Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Apple Walnut Cake with Caramel Butter Frosting

Everyone should have at least one go-to recipe that's a guaranteed smash hit. The one that makes people smile (applaud?) when you walk into a room carrying it on a plate. The one friends call you for. The one friends of friends call you for. This is mine. It's pretty much no-fail. You can make it into muffins, loaves, layers, even cookies just by adjusting the baking time. And the frosting? Just between you and me, I like to make this when no one else is home, so there will be no witnesses to my disgrace. It is finger-, spoon-, pot-licking amazing.
This is the kind of cake that just might become your signature sweet if you're willing to let it. You can bring it for coffee hour, for brunch, for baby showers and bachelor/ette parties, and of course for dessert ~ it's heavenly with scoop of French vanilla or cinnamon ice cream snuggled beside it if you warm a tiny bit first, just to make that frosting a little melty. Swoon.  
I like to make this with walnuts or pecans, though it's just fine with no nuts too. Throw in some dried cranberries, or don't. For apples, I like to use something tart and firm ~ Cortland, Granny Smith, Rome, even Macoun or Empire. If you're making cookies with the batter, go less on the apples or your cookies will be soft. If your making muffins or loaves, go to town.

Apple Walnut Cake with Caramel Butter Frosting
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour (can replace 1 cup white flour with wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 medium baking apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
Caramel Butter Frosting
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 stick (4 oz) butter
  • ¼ cup milk, cream, or half-and-half
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 to 11/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

    1. Spray two 9" cake pans with nonstick pan spray and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
    2. In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine flour, baking soda and baking powder, spices, and salt; set aside.
    3. In a large mixing bowl, combine oil, sugars, eggs, vanilla, apples, and walnuts; stir to combine. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon or large spatula to incorporate all dry ingredients. 
    4. Transfer batter to prepared pans and bake for approximately 30 minutes or until tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center tests clean. Remove pans to rack for 10 minutes; de-pan cakes and let cool completely before frosting or freezing.
    5. For Caramel Butter Frosting: Combine brown sugar, butter, and milk or cream in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let cook for 2 minutes or until thickened and bubbly. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla. Let cool until the caramel is just slightly warm. Using a hand mixer on medium speed, beat in confectioners’ sugar ½ cup at a time until desired consistency is reached. Frost cake layer(s) with a small offset spatula, swirling frosting in a smooth motion. If frosting hardens too quickly, place over low heat on stove (or in microwave for a few seconds) until it softens. If desired, add sprinkles or decorations immediately after spreading as this frosting will set up quickly. 
    Recipe Notes:
    • If desired, you can make this cake in a Bundt pan. Let bake a few minutes longer until a toothpick inserted in the center emerges clean ~ about 45 to 50 minutes. Let sit on rack for 15 minutes before removing cake from pan and cooling completely. Prepare frosting as directed but use less confectioners' sugar to achieve a drizzling consistency. Alternatively, thin frosting with a little bit of milk or cream, or heat and drizzle over cake while the frosting is melted. 
    • This cake freezes beautifully. Make one layer to serve now and wrap the other tightly in two layers of plastic wrap and store in the freezer to serve later. 


    The Duo Dishes said...

    Sandy, Sandy, SAN-DY!!!! That frosting. It is award-winning. And the cake looks so moist. Dying for a piece.

    HeatherS said...

    This looks fantastic! It's going into my queue.

    Anonymous said...

    ok, so I made this cake and it turned out dry! I think I may have only added 1/4 c oil, not sure was interrupted many times by my kiddos while making it. The kids and DH still gobbled it up but it looked nothing like your picture. May try again and pay close attention to what I am doing!

    Sandy Smith said...

    ~Anonymous: Well, I've definitely been there (interrupted), so I can relate! But this is one of those cakes that's super moist inside, even if you overbake it (been there too). I hope you get to give it another try . . . and incidentally, you can replace half the oil with applesauce if you'd like. Still moist.

    The top of this cake does dry when it bakes, unlike your average layer cake ~ I don't know if that's what you're referring to . . . but that's part of the charm because it contrasts so nicely to the really moist interior.

    Anyway, sorry it didn't come out for you ... hope you can make it again sometime. :)

    Anonymous said...

    Thanks so much for posting this recipe. I lost my fav apple cake recipe in the last move and have been trawling the internet for one close to it. This recipe is exactly the recipe I've been looking for! So happy about it! The Caramel frosting is an interesting addition- i always used to make an orange and cream cheese icing a la carrot cake-but will definitely try your caramel idea. Thank you again!

    Rachel Geho said...

    This is my absolute favorite apple walnut cake ever! I make it in a spring for pan (1) of them and it's turns out perfectly!

    Kelly W said...

    Thanks for posting this! Someone brought this to a party years ago and I've lost the recipe. Can't wait to taste it again! It is in the oven now!!

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