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Published September 27, 2009, 12:00 AM

Caramel apple cake could become a seasonal favorite

When golden leaves begin collecting along the roads I drive each day, and brown pine needles fill the gutters on my house and blanket the grass in my yard, my apple senses switch into high gear.

By: Sue Doeden, Bemidji Pioneer

When golden leaves begin collecting along the roads I drive each day, and brown pine needles fill the gutters on my house and blanket the grass in my yard, my apple senses switch into high gear. It’s time to visit an apple orchard on a sunny autumn day. It’s time to gather walnuts, cinnamon and other fragrant baking spices. Apple-baking season has begun.

There are a few apple recipes that have become fall traditions in my kitchen over the years. I still make the apple crisp that my older son and I baked together when he was young. Some years I pull out a recipe from my newlywed days that helps me create crust and filling for five big apple pies – one to bake and four to freeze. With a bag of apples, lots of nuts and a collection of fall baking spices along with some baking staples on my kitchen counter, it doesn’t take long before delicious aroma begins wafting through the house.

I’ve had a recipe for an apple cake in my “To Do” bin since sometime during the summer. I was saving it for a time like right now, when juicy apples are ready for picking. With some mixing and baking and testing and tasting, I’ve come up with a cake that is moist and flavorful. It delivers a mouth full of comforting, traditional fall flavors with each bite.

Caramel-Glazed Apple Cake is baked in a Bundt pan. I coat the inside of the pan with my homemade, no-stick mixture that I keep in a jar in my pantry. Equal parts of shortening, canola oil and flour are mixed together to form a smooth, thin paste. It’s easy to coat a cake pan with this mixture, using a pastry brush that will get into each crevice of the pan.

The thick cake batter, loaded with grated apples, nuts and coconut, is baked for about an hour. While the cake cools slightly in the pan, caramel glaze simmers on the stove.

The hot glaze thickens as it cools. Spoon it over the cake slowly, allowing some to seep in as the rest drips down the sides, forming a sweet, shiny drape over the apple-filled cake.

When the cake is cool, serve thick slices with a mound of Sweet Cream Whip. Cream cheese gives the Whip a slight tang, with sugar adding just the right amount of sweetness to make this mixture the only thing you will ever want alongside this cake.

Beautiful apples, jam-packed with good-for-you antioxidants, flavonoids and natural fiber, are delicious straight from the tree. But I know I’ll be peeling and grating apples to make more of these lovely cakes before I tuck the recipe into the file that gets pulled out each apple season. Caramel-Glazed Apple Cake with Sweet Cream Whip may become an apple-season tradition in your kitchen, too.

Caramel-Glazed Apple Cake with Sweet Cream Whip
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
3 cups grated peeled apples, about 3 medium
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 12-cup bundt pan. Set aside.

Sift flour, cinnamon and salt together. Set aside.

In a 2-cup glass measure, combine buttermilk and baking soda. Set aside.

In large mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar, canola oil, orange juice and vanilla together at medium speed of an electric mixer until mixture is smooth. Add buttermilk and soda mixture and blend well. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed until blended. Fold in apples, coconut and nuts. Pour batter in prepared pan.

Bake in preheated 325-degree oven for about 1 hour, or until wooden pick inserted into cake comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes. While cake is cooling, prepare glaze.

Glaze:
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Bring butter, sugar, baking soda, buttermilk and corn syrup to a boil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Boil, stirring often, 4 minutes, or until mixture is golden brown. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Turn cake out of pan onto wire rack. Place rack on a large sheet of waxed paper. Spoon hot glaze over hot cake. Continue slowly spooning the glaze over the cake until all of the glaze has been used. Scrape some of the drippings from the waxed paper and spoon over the cake. Allow cake to cool completely. Serve with Sweet Cream Whip.

Sweet Cream Whip
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup powdered sugar
Pinch table salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup heavy whipping cream

In mixing bowl, use electric mixer to beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and salt at medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Scrape down bowl with rubber spatula as needed. Add vanilla and beat to blend. With electric mixer at low speed, add heavy whipping cream in slow steady stream. When almost fully combined, increase speed to medium-high and beat until mixture holds soft peaks when beaters are lifted.

Tip from the cook

--You would think with so little of just a few ingredients, the glaze could be cooked in a smaller pot. It bubbles up, though, while cooking. Use a big pot.

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