Editor’s note: Andrea Weigl seeks recipes from Triangle restaurants requested by readers.
We just ate at the scrumptious Mothers & Sons in Durham. What a joy to have such authentic Italian food! I wanted to see if you could wrangle the recipe for the apple cake. It was insane. Waitress said, “No way.” But I thought if anyone could get it, it would be you.
I didn’t have to do much to wrangle the recipe from Mothers & Sons’ executive sous chef Phil Bey.
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Bey said the cake has been on the Durham restaurant’s menu since October and become so popular that they have to make about eight cakes a week on average. The cake is distinctive not only for its moist crumb flecked with minced apples but for its faint rosemary flavor.
Mothers & Sons is helmed by executive chef Josh DeCarolis, who has worked at a number of Triangle restaurants (Jujube, Mateo). DeCarolis partnered with well-regarded Durham chef Matt Kelly to open the Italian restaurant last year next door to Kelly’s Mateo restaurant. Greg Cox, the N&O’s longtime restaurant critic, gave Mothers & Sons a glowing four-star review in October.
Bey came on board at Mothers & Sons this summer. He grew up in Wilmington, Del., started culinary school at a vocational high school at the age of 15 and eventually graduated from Johnson & Wales in Charleston. His culinary career took him to Georgia, Maine and Hawaii before spending the last seven years at Blue Point Restaurant in Duck, along the Outer Banks. He and his family moved to the Triangle in June.
Bey, who is not a trained pastry chef, said he likes to add a savory element to desserts. So the panna cotta features fried sage, and the apple cake is made with a rosemary syrup.
The cake is served warm, dusted with powdered sugar and topped with a dollop of vanilla-whipped mascarpone and some crumbled pine nut nougatine. We pared the recipe down for home cooks with only the cake and the whipped mascarpone, which is a winning alternative to whipped cream.
Specialty of the House gets recipes for local restaurant dishes. Send requests, including your city, to Specialty of the House, The N&O, P.O. Box 191, Raleigh, N.C. 27602; or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mothers & Sons, 107 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham. 919-294-8247, mothersandsonsnc.com
Apple Rosemary Cake
From executive sous chef Phil Bey of Mothers & Sons restaurant in Durham.
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided, plus more for buttering pan
2 medium to large firm apples, such as Macintosh or Honey Crisp, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1-1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
Pinch of ground star anise and ground nutmeg
1/4 cup water
1 sprig rosemary
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for greasing pan
1-3/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground star anise
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Whipped Vanilla Mascarpone (recipe below)
Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over medium heat until bubbling. Add apples, 2 tablespoons sugar and a pinch each of star anise and nutmeg. Sauté apples until just tender and getting a hint of color, about 5 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool.
Combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup water and rosemary in a small saucepan. Bring a simmer and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and steep for 10 minutes. Remove rosemary and let cool.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. If you have a convection oven, which Bey prefers for this cake, heat to 325 degrees.
Use a small amount of flour and butter to grease the bottom and sides of a 10-inch spring form pan. Set aside.
Place 1 cup sugar, 8 tablespoons butter and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Whip on medium high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, allowing each egg to fully incorporate between additions.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, star anise and nutmeg in a small bowl. Use a rubber spatula to fold dry ingredients into wet mixture. Fold in sauteed apples until fully combined. Spread mixture into a spring form pan and place in oven to bake for 40 to 45 minutes.
Remove cake from oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Use a wooden skewer to poke small holes all over the top of the cake. Pour syrup evenly over the cake. Allow cake to cool completely before removing from pans.
Cut slice of cake and serve with a dollop of Whipped Vanilla Mascarpone cheese.
Yield: 8-10 servings
Whipped Vanilla Mascarpone
If the mascarpone is very thick, add 1 tablespoon heavy cream to it for easier whipping. Place leftover vanilla bean pod in 2 cups granulated sugar and allow to sit for 3 days to make vanilla sugar. From executive sous chef Phil Bey of Mothers & Sons restaurant in Durham.
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 whole vanilla bean, seeds scraped from pod
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Pinch of sea salt
Combine mascarpone, vanilla bean seeds, powdered sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Beat together on low speed until fully incorporated. Increase speed to medium high and whip for 2 to 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
Yield: about 1 cup