Rebecca Rather doesn't mess around. She takes her desserts very seriously, no joke. Just look at this cake. You see the title, and you probably think "Oh, ok, another apple cake." But wait - this cake is 3 9-inch cakes. Full of fresh apple flavor, fall spices, and enough butter to make Paula Dean's head spin. Then, its iced with mascarpone buttercream that's swirled with caramel, topped with even more caramel, and adorned with pecans. And no joke, I think it weighs 5 pounds. I'm most certainly not one to shy away from eating rich desserts. When someone puts down their fork and says they can't finish a dessert because its so rich, I make fun of them in my head. But well, I was one of those people with this cake. I'm ashamed (or proud?) to admit that I couldn't even finish a tiny sliver. Never mind that I had already eaten pumpkin pot pie, rolls, salad, and snacked on cheese and crackers all afternoon. I always make room for dessert, but I just didn't have it in me to finish this cake. Its that rich.
I was really excited and nervous to make this cake, because I haven't had very much practice with layer cakes. Cupcakes I've got down, but I always feel like my cakes are crooked, or domed, or not iced very well, etc. The nice things about this cake are that you don't have to worry about slicing perfect layers. Each layer is a cake. Also, Most of the icing is covered, either by pecans or caramel. So a "rustic" icing job will do just fine. It came together fairly quickly, and while I had to make a little extra icing to finish the detail work, I was pretty generous while filling the layers and icing the top.
While most people have been obsessed with pumpkin (okay, myself included), I've really enjoyed baking and cooking with apples and pears this fall. And if you can't get enough - check out the Featured Recipes Page. I've updated it with some great apple-ly recipes to try this fall.
One Year Ago: Vidalia Onion and Gruyere Tart
Apple-Spice Layer Cake with Caramel Swirl Icing
barely adapted from Rebecca Rather, The Pastry Queen Christmas
- 3 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
- 3 cups sugar
- 2 Tbs molasses
- 6 large eggs
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp kosher salt
- 2 Tbs ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 cup sour cream
- 3 granny smith apples, peeled and shredded (1 1/2-2 cups)
- 1 Tbs vanilla extract
- 1 Tbs fresh minced ginger (optional)
- 1 1/2-2 cups caramel
- 3 sticks butter, at room temperature
- 2 Tbs heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone
- 2 cups pecan pieces, toasted (optional)
In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the molasses, and scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. Add the eggs one at at a time, beating well after each egg. In a medium bowl, sift together the four, baking soda, salt, and ground spices. Add the sour cream and flour mixture alternately to the batter, starting and ending with the flour mixture (flour in 3 increments, sour cream in 2 increments). Stir in the shredded apples, vanilla, and fresh ginger.
The batter will be thick, so use a spoon to transfer evenly into the three pans (I actually used my kitchen scale to make sure I had even layers - anal much?). Place 2 of the pans side by side on one rack, and the third on the other rack. Make sure they are staggered so that no layer is directly under or above another. Bake 35-40 minutes, rearranging the layers about halfway through, until firm to the touch. Monitor the layers carefully, as they may be ready at different times.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and carefully unmold the cakes to a cooling rack. Cool completely before icing.
To make the icing, cream the butter on medium-high speed for about 3 minutes, until fluffy and pale. Add the powdered sugar over low speed until combined, then add the cream and vanilla. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the mascarpone and beat over low speed just until combined - it may seperate and curdle if its overbeaten.
Reserve about 1/4-1/3 cup of the caramel, then stir the remaining caramel into the frosting, using large strokes to create swirls throughout.
Place 1 cake layer on a serving plate or decorating stand, and spread a layer of icing on top. Top with the second cake, then repeat with more icing, then the final layer. Cover the cake with an even layer of frosting. Pat (or fling) the toasted pecans onto the sides of the cake, then decorate the top as you desire. Drizzle the remaining caramel over the top.