like to have this tea chilled over ice, but it’s also really comforting served hot.  If you prefer adding a caffeinated kick to this tea, it would be great with your favorite non-flavored black or green tea thrown in.  If you do steep some regular caffeinated tea in, just make sure avoid over-brewing so that the delicate taste of the rose buds still comes through.

The final addition to this simple tisane is rose water.  Rose water is widely used in Middle Eastern delicacies like baklava and Turkish Delight.  This essence is a by-product of the perfume making process, created in the making of rose oil.  I’ve also used rose water to flavor marshmallows, although I must admit I think I was a bit heavy handed when I used it…this stuff is very strong, and can be an acquired taste.  There is nothing worse than tasting something that actually tastes like perfume, so rest assure; I’ve measured the amount used in this recipe thoughtfully.

Here’s a simple recipe for a sweet and elegant herbal tea to put those extra fall apples to good use.  This tisane is high in Vitamin C–pleasantly soothing, unique, and ideal any time of day.  Consider this brew a beautiful, delicious cup of aromatherapy.

Rosy Apple Tea

Serves  2.


¼ cup rose bud tea

1 apple, sliced

¼ tsp rose water

4 cups boiling water

Sliced apples to garnish


1.)  Place rose buds and sliced apple in heat-resistant bowl or pitcher.

2.)  Bring water to full boil and pour into bowl/pitcher.  Let the buds and apple steep for at least 8 minutes and up to 4 hours.

3.)  Mix in ¼ teaspoon of rose water, and serve warm or over ice.