Sunday, November 16, 2014

Eats: Apple Cake With Hot Caramel Sauce

With cold temps and several inches of snow on the ground here, it  seems more like winter than fall. Nevertheless, it really is still fall - heck, it's only mid-November. And with local apples still available at the local farmer's market, I continue to enjoy them in a variety of ways. 

Decided to try making Apple Cake With Hot Caramel Sauce, a recipe from Marcia Adams' Cooking From Quilt Country. I find her recipes delightful in a homey, old-fashioned way, but I was disappointed when I put the apple cake batter into the baking pan. It didn't look like much. 

But looks can be deceiving, as I found out when I cut a slice and poured some of the hot caramel sauce over it:

Well, maybe my photo doesn't look like much either, but take my word for it - the cake is moist, rather sweet and well-spiced. In fact, perhaps a bit too sweet and spiced (too much nutmeg, IMO), but these issues can easily be remedied by cutting down on certain ingredients. The caramel sauce is quite sweet too - a little goes a long way - but it's very good. 

Another  bonus is that this recipe is easily prepared - and Adams states: "The cake gets better as it ages, keeps for a week in the refrigerator, and also freezes well." 

Perhaps you're supposed to bring a dessert to Thanksgiving dinner - but either someone else is making the pumpkin pie, or else you said you'd bring a sweet for those who don't like pumpkin pie (perish the thought, but I know those people exist!) 

Well, this apple cake would be a good dessert to bring along! It's fast and easy to make and is relatively economical as well. It can be made in advance and frozen, so no last-minute baking is necessary. Adams says the caramel sauce can be made in advance but doesn't say how much in advance. I'd think that the day before would be fine. But since the sauce is quick and easy to prepare, you could whip it up right before serving the cake if it's not too chaotic during Thanksgiving dinner. 

If you'd like to try this recipe, here it is, along with my notes:

Apple Cake With Hot Caramel Sauce (adapted from Marcia Adams' Cooking From Quilt Country)

1/2 cup pecans, chopped finely
2 1/2 cups chopped apples (2 large cooking apples)
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup white sugar (see notes)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 scant teaspoon grated nutmeg (see notes)
1 cup all-purpose flour

Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup evaporated milk

Optional garnishes (see notes):
Whipped cream
Fresh apple slices

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add egg and beat until blended, then mix in the baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the flour and stir just until blended. Stir in the apples and pecans. Pour into a greased 9" round cake pan and bake for 30 minutes or until the tops springs back when lightly touched in the center with your finger. 

Prepare sauce: In a saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk, then remove from heat and whisk in vanilla and milk.

Notes: Adams specifies a 9" round cake pan, but I feel a 9x9 baking pan would be fine as well. 

I found the use of sugar and nutmeg in the cake recipe a bit much. I used a bit less sugar as it was but still found it too sweet. That cup of white sugar could probably be reduced to 3/4 or even 2/3 cup. 

I thought the nutmeg taste was too strong; Adams does say "1 scant teaspoon". Maybe my "scant" wasn't scant enough. I think I'd cut this down to 1/2 teaspoon next time. 

Adams advises serving the cake warm or at least at room temperature. The cake can be reheated in the microwave. She says to serve the caramel sauce hot; if made ahead, she says to reheat it over hot water. I warmed it up in the microwave and that was fine. 

Adams' serving instructions are as follows: To serve, ladle 2 to 3 tablespoons hot caramel sauce onto 8 serving plates. Cut cake into 8 wedges and place on top of sauce. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream and 2 thinly sliced apple wedges, peel left on. 

I didn't bother with the whipped cream/sliced apple presentation, but it might be nice to consider if serving this on Thanksgiving Day - or any other time you want a nice taste of fall.

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