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Whole wheat flour (Recipe: apple spice cake)


When Ted and I moved to Boston thirty years ago, we discovered a health food store called Erewhon.


Nowhere, spelled backwards.

Nowhere -- oops, Erewhon -- sat north of Harvard Square, in a part of Cambridge that could have been called Hippie Central, with a tea and incense shop a block away, and stores that sold old oak furniture and long granny dresses.

We lived in Boston, but made the trip across the river to Erewhon for earthy foods sold out of bins, things like nuts and beans and whole wheat flour.

These days, whole wheat flour is easier to find, and closer to home; the little grocery store in my town, which really is nowhere, carries several brands, including King Arthur Organic and Bob's Red Mill.

Whole wheat flour

Made from the whole kernel of wheat, whole wheat flour comes in different grinds; the more coarse the grind, the more bits of bran and germ you'll see in the flour, and the higher the amounts of beneficial fiber, potassium, iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium.

While the number of calories is the same, all-purpose white flour has no sodium and less fat than whole wheat, though the amount of fat (really oil from the germ of the wheat berry) is insignificant.

That oil does cause whole wheat flour to turn rancid, which gives it a bitter taste. The solution? Store your flour in the freezer from the moment you bring it home from the store. Let the flour come to room temperature before you use it, and return the unused portion to the freezer. Properly stored in the freezer, it will keep for up to one year.

Though I'm partial to white whole wheat flour these days, I always have whole wheat on hand for pita bread, fudge pudding cake, vanilla pancakes, orange spice muffins, tortillas, or hamburger buns.

Makes me want to slip into my red Birkenstocks and head over to Erewhon, circa 1972....

Apple spice cake

A family favorite from The New York Times Bread & Soup Cookbook (also circa 1972) by Yvonne Young Tarr, this recipe is my go-to during apple season. It does call for vegetable shortening, though, and I'd love to convert the recipe to something healthier without overwhelming the apple-spice flavors. Readers, can you help? Makes 1 loaf, serving 8-10.


2 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 large tart apples (I use Cortland or Macoun), grated
1/2 cup buttermilk (fresh or powdered)


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Sift together first 6 ingredients. Stir in whole wheat flour. Set aside. In a large bowl, or stand mixer, cream the shortening and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs, and stir to combine. Then, alternating a little bit at a time, add dry ingredients, buttermilk and apples to the egg mixture. Spray a bread pan with baking spray and pour in the mixture. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and let cool to desired serving temperature. Serve slightly warm with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, or serve cold. (Can be frozen.)

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Old fashioned apple pie
Apple tart for non-bakers
Spice cake
Lemon-yogurt cake
Kicked-up gingerbread

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Do you mean you want to get rid of fat, or just find a healthier fat than veg. shortening? I blythely substitute butter for any other solid shortening. It's supposed to be a little different in the texture result, but I just do it. What's your experience?

One of my standard healthy substitutions is to replace nearly all the oil in a recipe with applesauce. You can usually replace all but 2T of oil without changing the texture too much. If I was experimenting I'd start with half the required amount as oil (or shortening as the case may be), and half as applesauce. You really can't taste the applesauce (not that it would matter in this recipe anyways).

Erewhon! That is so neat. Soeren is currently in a phase where he says almost everything backwards. It's a lot of fun because we are making up our own language!!

Regarding whole wheat flour - I too used to go the extra kn for a whole wheat flour brand that has a few of the whole grains in it. It gives breads/flatbreads a gorgeous texture. I can imagine it in this cake too. I can just smell the aromas of it!

Yum! What a wonderful welcome to autumn! My mom was a pioneer getting us to eat whole wheat bread when we were growing up. We resisted, but now whole wheat is my flour of choice. I'm just starting to experiment with whole wheat pastry flour, too.

Great idea to store the flour in the freezer. Right now I keep the wheat bran, wheat germ and nuts in there, I think I'll put the WW flour in too.
I wish we got those products in Canada (BRM&KAF), I have heard so much about them. You would think that with all of the flour made in the Prairies - I could find more than Robin Hood and NoName brands in the grocers. Sigh.

This looks great! I've been on such an apple kick lately.

I do store my whole-wheat flour is freezer as well. This is such a nice recipe to use the apples during this season.

Ah I know of Erehwon (& nowhere for that matter), the mecca for granola heads/macrobiotic enthusiasts...makes me think of Berkeley and Laurel's Kitchen too. I'd gladly take a Volkwagon Bus with you back to those times or maybe just a few slices of this apple bread instead. As for the shortening, I'd substitute 1/3-1/2 C grapeseed oil with a few tablespoons of yogurt. I'll give it a go this fall.

For the shortening -- Bob (of Red Mill fame) says you can sub flax meal. Maybe with some applesauce, some oil too?
Erewhon originated as the title of a book by Samuel Butler, about a Utopia.
Natashya, check where the Robin Hood Flour comes from -- it could be from King Arthur. They use names from that era, Lancelot too. I think our markets have RH Flour too.

This looks great, I've been trying to use more whole wheat flour in my baked goods.

Mmm... This looks and sounds so good.

Funny that you mention rancidity, there was an article recently that told of how common it really is, but so many are unaware, probably me too! I'm also a fine of white bread, never having got over the time my mum switched form white to brown when we were kids, but in your cake, it sounds just fine.

Interesting tips on how to store whole wheat flour, Lydia! I need to clear some space in the fridge for this!

No, no, you keep it as unhealthy as you like. That's the way to go. :)

Mae, I'm not a very confident baker, so I rarely substitute in recipes. But this is one of my favorites, and I'd like to make it healthier without sacrificing the great apple-cinnamon flavor.

Stacy, I think applesauce would make this cake taste even better! Thanks for the tip.

Meeta, that's so cute -- and not so easy for a 5-year-old!

TW, I've never used whole wheat pastry flour. Maybe something to add to my pantry?

Natashya, King Arthur Flour does ship to Canada, so try their online site.

Maris, they call a part of my town in Rhode Island "Apple Land", because we have so many orchards. So I love apples and anything made from them!

Helene, I really do find that the whole wheat flour lasts so much longer in the freezer, and doesn't seem to make any difference in my baking.

Callipygia, save me a seat in the VW. And thanks for the tip about grapeseed oil and yogurt. Maybe I'll try grapeseed oil and applesauce, too.

Susan, thanks for sharing Bob's tip -- I will try that. I love that I can get Bob's Red Mill products at Job Lot, our local discount store.

Sara, Nicole: hope you'll enjoy this recipe.

Neil, this is a lesson I learned the ugly way, by using rancid whole wheat flour (who knows how long it had been in the kitchen) in a recipe. Well, you can imagine the results. You cannot taste the whole wheat in this cake, I promise, so do try. I've also tried substituting white whole wheat for part of the white flour, which works well, too.

Anh, you will notice the difference in your flour if you store it in the fridge or freezer, really.

Peabody, thank you! I've been waiting for someone to say that, even though I know I should try to make the recipe more healthy. But sometimes a cake is a cake, and it's okay to have a small bit . Isn't it??

If you're worried about transfats, there are veggie shortenings made by earth balance and by spectrum that are transfat-free. Otherwise I'd switch to butter or use something like walnut oil, which is good for you and doesn't have a strong taste. It might affect the texture a bit, is all--my guess is the cake would be a bit more dense, but quite moist.

Looks yummy! There was another apple cake recipe on smitten kitchen last week that I'm also eager to try...

Also, I love reading your RI mentions. We lived in Providence for 5 years b/f moving to WI in 2000, and I truthfully haven't thought of Job Lot since then. But I used to love it! I got such deals there...

this recipe sounds wonderful... I imagine the nutty flavor in wholewheat going very well with the spices (for me I'd skip the cloves, and cut down the nutmeg a little bit)

Lydia, you made me feel guilty now... I haven't used whole wheat flour in so long! Shame on me!

I just started using whole wheat flour in my cooking about 6 months ago and am loving it! I don't use it all the time, but if there is a recipe where it makes sense to swap it out, I try to do so. Thanks for another recipe where it works beautifully!

Erika, thanks for the suggestions. My local supermarket carries Spectrum products in the organic section, so I'll take a look. Glad to bring back memories of Job Lot, too!

Gattina, I find this cake completely addictive. The cloves don't give a pronounced flavor but do add to the overall "apple-ness".

Patricia, I'm surprised!

Jessica, do try the white whole wheat from King Arthur Flour, which substitutes in recipes for white flour but doesn't leave that telltale whole wheat color.

I lived just a few doors down from Erehwon. Your post brought back lovely memories of cambridge before it became a large mall.

Great recipe... Love the spices and the fact that it's a healthier alternative.

Great recipe... Love the spices and the fact that it's a healthier alternative.

Evi, that whole part of Cambridge, between Harvard and Porter Squares, used to be so interesting. Now more and more small stores, like Erewhon, are closing. So sad.

Jude, this is one of my favorite cakes, ever.

This really resonates with me! I recall my first trip to the Willy Street Coop in Madison in 1979 to buy "health food" and that included whole wheat flour. And lentils. And garbanzo beans.

Madison had a Erehwon, too, but it was camping and sporting goods, as I recall.


Mimi, everything seemed to taste better when we bought it from the bins at Erewon. Don't know why...

This apple cake sounds good!

I just made your bread by substituting 1/2 cup applesauce plus 1 tablespoon canola oil for the shortening and it worked marvelously. I also added a few extra spices because I like things spicy. Truly a wonderful recipe, and it came in handy since my apple trees have decided to dump massive amounts of fruit on me. Thanks for posting it.

For me, a slice of apple spice cake and cup of coffee is the ideal way to spend an autumn afternoon.

Hi kindred bakers

I love pound cake. I would love to make a healthier version. I tried a basic recipe, but I used whole wheat flour instead. It was a disaster. Is it possible to make a pound cake with wheat flour?

Thanks for any advice.

I have researched coconut oil the extra virgin, have found that it is very healthy and good to use. I use it in place of oil, butter, etc.

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