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Postcard From Santa Fe: Georgia O’Keeffe’s Norwegian Apple Pecan Cake

  • 1/4
    Georgia O’Keeffe’s Norwegian Apple Pecan Cake
  • 2/4
    Sugar, butter and an egg mixed together
  • 3/4
    Diced skin-on apples
  • 4/4
    Spread evenly over the bottom of a pie pan or similar baking dish.

Text, photos and food cooked by Michal Martinek

Sep 7, 2016

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Georgia O’Keeffe’s Norwegian Apple Pecan Cake

Instantly comforting and flavor-packed, this simple dessert is more like a bread pudding or steamed pudding—a clafouti or crisp—and less like a regular cake. By that, I’m referring its texture: Instead of slicing it, you’ll have to scoop it out from the pan to get it on a plate. Maybe I should call it a “deconstructed cake”?

Semantics aside, it is childishly easy to make and comes together in no time. First, you mix sugar with butter and egg, throw in some flour, and then add everyone’s favorite fall/winter/Thanksgiving squad, including apples, pecans, nutmeg and cinnamon. In less than an hour, you get a crowd-pleasing, nostalgically scented concoction that’s moist and tender, with a hint of surface crispness, and calls for just a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

I learned this recipe recently in a class at a cooking school in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I was in town to attend the Opera Festival, but I also had some time to explore the Southwestern cuisine. The class consisted of delicious recipes (Arugula Salad with Herb Dressing, Corn Soup, Baked Chicken, Fried Potatoes, this cake) from a book called A Painter’s Kitchen: Recipes From the Kitchen of Georgia O’Keeffe by Margaret Wood.

Margaret, who stopped by to say hello and assist the instructor, was a companion and cook for the famous painter, who lived on a ranch near Santa Fe. Between 1977 and 1982, Margaret was in charge of preparing nutritious and seasonal meals, which were sourced from Georgia’s organic garden and local farms.


  1. Serves 6–8
  2. ¾ cup sugar
  3. 1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature (16 tablespoons or 2 sticks butter)
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  6. ¼ teaspoon salt
  7. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  8. 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  9. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  10. 2½ cups diced, unpeeled, cored apples—such as Granny Smith or Fuji (about 2 medium apples)
  11. ½ cup pecans, chopped
  12. 2 tablespoons hot water
  13. 2 tablespoons rum (optional)


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9-inch pie pan or an 8-inch square baking dish with butter or vegetable oil.


In a medium bowl, combine the sugar and butter, and mix until blended. Add the egg and mix. Stir in all the dry ingredients, and then fold in the apples and pecans. Stir in the hot water.


Transfer the mixture to the pie pan and bake in the oven until golden brown on top, about 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle evenly with the rum, if using. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


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