Now, it's a little-known fact that Herself the Birthday Girl isn't much of a one for chocolate. Given her druthers, it's caramel every time, so that's where we're starting from.
I did consider a tres leche cake, that sensuous mouthgasm of yellow cake soaked in condensed (thus part-caramelized) milk, topped with whipped cream, and there's some half-and-half in there somewhere which makes this technically quatro leches, and I was very nearly inspired to throw in a can of dulce de leche as well--and that would have been Quite Good, no mistake.
But then, I remembered that guaranteed-
Wait, wait, wait. What else goes well with pork, and also onions?
You know, whenever we're at Fensalir by the Bay, enjoying us some breen in the cafeteria, we nearly always finish up with a slice of their apple cake--the one where it looks like diced apples are given barely enough batter to fly together in loose formation, with a creamy vanilla sauce lazily, lazily, over the top.
This cake is not that cake. Actually, it's closer kin to an upside-down cake, only it's in a Bundt pan.
For this cake, I started with Cooks' Illustrated Apple Cake, first published in September, 2001, then added a few curlicues of my own--namely, ginger and cardamom, because cardamom in baked goods is an Ancient Indo-Swedish secret.
What you won't find are those pumpkin pie spices--nary a clove, allspice, or cinnamon in sight. It could probably have used a couple grinds of grains of paradise, but I didn't think of it in time.
The caramel sauce on top is, I suppose, optional--the original recipe suggests a dusting of powdered sugar, but one might also consider drizzling honey on top. Just don't, I beg, get caramel sauce from a jar...it's nowhere near the same.
Double-Ginger Apple Cake with Cardamom and Caramel
|16||T||unsalted butter (2 sticks), cut into 16 pieces, softened but still cool2|
|2||T||unsalted butter (softened) for pan|
|1 1/4||c||granulated sugar3|
|6||T||granulated sugar for pan|
|2||T||light brown sugar for pan|
|2||large egg yolks|
|1/2||c||heavy cream (4 ounces)|
|2 1/4||c||cake flour (9 ounces)4|
|2||Granny Smith apples (about 1 pound), peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes|
|3||T||crystallized ginger, chopped fine|
|2||T||light brown sugar|
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350°. Grease standard nonstick 12-cup Bundt pan with 2 T softened butter; dust sides with 2 T granulated sugar, then evenly distribute remaining 4 T granulated sugar in bottom of pan. Evenly sprinkle brown sugar on top of granulated sugar, breaking up large lumps with fingers.
- Use the three-bowl method to separate whites and yolks, then the whole eggs with the separated yolks in 2-cup measuring cup to combine. Add cream and vanilla and beat until thoroughly combined.
- In bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, combine flour, the 1 1/4 c sugar, baking powder, cardamom, ginger, and salt. Mix on lowest speed until combined, about 30 seconds. With mixer still running on lowest speed, add butter 1 piece at a time in 1-second intervals, beating until mixture resembles coarse meal, with butter bits no larger than small peas, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes.
- With mixer still running, add 1/2 cup liquid; mix at lowest speed until incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute--those familiar with the Way of Alton will recognize this as the Creaming Method.
- With mixer still running, add remaining liquid in steady stream (this should take about 30 seconds). Stop mixer and scrape down bowl with rubber spatula, then beat at medium-high speed to combine, about 30 seconds.
- Toss cubed apples with 2 tablespoons light brown sugar and the chopped crystallized ginger. Distribute in an even layer over sugar in pan. Add batter in 4 portions, and gently level with offset spatula. Bake until cake begins to pull away from sides of pan, springs back when pressed with finger, and toothpick or skewer inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Meanwhile, line wire rack with 12-inch square of foil. Immediately invert cake onto foil-lined rack.
- Now--RIGHT NOW--take that Bundt pan to the sink, get the water as hot as it will go in that sink, and wash that pan. Don't even aim the faucet into the pan until the water is hot. This, and only this, will get the caramel out of all those nooks and crannies before it turns into shellac--I thank you, your dishwasher thanks you, the non-stick coating of all your future cakes thanks you.
- Meanwhile, back at the cake...cool at least 1 hour, then slide onto serving plate; cut into slices and serve with caramel sauce.
The caramel sauce? Well, until bearmum — parts with her hard-won secret of how to make caramel in the microwave, I use Alton's. However, as I am indisposed towards the use of corn syrup, I have swapped in a tablespoon of Grade B maple syrup there: the viscosity is about the same, and it fulfills the scientific need for "sugar, but not necessarily 100% sucrose". Honey was a little too thick for me to be as sure of it here5.
- Ordinarily, I wouldn't say the number right out like that, but the year's in her profile, and besides, when you have that many years and still kick that much ass? Own every one of 'em, I say.
- I took this to mean "room temperature, not more than 72°".
- These days, I use raw sugar for most things.
- Here, I found a whole-grain organic pastry flour. At your store, you'll probably find cake flour--do try to find this if at all possible. The low protein in the flour will help make a moist cake.
- The caramel on the spoon will be pretty. Golden. Shiny. You may be tempted to touch it. Don't, because you also jolly well know, thanks to your candy thermometer, that it's bubbling along at 340°. DO NOT TOUCH IT. Er. Again. Well, maybe that blister will learn me...