Baked Sunday Mornings: Caramel Apple Cake

After a very long, very hot summer, I am more than ready for the cool crisp breezes of autumn, my favorite season of the year.  Unfortunately, the muggy heat outside is definitely still saying "summer" -- but at least this week's assignment for Baked Sunday Mornings is helping get me in an fall state of mind.  The Caramel Apple Cake from Baked Explorations is an apple spice cake with caramel buttercream.  As the cookbook says, "This cake is pure fall."

This is another one of those recipes from Baked Explorations that requires you to clear your calendar to make it.  Applesauce is one of the main ingredients of the cake, and while you could of course just buy some from the store, the cookbook also provides a recipe to make your own.  I figured that I might as well give the homemade variety a try -- it's a pretty simple process of cooking peeled and chopped apples, some apple cider, cinnamon to taste, and a tiny bit of dark brown sugar.  The recipe says that after 30 minutes of cooking, you should mash the apples like potatoes, but I didn't need to -- the apples had disintegrated into sauce all by themselves.  There is one critical piece of information missing from the applesauce recipe, however.  It doesn't tell you how many apples to use to make the 4 cups of applesauce required for the cake.  I used three pounds of Liberty apples that I bought from the Farm at Sunnyside (they have a booth at the Penn Quarter farmer's market right by my office), and I was able to get a little over 3 cups of sauce.  (Yes, I was short the amount I needed for the recipe, but I didn't notice -- more on that later.)

To make the cake, you cream butter and sugar, add in eggs, and then alternately add in the sifted dry ingredients (flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves) and the applesauce.  You divide the batter between three 8-inch pans and bake.  After I had the cakes in the oven and had cleaned up the kitchen, I was looking around for my 1 1/2 cup measuring cup, and I couldn't find it anywhere.  I found it drying in the dish drainer, which was puzzling, since I didn't need it for the cake.  I realized then that I had accidentally used the 1 1/2 cup measure instead of a 2 cup measure to measure out the flour and applesauce.  So instead of having 4 cups of flour and 4 cups of applesauce in the cake, I had accidentally only used 3 cups of each.

The buttercream for this cake is a typical-style frosting from the guys at Baked -- you start out by cooking flour, sugar, heavy cream and milk until they boil and thicken, beat the mixture until it cools, and then add in butter and vanilla.  The twist for this buttercream is that you also add in some homemade classic caramel sauce (made from sugar, corn syrup, water, butter, and heavy cream) at the end.  (One note if you make the caramel sauce -- the recipe says to heat the sugar, corn syrup, and water until it begins to turn a rich caramel color, or 300 degrees.  At 300 degrees, my syrup mixture was basically colorless, and I took it off the stove at about 330 degrees, when it was starting to turn golden.  In retrospect, I wish I had taken it a few degrees further to get a deeper caramel flavor.)

While making each of the individual components (applesauce, cake, caramel sauce, buttercream) is somewhat time-consuming, assembling the final cake is straighforward: level the layers, frost, and garnish with more caramel sauce.  The finished cake is quite tall -- at a height of five inches, I could barely fit it in a standard bakery box.  I'm not sure if the cake would have come out appreciably different if I had used the proper amounts of flour and applesauce, but the cake came out just fine despite my measuring error.

The cake was dense and very moist, and with the cinnamon, allspice and cloves, the flavor definitely screams fall.  The apple flavor is delicious, and I'm sure the applesauce is one of the reasons the cake stays so nice and moist.  The buttercream is outstanding.  Smooth, creamy, light and fluffy -- the caramel flavoring is the perfect pairing for the spice cake and the frosting has just the right level of sweetness.  Overall, this is a special and beautiful cake that absolutely tastes as good as it looks.  I can think of no better way to kick off fall!  

Recipe: "Caramel Apple Cake" from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.  The recipe is available here on Cupcakes Take the Cake.

Comments

Candy said…
Your cake is stunning! Even prettier than the one in the book.
Bourbonnatrix said…
Seriously! Beautiful cake! Glad you liked it! I posted your link onto the Baked Sunday Mornings Facebook page. Hope that's ok! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Baked-Sunday-Mornings/201013669947370
Chaya said…
You made a show cake. It is beautiful.
Sheri said…
Really gorgeous.
ty said…
Yet another piece of amazing eye candy on ipsofatto. I always look forward to your Sunday posts.

Goog thing that neither my wife nor I actually bake, but just seeing these sates my sweet tooth.
Anonymous said…
As beautiful as it did look, it tasted 10x better.....yummmm!
Susan said…
Your cake looks picture perfect! I'm still struggling with the Baked Buttercream method! You should definitely post a photo on the "Baked" page on FaceBook!
Kris' Kitchen said…
You have the best looking caramel apple cake I've seen. Great work and lovely post.
Louise said…
Great looking cake.