This is the time of year when fruit bowls, trays and baskets pile up in many homes, ours included thank you very much.These gifts are meant to convey not only a wish of good tidings in the spirit of loving friendship but in a deeper meaning, an act of goodwill in sharing concern on one's good health. A gift of healthy fruit shows the importance a giver feels of the recipients' care and well being and even though the fruit may only last a short while, the act parallels the need of daily fruit as well as the need for such friendship.
Not wanting to waste any fruit, I immediately thought of ways to use it in cooking. I was reminded to use the apples to make a cake, the one that everyone loved so much last year, I actually made several. Then, I reminded myself, as a recipe blogger, there is constantly the need to make something different, something to share and record. That's when I came across a recipe I had tucked away from Cooks Illustrated for an apple cake along with notes of 'must try' recipes from Smitten Kitchen and from Michael Toa back when he was going through an apple craze (I think he just finished). This is what I came up with, a little something from all three. Enjoy!
Sticky Pecan Apple Cake
for the pan
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons Cointreau or orange liqueur
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of cold butter, sliced in tbsp pieces, set at room temperature for 30 minutes
for the apple mixture
4 green apples, peeled and diced
1 cup toasted chopped pecans or walnuts
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Grease a 12-cup tube or bundt pan with the butter. Sprinkle the sides and core with half of the granulated sugar and evenly sprinkle the rest in the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle evenly as possible the brown sugar using your fingers. Put pan aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and set oven rack in lower center.
In a small bowl, combine the eggs and whisk in the cream, Cointreau and extract. Put mixture aside.
Toss the apples in a bowl with the two sugars, cinnamon and pecans. Set aside.
Place sugar, flour, baking powder and salt in mixer bowl and stir with mixer on lowest speed for about a minute. Add butter 1 tablespoon at a time waiting about 15 seconds after each addition and continue beating until mixture resembles coarse meal or butter in no larger and small English peas. Add about a 1/2 of egg mixture, increase speed to medium high and slowly add remaining egg mixture in a steady stream. Scrape down the sides and beat at medium high speed another 30 seconds. Remove paddle.
Now folks, this is where I will alter today's recipe the next time I make this, and I will make this again. Today I alternated the apple mixture with the batter twice starting with the apples on the bottom. It stuck just too much for my liking even though I was warned from the Cooks test kitchen. Of course, I did add more sugars ...
Next time, I will do it a bit different. Here's how: Place just a few spoonfuls of the apple mixture in the bottom of the pan, not even enough to cover and top with one-third of the batter. I think the batter should reach down into the apples and sugar mixture and the topping will be just fine, and beautiful, kinda like many I like from Michael's kitchen. Evenly spread half of remaining apple mixture on top of the batter, repeat with another third of batter and remaining apple mixture. Spoon remaining batter on top and even out. Now the batter is rather thick and you will need to use an offset spatula to really get it all smooth, but it is a very good, almost pound cake texture that is also light and plays nicely with the pecan caramelized tasting apples.
Place pan in center of oven and bake for 45 minutes. Check with a cake tester or skewer, or when cake begins to pull away from pan. I trust the skewer insert method over the touch method on this type of cake. When skewer comes out clean of crumbs (not sugary mixture) immediately remove from oven and invert on a cake platter. Tap top of pan or carefully bang plate on counter to loosen cake. Replace any stuck apples to the top of cake (hopefully, there will be few) and allow cake to cool at least an hour before serving.
Dust with powdered sugar if desired and serve with a dollop of freshly whipped cream.