Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Caramel Apple Cake

As I told you yesterday, when I found out we were having a guest for dinner, I looked at my neglected cookbooks and, like Andy in "Toy Story," took them off the shelf to play. One of them was a favorite — "Baked: Explorations" — which always yields great results, but every damn recipe is time-intensive. I opted to make the Caramel Apple cake (recipe under the jump!) and just so you know, it's meant to create a three-layer 8-inch cake, but I have 9-inch cake pans and I didn't have high hopes we could decimate a 3-layer cake, so I halved the recipe.

This is the kind of cake that is so autumnal, even the spice/flour/sugar/salt mix smells amazing. This calls for ground cloves, cinnamon and allspice and every whiff was magical.

For expediency's sake, I opted to use natural pre-made applesauce rather than make my own. If you make the full recipe, you're gonna need 4 full cups of applesauce, which is the equivalent of 8 of the mini-cups! I added the applesauce to a mixture of butter and egg, alternating the flour mixture with applesauce three times, beginning and finishing with flour mix.

I poured the batter into cake pans that I prepped by first buttering them, then lining the bottom with parchment, which I also buttered. This was a bit intense, but proved perfect to slide the cakes right out with no mess or fuss.

I baked the cakes in an oven preheated to 325 degrees, rotating them halfway through the 40 minutes it took them to bake. 

Meanwhile, I got started on the caramel buttercream, which calls for making an INSANE amount of Baked's caramel sauce. Seriously, I made so much I ended up sending Andi home with a jar of the stuff. First, I heated a mixture of sugar, flour, milk and cream over medium heat, then when that was finished, beat it with butter and vanilla until it was thick frosting. 

To make the caramel sauce, I boiled sugar and corn syrup until it turned a rich caramel color, then moved it quickly off the heat and added butter and cream, stirring fast. 

The resulting caramel sauce, once cooled, went in the frosting and was mixed until I had the perfect icing.

All of this was hunky dory until it came time for cake assembly, when I realized, Oh right, I have no idea how to properly ice a cake. Nightmares!

I started out trying to do that perfect smooth icing and it looked awful. Then I tried to add the caramel swirls, with the marblelized effect, and oh boy, that looked terrible. I ended up just smearing it around in defeat. But! The good news is: the cake tasted great. The one little tweak I would make is perhaps making it a salted caramel was a touch too sweet for my taste.

Caramel Apple Cake
from Baked: Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Ingredients for the Apple Cake:
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground clove
  • 1 ½ cups [3 sticks] unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups homemade applesauce [recipe follows]
Ingredients for the Caramel Butter Cream:
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ½ cups whole milk
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 1 ½ cups [3 sticks] unsalted butter, soft but cook, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ⅓cup plus 2 tablespoon Classic Caramel Sauce at room temperature [recipe follows]
Preparation for the Apple Cake:
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment the flour and knock out the excess flour.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves together into a large bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until combined.
Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl in three parts, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack over 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let completely
Preparation for the Caramel Buttercream:
In a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce speed to low and add the butter and vanilla. Mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Add ⅓ cup of the caramel and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is to firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
Cake Assembly:
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread about 1 ¼ cups of frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost it, and then add the third layer. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake and put it in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to firm up. This is known as crumb coating and will help to keep loose cake crumbs under control when you frost the outside of the cake. Frost the sides and top with remaining frosting. Drizzle on a few swirls of caramel and refrigerate the finish cake for 15 minutes to firm it up before serving.
This cake will keep beautifully in a cake server at room temperature for up to three days, as long as the weather is cool and humidity free. Otherwise, place the cake in cake server and refrigerate for up to three days. Let a chilled cake sit at room temperature for at least two hours before serving.
Homemade Applesauce:
The basic recipe is to peel and cut apples and place them in a medium saucepan with a small amount (maybe a ⅓ cup) apple cider, ground cinnamon to taste, and a tiny bit dark brown sugar [optional]. Cover the saucepan and cook for about 30 minutes. Uncover and mash as you would potatoes.
Classic Caramel Sauce:
Ingredients for the Caramel Sauce:
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup corn syrup
  • ½ cup [1 stick] butter, softened, cut into ½-inch cubes
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream

Preparation of the Caramel Sauce:
In a medium saucepan with high sides, combine the sugar and corn syrup with ½ cup water. Stir the mixture gently so that you don’t slosh any of it up the sides of the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high, stop stirring, and allow the mixture to boil. Once begins to churn a rich caramel color (if you don’t want to eyeball it, take the caramel to 300°F on a candy thermometer), remove from the heat, add the butter and cream, and stir until combined.
You can save the caramel sauce, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to one week. Let it come to room temperature before using it on cakes, ice cream, or quick breads.
If you want a warm topping, heat the caramel sauce in short bursts in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler.

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