Apples often seem pretty plain jane to me. It was a fruit we always had in the house growing up,* and so I never thought it very special. This could be because I kind of hate red delicious apples, and pretty much any other apple that is sold at the grocery store in a plastic bag with ten other of its fellows. Not very special at all.
However, I declare Fall 2010 the Apple Revolution! Let us rejoice with the bounty of autumnal boughs hanging heavy with the crisp, sweet-tart fruit that is the apple!
And caramel. Everything I make has caramel in it these days.
Apple Revolution started a couple weekends ago when Eric and I went to Greensboro, NC for a wedding (shout out to Haley and Dave! Hooray!). We found there, surprisingly near our hotel and the highway, the absolute biggest farmer's market I have ever seen. It had three massive awnings that housed vendors selling everything from pumpkins to bread to flowers to apples. So many apples. I bought a very large bag filled with one of every kind I could find. We're talking Winesap and Arkansas Black and King Luscious and Duchess and Honeycrisp (aren't apple names just wonderful!)
Therefore...you will be seeing a lot of apple related desserts around here in the coming weeks.
The inspiration for this cake came from Honey and Jam, but I couldn't make the frosting from that recipe set. It stayed a caramel goo mess. Fortunately, I found a delicious recipe on Epicurious from Bon Appetit. If you beat the frosting a little, you get this dark, thick frosting that reminds me of caramels. If you beat it a lot, the frosting becomes lighter in color and very fluffy. Both are tasty, but I like the way the darker one looks better.
This combination is awesome, by the way. Truly awesome. The cake is a rare vanilla cake that stays moist for many days in a world full of dry cakes. The individual components take some time (mostly cooling time, so don't try to make this on a tight schedule), but you can spread out the making of the cake and it's not bad.
Vanilla Cake from Cakelove (it's best if you can weigh the ingredients, and so much easier)
I make this times 1.5 to come up with a three layer cake.
Preheat the oven to 350 and prepare two 9-in cake pans with parchment rounds in the bottom and butter or spray.
AP Flour, 7 oz or 1 1/4 cup plus 2 tbs
potato starch, 2 oz (you can sub cornstarch if necessary)
baking powder, 1 1/2 tsp
salt, 1 tsp
half and half, 1 cup
brandy, 2 tbs (can sub more half and half for this)
vanilla extract, 1 tbs
unsalted butter, room temp, 6 oz or 1 1/2 sticks
extra-fine granulated sugar, 14 oz or 1 3/4 cups (you can food process regular sugar to make extra fine.)
eggs, 4 large
Start by mixing the butter and sugar with in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment. Mix on med-low for at least 5 minutes, the more time the better. It will be very fluffy.
Meanwhile, whisk the dry ingredients in a bowl and sift together. In a separate container, combine all the wet ingredients.
After the butter and sugar are sufficiently creamed, add the eggs one at a time, blending well between each.
Finally, add the wet and dry ingredients in 5 alternating additions, waiting only until the ingredients are just incorporated before adding the next addition. Scrape the bowl and mix on medium speed for 15-20 seconds.
Divide the batter between the pans and bake for 25-28 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.
Apple Filling adapted from Honey and Jam
I doubled this for a triple layer cake.
2 large granny smith (or other baking-type) apples
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp lemon juice
Peel the apples and grate with a box grater. Combine all the ingredients in a saucepan and cook until the apples are tender and there is little liquid left. Cool completely.
Caramel Frosting from Epicurious
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup cream
2 egg yolks
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
1/8 t salt
1 cup powdered sugar
Stir the sugar and water together and cook over med-high heat, swirling the pot occasionally (not stirring). Cook until the caramel is deep amber; watch it carefully, it will continue to darken a little after you turn off the heat. Remove from the burner and whisk in the cream (watch out for steam and bubbles). Stir until the caramel is smooth.
Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, and gradually whisk in the hot caramel. Cool the caramel mixture.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and powdered sugar together until smooth. Beat in the caramel mixture. Let stand at room temperature until thick enough to spread, about an hour.
Spread the apple filling between the cake layers and frost the outside of the cake with caramel frosting. If you have time to freeze your cake layers, it makes frosting easier.
Go, enjoy this quintessential fall cake.
* Oddly enough, we also always had bananas around too when I was growing up, but that apparently had the opposite effect on me than the ever-present-bagged apple, because now I am slightly obsessed with the banana. Really, its the perfect fruit.