When Gemma Stafford was growing up in Ireland, her mom always had a cake or crumble on hand just in case someone dropped by for a cup of tea and a chat. Like many traditional Irish desserts, her mom’s weren’t particularly complicated: What made them so good were ingredients like Irish butter, rhubarb from the garden and sour apples picked from a tree near the house. “In Ireland, everything is local,” the chef says. When Gemma started cooking and baking professionally, she became known for over-the-top treats like birthday pound cake and peanut butter fudge ice cream pie (check out her recipes at biggerbolderbaking.com), but she still loves a simple, classic dessert like this one from her mom. “It’s a humble cake but it yields a big reward,” she says. “A lot of Irish recipes are like that.” —Francesca Cocchi for Food Network Magazine.
Preheat the oven to 350˚ F. Butter a 9-inch round cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Make the streusel topping: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, oats, granulated sugar and salt. Next, rub in the cold butter until fully incorporated and you’ve reached the texture of coarse breadcrumbs. Set aside in the fridge while you make the cake.
Make the cake: Cream the butter and granulated sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, then beat in the eggs one at a time. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a rubber spatula along with the milk. Once the batter has formed, transfer it to the prepared pan and lay on the sliced apples, making sure they are arranged in one even layer. Cover the apples with all the streusel topping.
Bake the cake until the top is golden brown and crisp, 60 to 70 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before turning out of the pan onto a rack. When ready to serve, dust the cake with confectioners' sugar.
Gemma recommends using salted butter for this cake. “That little bit of extra flavor really makes a difference,” she says.