Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Breathing in the aroma of fall through baking...

Baking for another Wednesday Treat Day was on tap for today - since we have an abundance of gorgeous apples we picked at the orchard, we figured it was time to start making a dent in our supply! For this week's treat, I made this Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting.

The preparation for the cake portion of this sweet recipe was a snap to do - all but two of the ingredients are tossed into a mixing bowl and beat together until crumbly. I used a combination of fragrant cinnamon, fresh grated nutmeg, cardamom and ginger to spice up this mixture - if you don't have those spices on hand already, you could just tally up the teaspoons and use the equivalent of prepared apple pie spice.

As I said, this mixture is rather crumbly - so at this point, a hearty dose of chopped apples (I used a combination of Honeycrisp, Fire Side and Golden Delicious) are added, along with a cup of lightly toasted chopped walnuts. Once those apples are jostled around with the mixer, their juices are released, transforming the crumbly mixture into a thick batter that is quite reminiscent of cookie dough.

Don't worry if you see the cake rise quite a bit halfway through baking and then slowly fall back as it gets closer to being done... it is suppose to work like that! Once thoroughly cooled, the cake is topped with a sweet penuche-like frosting. The frosting isn't too fussy, but it is a bit more work than a regular frosting - just be sure to let the butter and brown sugar mixture cool for about 10 minutes before beating in the confectioners' sugar. Do note that the frosting will need to be spread while still warm - if you wait too long to spread it, it will begin to set and not cover the cake well.

The cake portion was very moist with chunky bits of apple strewn throughout - I wouldn't say it was dense, but it was not necessarily light in texture either. It kind of reminded me of a rich fall-spiced blondie, especially with the toasted chunks of walnuts in each bite. While fairly sweet, the thin layer of frosting was killer and turned out to be a fantastic combination with the cake underneath - it was pretty tough to stop tasting it as I was trying to spread it on top! Another benefit of this cake? It makes the house swell with the aroma of fall from those aromatic spices!

For our dinner tonight, I made these individual Smoky-Spicy Tamale Pies. After browning a bit of turkey meat I coarsely ground in the food processor, we added chopped onion, a scoop of the corn I stashed in the freezer earlier in the summer and a couple cloves worth of minced garlic. We seasoned the crumbly mixture with chili powder, cumin and a healthy pinch of ground chipotle chile to back up the smoky notes from the cumin, along with a punch of heat. If you don't happen to have the chipotle, you could use about an eighth of a teaspoon worth of cayenne pepper to get that kick.

Red kidney beans and a mess of fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles (woo! let's hear it for spiciness!) are tossed into the skillet and quickly warmed through. Once divided out into the ramekins, a quick cornbread topping is whipped together and spooned over each serving. You'll just need to bake these long enough to bake that layer of cornbread... which is just enough time to make the filling pipping hot! If for some reason your ramekins are extra full, be sure to place them on a baking sheet before going into the oven to prevent any messes if the juices bubble over the edge.

If only I thought ahead to double this... I would have certainly enjoyed another dish of this for lunch tomorrow - at two servings, Jeff and I thought it was pretty generous too. If you want to tone down the level of heat, use regular fire-roasted tomatoes and if you have it, use ancho chile powder, instead of the chipotle, to ramp up the smokiness. The recipe actually called for making two ramekins full, but it called for a ramekin size of 1 1/2 cups - I didn't have those, so I split the recipe into three 1 cup ramekins. Jeff and I just fought for the third dish - and while Jeff would lead you to believe we each ended up with half, I bet Jeff got more! If you do have the larger ramekins and wish to use them, just divide to filling and topping between the two - you will need to add 10 or so minutes to the baking time.


  1. Everything smells Fall. That old-fashioned cake may be on my table pretty soon. Looks so good.

  2. The apple cake looks great, i just love the combination of apple and all those spices.

  3. That cake, I absolutely have to make it. The penuche frosting sounds so delicious on top of this cake!

  4. Helene - Thanks!

    CCG - Me too.

    Honeyb - That frosting was quite delicious... but it does set up fast, so don't take your time slathering it on!

  5. The frosting was a little sweet for my taste so I added a teaspoon of whisky (okay, a healthy teaspoon) and it was delicious.

    I also made the cake part fat-free by using applesauce in place of the butter. All in all it was fantastic, and disappeared quickly when I took it in to work.

  6. Brenda - Thanks for the feedback!