Simply Gorgeous Caramelized Apple Spice Cake

Although chocolate cake may always be my favorite cake, there is something about a cake that is rich with spice and topped with a creamy frosting — especially if nuts and apples are included.  The heavenly scent that fills my house when it bakes — goodness.

I knew when I saw it in the November issue of Martha Stewart Living that it was a contender for dessert to be served at a recent dinner party.  The November issue of Sunset also had a tall, lovely cake on its cover, but it was the apples that sold me on the Caramelized-Apple Spice Cake with Brown-Sugar Swiss Meringue Buttercream.  And I’m so glad it did, because this is a fabulous cake from start to finish.

It was so tall and elegant looking with its cinnamon colored frosting and glimmering marzipan decorations.  I just had to make it.

I had so many questions, though.  Would mine turn out as tall?  And should I even bother with the marzipan?  Why not?  I’d never made anything with marzipan before.  Would I have the time since I was also completing the November Daring Bakers challenge?  Maybe it would be biting off a bit much.  And what about that butter cream frosting? Do I really need anything with that much butter in it?

I began the cake Friday afternoon, certain that I’d not be able to do the whole cake on Saturday before dinner.

The recipe calls for pecan halves that need to be toasted, then “finely ground in a food processor.”  I couldn’t get past the idea of paying more money for pecan halves and then having to grind them, but this was a Martha recipe and it’s funny how often there are extra steps that don’t always seem to be necessary, but cost more.  I rationalized that perhaps since the pecan halves needed to be toasted, the brown hull might be important, where as chopped pecans may not turn out the same.  So much for my food science knowledge. I had the pecan halves already, so went ahead with the toasting, and almost burned the darn things messing around with something else.  They did have what my mother likes to call a “high brown” on them, which considering how brown they already are, is pretty brown!

I grated the apples as required by the recipe using a box grater.  I grated several of my knuckles along with the apples, unfortunately.  But moving right along, I noticed that while cooking the apples, the liquid never quite evaporated as the recipe described, so ended up straining most of the liquid out of the apples, worrying that perhaps some flavor might be lost.  But I decided that was better than batter that was too thin.

I used two 8″ x 3″ cake pans with removable bottoms which were a bit awkward to butter and flour.  The batter filled both pans about 3/4 full.  I used a convection setting at 350 degrees F, but reduced it to 345 degrees F about half way through the 55 minute baking time.  At this point the spicy aroma was just beginning to fill the kitchen.  The layers were rising nicely in the pan, and browning evenly.  With 10 minutes left, the top was firm to the touch, and although I thought it was done, left it in for 5 more minutes.  A wooden skewer inserted in the center came out clean, so I removed the layers from the oven at the 50 minute mark, leaving them to cool on baking racks for the required 30 minutes.  At that point, I removed them from the pans to finish cooling to room temperature, then inserted each into a plastic zip lock bag for the night.

For the frosting, I used egg whites I had frozen, and then thawed (which work very nicely) and added the butter piece by piece. The frosting firms quite a bit if you let the mixer run for the 3-5 minutes after adding the butter.

To construct the cake, I did not cut the layers to the 1-3/4″ required inches.  Instead, I turned one layer upside down, spread the required 1-1/2 c. frosting over it, making sure it was level.  Then I fitted the second layer over it, top up.  I spread a thin coat over the entire cake, then put it in the refrigerator for the required 45 minutes.

The nice thing about putting the cake in the refrigerator is that when finishing the frosting, the buttercream firmed as soon as it touched the chilled layer already on the cake.  It went on like silk and was a delight to work with.

The cake was so beautiful and I was feeling so great about the way itmturned out, I couldn’t resist stamping a few leaves to decorate the top and sprinkle on some glimmer dust for a bit of elegance.

Oh goodness.  Am I glad that I did some planning to get this cake made.  The cake is more dense than fluffy, and is just as good for dessert as it is with a cup of coffee in the morning, or tea in the afternoon. It has substance — little pieces of pecans that didn’t quite get chopped, and grated apple that keep it so moist and delicious.  And the butter cream?  I’ve never been a fan of any kind of frosting, but the texture of this frosting is not only the perfect accompaniment to the spice in this cake, it is just nice frosting.  Not cloyingly sweet and heavy.  But soft and beautiful.  So very easy to spread and work with.

But I still haven’t figured out why Martha’s icing is darker than mine.  Hmmm…