November 14, 2013

Bear Essentials: Apples
(+ Caramel-Apple Cake)





Are you ready for Real Truth time?

I've been hanging on to this recipe (and pictures, as you can probably tell) for over a year.

In October of last year, crisp Fall afternoon air coming through the screen door and a DVR'd episode of Masterpiece on the television, I was carefully constructing this cake when the phone rang.

They were calling to offer me the job.






And in that moment, the rhythm of life changed completely.

No more morning runs (in the daylight, anyway).  No more leisurely breakfasts while editing photographs.  And, more devastating than anything, no more afternoons spent entirely in the kitchen, making pate de fruits and tempering chocolate, blooming yeast and rolling pastry.  No more 4-hour projects.  

This is the last layer cake I made, and something in me felt like that life of mine would really be gone once I shared it.  So I've been hoarding.




But nothing good ever happens to your thighs when you hoard a layer cake.  It's long past time to accept this new state of affairs, my transition from project dinners to crockpot dinners, and to recognize that maybe festive layer cakes are slightly less festive if you make them twice a week.  

Given that, here's my last (and possibly best) layer cake.  Dense, apple-ey, and frosted (somewhat less than skillfully) with a demonically rich caramel buttercream.  Thanksgiving is coming, and your pumpkin pie wants a friend.  

Don't leave him hanging.







Caramel-Apple Cake
from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented
by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito

Apple Cake:
Flour  [ 4 cups, plus more for dusting ]
Baking Soda  [ 2 teaspoons ]
Baking Powder  [ 1 teaspoon ]
Salt  [ 1 teaspoon ]
Cinnamon  [ 2 teaspoons ]
Ground Allspice  [ 1 teaspoon ]
Ground Cloves  [ 1 teaspoon ]
Unsalted Butter  [ 1 1/2 cups, cut into 1-inch cubes, at room temperature, plus more for pans ]
Sugar  [ 2 1/2 cups ]
Eggs  [ 2 ]
Thick Applesauce  [ 4 cups - I used this recipe ]

Caramel Buttercream:
Sugar  [ 1 1/2 cups ]
Flour  [ 1/3 cup ]
Whole Milk  [ 1 1/2 cups ]
Heavy Cream  [ 1/3 cup ]
Unsalted Butter  [ 1 1/2 cups, cut into small pieces, soft but still cool ]
Vanilla Extract  [ 1 teaspoon ]
Classic Caramel Sauce  [ 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons, at room temperature ]

Classic Caramel Sauce:
Sugar  [ 1 1/2 cups ]
Corn Syrup  [ 1/4 cup ]
Water  [ 1/2 cup ]
Unsalted Butter  [ 1/2 cup, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, softened ]
Heavy Cream  [ 1 1/2 cups ]

Make Classic Caramel Sauce:
1.   In a medium pot with high sides, carefully stir together Sugar, Corn Syrup, and Water.  Do not let
        sugar crystals stick to sides of pan.
2.     Stir over Medium-High heat until Sugar dissolves.
3.   Remove spoon from pot, clip candy thermometer to pot, and increase heat to High.
4.   Bring Mixture to a boil; once it reaches 300 degrees F, remove from heat.
5.   Immediately stir in Butter and Cream until combined.
6.   Let cool to room temperature.

Make Apple Cake:
7.   Heat oven to 325 degrees F.
8.   Butter three 8-inch round cake pans; line bottoms of pans with parchment paper, and then butter
         parchment.
9.   Dust parchment paper with Flour and knock out any excess.
10.   In a large bowl, sift together Flour, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Salt, Cinnamon, Allspice,
            and Cloves.
11.   In a mixer bowl, beat Butter until creamy  [ about 4 minutes ].
12.   Add Sugar and mix until fluffy  [ about 3 minutes ].   
13.   Add Eggs and beat until thoroughly mixed.
14.   At Low speed, add 1/3  of the Flour Mixture, then 1/2 of the Applesauce, followed by 1/3 of the
            Flour, 1/2 of the Applesauce, and the last 1/3 of the Flour.
15.   Scrape down bowl with spatula and mix again on Low speed just until combined.
16.   Divide Batter among the three pans and smooth down the tops with a spatula.
17.   Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean  [ about 40 minutes ], rotating pans after 20
           minutes.
18.   Move pans to a wire rack; cool 20 minutes.
19.   Carefully turn cakes upside-down onto rack, peel away parchment paper, and let cool completely.

Make Caramel Buttercream:
20.   In a heavy medium pot, whisk together Flour and Sugar.
21.   Whisk in Milk and Cream.
22.   Cook over Medium heat, whisking occasionally, until mixture starts to boil and thickens  [ about 10-15
             minutes ].
23.   Pour Mixture into bowl of stand mixer.
24.   Beat on High speed with paddle attachment until mixture is completely cool.
25.   Reduce speed to Low; add Butter and Vanilla and mix until thoroughly blended.
26.   Increase speed to Medium-High; beat until frosting is fluffy.
27.   Add 1/3 cup of the Caramel Sauce and mix until combined.

Assemble Caramel Apple Cake:
28.   Set one Cake Round on your serving platter or cake plate.  With a serrated knife, trim top so that it is
             level.
29.   Spread about 1 1/4 cups Frosting evenly over top of Cake Layer.
30.   Add second Cake Round and repeat steps.
31.   Add third Cake Round.
32.   Spread a very thin layer of Frosting over top and sides of cake.
33.   Place cake in refrigerator for about 15 minutes  [ this step will make it easier to frost cake without
            getting crumbs mixed into the frosting ].
34.   Frost top and sides of Cake with remaining Frosting.
35.   Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons of the Caramel Sauce decoratively over top of cake.
36.   Place in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes before serving so that Caramel Sauce sets up.

[ Notes: like any buttercream, this one may occasionally offer challenges.  If buttercream breaks (develops a curdled-looking texture) or seems to have other consistency problems, all is not lost.  Generally, either application of cold (by placing in refrigerator for 15 minutes and then re-beating) or gentle heat (either by beating frosting over a double boiler or by wrapping a warm, wet dish towel around mixer bowl and then beating) will resolve your problem and bring the frosting back to the correct consistency to frost cake.  ]

Makes 1 8-inch, 3-layer cake


Another great recipe from the men of Baked:
Rosemary Apricot Squares

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