Monday, October 31, 2011

Caramel Apple Cake

This Caramel Apple Cake while beautiful, full of fall flavor that brought a smile to my face, warmth to my heart, and happiness to my stomach, was indeed an all day affair to make. This is not the post where I say how happy I was for a one page simple recipe! And as I am not a fan of multiple layer cakes (more than 2) I elected to stay as close to the book recipe and format, but omitting one layer.

The most important components of this cake are the apple sauce, the caramel, and the frosting. I did make my apple sauce and caramel from scratch which was fun, simple and filled the house with fall aromatics...and it tasted Delicious!!

I was impressed by the velvety smoothness of the frosting, and the caramely apple flavors of the cake overall, made it worth all of the work. Since I waited to do everything at once, it was a long day! Really though the apple sauce and caramel components, if you are making from scratch, can be done the day before. That alone saves time and breaks up the process making it more manageable -and- fun. This is a cake that truly deserves a place in any Fall line-up.


4-6 apples, peeled and cored
1/3 cup apple cider
Ground Cinnamon, to taste
1-2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
Classic Caramel Sauce
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened, cut into 1/2 cubes
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Apple Cake
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground all spice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
4 cups homemade applesauce, or store bought unsweetened apple sauce
Carmel Buttercream Frosting
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons Classic Caramel Sauce


Apple Sauce
Take your apples and place them in a medium saucepan with the apple cider, ground cinnamon, and brown sugar. Cover the saucepan and cook for about 30 minutes. Uncover and mash as you would potatoes. You can mash as fine as yourpersonal preference allows. Feel free to leave it a little chunky, is that is your thing. Anything goes here.

Classic Caramel Sauce
In a medium saucepan with high sides, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/2 cup water. Stir the mixture gently so you don't slosh any of it up the sides of the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to high, stop stirring, and allow the mixture to boil. Once it begins to turn a rich caramel color (if you don't want to eyeball it, take the caramel to 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer), remove it from the heat, add the butter and cream, and stir until combined.
You can save the caramel sauce, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Let it come to room temperature before using it on cakes, ice creams, or quick breads.
If you want a warm topping, heat the caramel sauce in short bursts in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler.
Apple Cake
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock the excess out.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves together into a large bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until incorporated.
Add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl in three parts, alternating with applesauce, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cook for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.

Caramel Buttercream
In a medium-heavy bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture comes to a boil and had thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter and vanilla; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high until the frosting is light and fluffy.

Add 1/2 cup of the caramel and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Assemble the Caramel Apple Cake
Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Trim the top to create a flat surface and evenly spread about 1 1/4 cups of the frosting on top. Add the next layer, trim and frost it, then add the third layer. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake and put it in the refrigerator for abot 15 minutes to firm up. (This is known as crumb coating and will help to keep loose cake crumbs under control when you frost the outside of the cake.) Frost the sides and top with the remaining frosting. Drizzle on a few swirls of caramel and refrigerate the finished cake for 15 minutes to firm it up before serving.

This cake will keep beautifully in a cake saver at room temperature for up to 3 days, as long as the weather is cool and humidity free. Otherwise, place the cake in a cake saver and refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Let a chilled cake sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.


  • The frosting got me the first time. I am not known for my patience so when it says to put the hot frosting base into the mixer and mix on high until cool...that it what one should do. I wasn't patient and my frosting base wasn't was still warm-ish when I added the butter/vanilla. The result was my first batch of frosting never set up, was liquid and tasted delicious. It looked and tasted more like a custard. Tasty mistake that I ate several spoons of before emptying down the sink. I tried putting it in the fridge with high hopes it would set up, but nope- didn't work. When I told Andy of my issue...he said "are you gonna do it again?" In my head I thought- Hell No- I really don't want to...but as we both tend to be particular about these things and since I had about 6 additional packages of butter in the fridge there was no good excuse not to! And I wanted to understand what the heck I did wrong.
    • This time I actually did what I was told to do. I let it beat on high until it was cool. To quicken the process I wrapped a cold wet kitchen towel around the mixing bowl. Once cool, I added the butter which was cold and straight from the fridge, chopped and then added in sections. Totally different result. Voi -%@*-  La!
  • Before adding frosting to each cake layer, I spread a layer of caramel on top first...and then put the frosting on top of that-Yum!


Source: Baked Explorations

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sawdust Pie

I am a big fan of one page recipes (even though the dough and cream were on other recipe pages). The Sawdust Pie reminds me of a pecan pie as the flavor and texture is similar and I think it's perfect for fall.

Talk about an easy to make pie! I hate to sound like a broken record, but this was another simple and straightforward dessert from Baked Explorations. I made the dough one night after work and stuck it in the fridge. Next day after work, came home rolled out the dough and did the rest. I was moving fast and it was done before I knew it. The only problem was after making and eating this delicious recipe, it dawned on me the next day that I couldn't remember if I did or did not put the graham crackers in. I have thought about it many times and still don't know. It's a great excuse to make it again.

Some of the ingredients are among my favorites (pecans, brown sugar, and graham crackers). However, my roommate can't stand coconut...the result of a drinking binge on Malibu back in his younger years. He was hesitant to eat it but did because that is what good roommates do, and thankfully, he loved it! He didn't taste the coconut flavor so much but could tell the texture was there but that didn't bother him so much. It was a success for him, which makes me happy as I do want to make this again soon.


Classic Pie Dough
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter

Sawdust Pie
1 ball classic pie dough
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups unsweetened coconut flakes
1 1/4 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, about 21 graham crackers
2 ounces high-quality white chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Simple Whipped Cream
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons granulated sugar


Classic Pie Dough
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together. In a measuring cup, stir 3/4 cup water with several ice cubes until it is very cold.

Cut the cold butter into cubes and toss them into the mixture to coat. Put the mixture in the bowl of a food processor and pulse in short bursts until the butter pieces are the size of hazelnuts.

Pulsing in 4-second bursts, slowly drizzle the ice water into the food processor through the feed tube.

As soon as the dough comes together in a ball, stop adding water. Remove the dough from the food processor and divide it in half. Flatten each piece into a disk and wrap each disk first in parchment paper and then in plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough until firm, about 1 hour. (The dough can be kept refrigerated for up top 3 days or frozen up to 3 months.Thaw it in the refrigerator before proceeding with your recipe.)

Sawdust Pie
Dust a work surface with a sprinkling of flour. Roll out the dough ball into a 12-inch round. Transfer it to a pie dish and carefully work it into place, folding any overhang under and crimping the edge as you go. Wrap and refrigerate the crust for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large bowl, use a wooden spoon to combine the sugars, coconut, pecans, graham crackers crumbs, white chocolate and salt. Add the egg whites and vanilla and stir together until just combined - the egg whites should coat all of the ingredients.

Transfer the filling to the prepared pie shell. Bake until filling is set to the touch, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool the pie for at least 1 hour before serving it warm, with whipped cream and sliced bananas, if you like.

Whipped Cream
Pour the cream into a chilled metal bowl and beat with a chilled whisk for about 1 minute or until soft peaks form. Sprinkle the sugar on the cream and continue whisking vigorously until stiff peaks form.


  • For the whipped cream, you can use a standing mixer with a whisk attachment. I do not have any intention to whisk by hand unless the electricity is out. And I definitely don't make time to chill my bowls or whisks.


Source: Baked Explorations

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Pumpkin Cheddar Muffins

Fall is here and even though I live on the west coast and a short drive from the ocean, I absorb the trappings of the season as even Southern California can present. Fall is my favorite season and not just because I was born in October but because I have a sincere fondness for the seasonal foods with the warm spices and the change in weather means cool ocean breezes are replaced by the annual warm Santa Ana winds that roll through the mountains and onto the Pacific.


I also live just a couple miles from the local Underwood Family Farm and each year I get to witness the excitement in local residents as they spend more time at the farm stands buying seasonal produce and sorting through the pumpkins up for sale to find just the right ones. This is also the start of hay rides and corn maize, mazes. These are all things I look forward to as summer ends and fall begins.

With all that said, doing our first official fall recipe in Club Baked is something I have been waiting to dig into albeit with some skepticism. A recipe with these types of ingredients that indicates a sweet/savory muffin left me wondering if I would like it, hate it, or if it would be sort of- whatever. The end result is that the Pumpkin Cheddar Muffin is surprisingly very tasty and I had to stop myself from eating more. In fact that is not true...I didn't stop myself! I am still eating them as I write this post.


1 cup canned solid-pack pumpkin puree
3 tablespoons sour cream
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/4 cups (about 4 ounces) grated sharp cheddar
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds, optional


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly spray each cup of a standard 12-cup muffin pan with a little bit of vegetable spray and use a paper towel to spread the oil evenly along the bottom and up the sides of each cup.

In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and sour cream. Add the eggs and butter and whisk until combined.

In another large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cayenne pepper, salt, black pepper, and brown sugar. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the well, and fold until just combined. Fold in three-quarters of the cheese.

Divide the batter among the muffin cups. Spring the remaining cheddar and the pumpkin seeds on top of the muffins. Bake them for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Let the muffin pan cool on a rack for 10 minutes before turning the muffins out. Serve them warm.

Muffins taste best when eaten fresh, but they can be made ahead of time and reheated in a 200-degree oven.


  • At the advice of the authors in the 'Baked Note' (on the recipe page) to try the "raw-milk" variety of cheddar cheese I went to a local store,Whole Foods, that carries a wide variety of more indulgent, organic, and gourmet products to see if I could hunt this product down. Unfortunately, I did not find it  (pretty sure I just didn't look hard enough) although I did buy some other delicious cheeses for snacking. In the end, I used an organic brand of sharp cheddar from Vons.
  • I used the smaller pumpkin seeds for garnishing the muffin tops which I seasoned and baked prior to making the muffin recipe. I mixed the seeds with some sugar, butter, garlic powder, cayenne, chili powder, and Parmesan. I put the seeds on half of the muffins, the other half without. In the end both my roommate and I preferred the muffins with these sweet/savory seeds as they added just the right of amount of kick and the flavors blended beautifully with the muffin and added some needed textural crunch. My roommate and I discussed all the delicious crock-pot recipes this muffin would go great with in the coming months. It could easily take the place of a cornbread muffin with a savory winter chili
  • The recipe does call out for a standard size muffin pan (yield 12 muffins) but I used a large 6 muffin pan since I am large muffin kind of girl.