I absolutely love fall. The leaves turning to beautiful shades of red and orange, the weather starting to cool off, that crisp bite in the air, the official ushering in of the holiday season, pumpkin-flavored everything, and, most of all, that magical time to dust off the decorations in the closet and decorate our home for the holidays. I don’t think anything says fall more than warm baked goods with lots of spice and fruit. Luckily for us (and you, if you decide to recreate this amazing cake), I found this great recipe on one of my absolute favorite food blogs, Smitten Kitchen. Deb, the author of Smitten Kitchen, has such an amazing way with words, food photography, and above all else, cooking and baking. I’ve tried a couple of her recipes before, but this was the first sweet dish that I decided to whip up. And boy was it worth it! Our dear friends, The Lorchs, are both celebrating birthdays in a few weeks, so we thought this would be a perfect excuse to try out this recipe and make a luscious cake to celebrate with them. I highly recommend that you head to the store, pick up some ripe apples, and get in the kitchen. But beware! This is a huge cake and the preparation itself is quite an undertaking. I literally used every bowl and whisk in our kitchen! The specific recipe I used was for a two-layer 9-inch round cake, but the original recipe is meant to serve about 50 people. I guess if you’re having a big party, you can follow the link at the bottom to the original site and get the correct amounts for the large cake.
This is the very first cake I’ve ever attempted to make from scratch. I’m a bit scared of baking, mostly because you have to measure things so precisely or you’re likely to end up with a brick of flour and seasonings that’s completely inedible. Cooking is so much more forgiving; you can throw in more salt, spices, or vegetables to your heart’s content and still come out with a pretty decent dish. Unless you over-salt (or totally scorch) something, it’s pretty difficult to completely destroy a recipe simply by having your measurements slightly off. Baking, on the other hand, is a precise science. When undertaking this recipe, I decided to follow Deb’s advice and weigh mostly everything. If you don’t own a food scale, go out and get one right now! I use ours almost every time I cook, if for nothing else than to determine what a “serving size” actually is. It’s usually a lot smaller than I’d assume…But yes, get a food scale. It’s great for baking, as I learned while baking this cake, because it’s difficult sometimes to know how tightly packed a cup of flour really should be.
I’d also like to note that I ended up with a little extra batter and lots of excess frosting, so I decided to use the leftovers to make some mini muffins. They were delicious! Spray a mini (or regular size) muffin tin with Pam for Baking (or use paper cups), fill with batter, and then bake at 350 degrees F for ~ 15 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick and making sure it comes out clean. Wait until the muffins are completely cool before attempting to frost them; if they’re hot, the frosting will absolutely melt and slide right off the muffin tops. I guess you could similarly use this batter recipe to make some loaf cakes; just be sure to adjust the cooking time on your own as they make take less or more time to bake all the way through depending on the size of your tin.
3 medium apples, any variety (We chose green Granny Smith apples because they looked beautiful at the grocery store.) [375 calories]
3 ¾ cups (470 grams) all-purpose flour [1500 calories]
½ – ¾ teaspoon (5 grams) table salt
½ – ¾ teaspoon (4 grams) baking soda
1 tablespoon (15 grams) baking powder
½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾ cup (252 grams) honey (We happened to have orange blossom honey, and it was delicious!) [720 calories]
2 ¼ cups (585 grams) applesauce (We used store-bought original style, but there’s a great homemade recipe on the Smitten Kitchen site that you can find with the original recipe.) [180 calories]
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature [1200 calories]
¾ cup (145 grams) packed dark brown sugar [540 calories]
3 large eggs [210 calories]
2 8-ounce blocks cream cheese, at room temperature [1600 calories]
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature [1600 calories]
2/3 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 cups (480 grams) powdered sugar, sifted [1920 calories]
Calories per serving: 608 calories (for 16) or 487 (for 20)
Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F. Wash, peel, halve, and core the apples. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then arrange the apple halves on the parchment face down. Roast them for ~ 25 minutes, or until dry and slightly browned on the bottom. Slide parchment paper and apples onto a cooling rack. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. In a medium bowl, whisk together applesauce and honey. In another large bowl, beat the butter and dark brown sugar with an electric mixer (medium speed) for ~ 2 minutes until very fluffy. While continuing to beat the mixture, add the eggs, one at a time, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl between each egg addition.
Once egg/sugar/butter mixture is ready, add 1/3 of the flour mixture, then mix well with electric mixer (medium speed) for 1-2 minutes until just combined. Add half of the applesauce/honey mixture, again mixing until just combined. Add another 1/3 of the flour mixture, mix until combined, add other half of applesauce/honey mixture, mix until combined, and then add final 1/3 of flour mixture, and mix entire concoction until smooth.
Cut roasted apples into small squares (1/2 inch on a side), and slowly fold into the batter, being sure not to squish the apples. Line the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans with parchment paper, then either butter or spray (Pam for Baking) the top of the parchment paper and the sides of the cake pan. Divide the batter between the two pans. Bake the cakes for 35-40 minutes, making sure cake is done by inserting a toothpick into the center of the cake and making sure it comes out clean. Remove cakes to cooling racks, allow to sit for 10 minutes, flip cakes out of the pans, and then allow them to fully cool with the correct side facing up on the cooling racks.
While cakes are cooling, make the frosting. In a large bowl, whip softened butter and cream cheese with electric mixer (medium speed) until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Add vanilla extract and mix into the butter/cheese. Add powdered sugar, a little bit at a time, mixing between each addition. (Note: the powdered sugar will go everywhere if you add to the creamy mixture and immediately turn on the mixer. We suggest stirring the powdered sugar into the creamy mixture a little bit before turning on your electric mixer. It took about 8 individual additions of powdered sugar to get everything mixed in together well.)
Once cake has cooled and frosting has been made, put first cake layer on your serving platter and tuck pieces of parchment paper under the edges of the cake. (This is the best trick! Now you can frost and decorate your cake without making a huge mess of your serving platter. Once you’re totally finished preparing the cake, you can easily slide out the pieces of parchment paper and you’ll have a pristine serving platter with a beautiful cake!) Thickly spread about 1/3 of the frosting onto the cake layer, place second cake layer on top, then carefully use the rest of the frosting to coat the top and sides of the cake. Voilà – deliciousness!
This recipe was originally adapted from Deb Perelman’s site, Smitten Kitchen. The original recipe is for a two-layer sheet cake that serves nearly 50 people (yikes!), so we used her suggestion to make only half the batter and 2/3 of the frosting to create a two-layer round cake made with 9 x 13 inch pans (amounts shown in this recipe). She also has some great suggestions for decorating, preparing, and storing the cake. If you’d like to see the original version, you can find it here
Roasted Apple Spice Sheet Cake.