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Payard apple cake 7 used.jpg
       IT'S THE FIRST WEEK AFTER THE BALL DROPPED heralding in 2017, and as usual, I'm still back in 2016 somewhere, maybe October. In reality, it's January 5th , --the 12th Day of Christmas. When you count off the days, you have to start with the 25th of December to get there. Going back even before medieval times in Europe, the 12 days of Christmas have been a significant time of feasting, signaling the end of "winter" which traditionally started on All Hallow's Eve.
       Although the first 11 days have pretty much been forgotten, TWELFTH NIGHT for many IS STILL A CAUSE FOR CELEBRATION. Certainly that was the case when I lived in a small town on the Jersey Shore. Across the street from me, my neighbor Alice, a respected mechanical engineer in professional circles, was A BIT ECCENTRIC when it came to the neighborhood. She had a penchant for doing a lot of unusual things, not to mention--hanging lots of CD's from her second story porch as a squirrel repellent, HER LAWN GROWING LIKE A FOREST at times during the summer, and the huge stuffed man acting as a scary ghost suspended in her third story window and catapulted over and over again to the ground every Halloween- YES, THAT ALICE WOULD THROW HER TWELFTH NIGHT PARTY EVERY YEAR..
       Everyone, and I mean everyone, in town attended AND PARTIED HARD. It was pretty much a last ditch effort to celebrate a holiday that for all practical purposes had ended one week earlier. IF YOU GOT THE BLUE PLASTIC BABY JESUS in your slice of cake, YOU WERE NAMED KING OR QUEEN for the night, and honored WITH A GOLDEN CROWN!>
      It became A TRADITION for me to bring the very last crumbs of my Christmas cookie collection along with a warm, DELICIOUS apple cake fresh out of my oven. Up here in the Hudson Valley, NO ONE IS THROWING ANY TWELFTH NIGHT PARTIES. And even though apple season is long gone, I still CRAVE that homemade apple cake at the beginning of the New Year.
       MY Very FAVORITE RECIPE is from Francois Payard's father's bakery, Au Nid Des Friandises, in Nice, France. It is so delicious and is so popular there, that he sells 100 of them every day. It doesn't have any of the traditional apple spices, no cinnamon or nutmeg, just THE PURE TASTE OF THE APPLES, held together by A RICH LAYER OF BUTTERY CAKE with a few mandatory RUM SOAKED RAISINS. Two glazes grace the top-- a traditional apricot first, followed by a drizzle of milk and confectioner's sugar. It's the quintessential apple cake in my book.

LESSONS Learned:
1. Depending on the size of the apples, you may not be able to squeeze all of the apple slices into the pan, which is fine. Eat the leftovers.
2. Don't overbeat the batter, mix just until combined to keep the cake tender.
3. After letting the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, run a knife around the edges of the pan to make sure it releases easily.

(slightly adapted from "Simply Sensational Desserts")

⅓ cup raisins
2 tablespoons dark rum

1 scant cup all-purpose flour ( remove 1 Tablespoon from the measured cup)
¾ teaspoon baking powder
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 large eggs
2 apples, such as Fuji or Rome, peeled and cored

¼ cup apricot glaze (recipe follows) ¼ cup confectioners' glaze ( recipe follows)

Make the cake:
       Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter an 8 ½" x 4 ½" x 2 ½" loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment and butter that as well. Dust the pan with flour, tapping out the excess.
       Bring a small pan of water to a boil, add the raisins, and boil 1 minute. Drain and repeat the process. Drain the raisins well a second time and place in a small bowl with the rum. Stir and set aside.
       Sift together the flour and baking powder.
       In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Drain the raisins and mix into the batter. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until blended. Spoon half of the batter into the pan and smooth into an even layer.
       Cut one apple into 12 wedges and arrange them on the batter, down the center of the pan, so their sides touch and the domed side of the wedge is on top. Spoon the rest of the batter over and around the apples and smooth top. Cut the other apple into 8 wedges and then cut each wedge in half crosswise. Arrange the wedges in two single rows along each long side of the pan, pressing the center-cut sides of the apples against the sides of the pan. The two rows of apple slices will have their points toward the center of the pan and exposed batter in the center. Gently push the apples into the batter, leaving the top of the apples exposed.
       Bake the cake for 60-65 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. Unmold the cake and turn it right side up. Gently brush the warm apricot glaze over the top of the hot cake. Allow the cake to cool completely, and drizzle with the confectioners' glaze. The cake can be kept at room temperature for 2-3 days, or in the fridge for up to a week.

Apricot Glaze:
       Place 1/4 cup apricot preserves into a small heatproof glass measure and microwave on the high power for 30 to 45 seconds, until bubbling. Strain the hot preserves through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl. Use the glaze warm.

Confectioners' Glaze:
       In a small bowl, combine 1/2 cup sifted confectioners' sugar and 1 Tablespoon of whole milk and a few drops of pure vanilla extract. Stir together until smooth. Drizzle over the cooled cake.

Makes 10-12 servings   YUM!
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