Saturday, February 02, 2008

Cookbook Baking: Caramel Apple Cake

I have been looking forward to baking this cake since I went through my cookbooks early this week seeking out potential recipes to use to fulfill my new year's resolution to actually use cookbooks instead of just collecting them.

I received Paula Deen's Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cookbook several years ago as a gift from my college roommate, Meg. I tried a couple of the recipes from it, but they all seemed so sinfully fatty (Paula loves the mayo and the butter) that I didn't really go back to it. You simply cannot eat like that every day unless you are a marathon runner...and even then, I doubt that your arteries could stand up to the 3 jars of mayo and 10 pounds of butter per week that Paula wants to feed you.

When I was trying to choose a recipe from this book to use, I figured I'd better stick to the desserts, since those are supposed to be an indulgence. The very first recipe in the book's dessert section even seemed healthy...sort of. So, that's what I baked: Caramel Apple Cake.

Notes on the recipe: I am not impressed with Paula Deen's recipe structure. For one thing, it doesn't tell you anything about what the consistency of the cake batter should be. My cake batter turned out pretty thick, almost like a cookie dough. I kept checking the recipe to make sure I hadn't put too much flour in. If she had simply made a note that this cake batter wasn't as typically runny as most cake batters, I wouldn't have been so nervous.

In general, the recipe seems a little too bare bones. My cake turned out fine, but if I had been a beginner, I might have had to guess on a few too many things. Granted, this is a fairly simple recipe, so minor blunders probably wouldn't affect the outcome too much. Little things bug me though, like failing to specify whether the 2 cups of brown sugar should be tightly packed, lightly packed, or loosely packed or whether the apples should be peeled before dicing.

I also modified the recipe slightly by using two 9-inch round cake pans instead of a 13x9 inch cake pan. I didn't want to have one huge cake: I like to share the love, so I made two smaller ones. This decreased the baking time by quite a bit. My cakes were finished after 36 minutes, so if you do the same modification, keep that in mind.

I'll update when I've actually tasted the cake: I'm waiting for Karl to finish grading papers!

UPDATE: Oh, my word.
This is the most sinfully delicious cake I have ever eaten.
Karl and I had a piece for breakfast this morning, since last night we were both too full and too tired to eat any. I heated it up in the oven for about 10 minutes (on 250˚F) to get the caramel a little soft.
This cake melts in your mouth, literally. Karl said it tasted just like a caramel apple from a state fair (minus the hardness). It's really, really, really rich, but simply amazing. I will definitely be making this again.

Caramel Apple Cake
from Lady and Sons Savannah Country Cooking by Paula H. Deen

3 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups apples, diced (fresh or canned)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Cream the sugar, eggs, and oil until smooth. Add the flour, then mix in the apples, walnuts, and vanilla. Spread into a lightly greased 13x9 inch cake pan and bake for 45-60 minutes. Cake is done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Poke holes in the top of the cake, and pour the topping over it while warm.

Caramel Topping
3/4 lb butter (3 sticks)
2 cups brown sugar
1/4 milk

Mix all ingredients over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes. Pour immediately over warm cake.