Make Me A Sandwich!...Apple Cranberry Cake
Fall is here and all I have to say to that is...well, just listen to this.
Yes, fall has some crazy weather. It also has some apples. A few weeks ago we took a family trip to a farm that had hayrides and farm animals to pet and big slides to go down. It also had an apple orchard. The orchard was at the bottom of a very large and very steep hill. At the top of this hill (some may call it a mountain but I’ve been to Colorado and hiked up to 14,000 feet so this is no mountain) sat a winery and a brewery. We picked apples looking up longingly wishing we were drinking wine and beer instead of picking apples down at the bottom of the mountain. I bet that wine was delicious. Wait? Where was I? I yeah, picking apples. Sorry, I got thirsty.
After going to the orchard I had apples on the brain. That is when my monthly Food & Wine magazine arrived for the month of October. I guess the writing and editorial staff over there at Food & Wine realize aren’t idiots because they realized it was the fall so people would be picking apples and would then, in turn, need recipes for something to do with those apples. What a coincidence that a recipe of a cake made with apples would arrive just about the same time as our apple picking trip. What luck!
Since all coincidences must come in threes (or is that just celebrity deaths?), my father-in-law was coming into town for a weekend visit. Everything was in place for a Make Me A Sandwich event. It was time to go back to the well of the baking alchemy and create an Apple-Cranberry Cake.
Here is what you’ll need:
1 baking apple
½ cup of brown sugar
½ cup of cranberries
¾ cup of granulated sugar
¾ cup of sour cream
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
1 ½ cups flour
1 stick of butter
1 tsp. of baking powder
½ tsp. of salt
The hardest part of this whole baking thing is the peeling of the apple. Peeling an apple sucks. It is absolutely terrible. It isn’t like peeling a potato. The starchy skin of a potato makes using one of those hand held peelers a breeze. The waxier skin of an apple causes the potato peeler to slide right down the skin of the apple and across your finger, resulting a more of a blood pudding with some shaved index finger rather than an apple-cranberry cake.
My mom has this contraption that looks like it was built in 1927 but was more likely designed by a NASA engineer in 1997 in order to peel apples. She just puts the apple in and turns a crank. Using the mechanical wizardry of Tony Stark, this manual machine cores and peels the apple in a few simple turns of the screw. Unfortunately, I don’t have the storage space or the desire to purchase this modern marvel of technology so I had to develop my own peeling strategy.
I used a three-part approach to core and peel the apple that required an apple corer, a sharp knife, and a potato peeler. Step 1: Push the corer through the apple. An apple corer is a nifty hand held device that I’m pretty sure Rizzo got for free at a Pampered Chef Party. Step 2: Cut the apple in half using the sharp knife. A knife is a simple tool with a sharp blade invented by homo sapiens about 2.5 million years ago. Step 3: Carefully use that potato peeler that wouldn’t work in the first paragraph to peel the apple. Why does it work now? Because the peeler can grab hold of the apple guts (that is why you cut the apple in half) instead of trying to grab onto the skin. Three steps to a perfectly peeled apple.
Once you have your apple peeled slice that guy into ½ inch thick pieces. Make sure you use a ruler to measure the width of your apples. If you cut your apples to ¼ inch thickness or ¾ inch thickness, then your cake will be totally ruined and you will have wasted not only the apple but your entire life. OK, that isn’t true. Your cake will turn out perfectly fine I just wanted to watch you measure your apple slices.
Now let’s start building a cake. Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper. Make sure you are using parchment and not papyrus. Arrange a layer of the baking apples in the cake pan (you know, on top of the parchment. Sprinkle the ½ cup of light brown sugar and the ½ cup of cranberries on top of the apples. We happened to have some frozen cranberries in our freezer. If you are using frozen cranberries make sure you thaw them first. I don’t know if it really makes a difference but that is what I did to make my cake so just follow my lead.
At this point, take your stick of butter and pop it in the microwave for about 30 seconds. You’re going to need melted butter pretty soon. Also, set your oven to 350 degrees so it can get to temperature.
With the base of the cake ready it is time to make the bulk, or the guts, of the cake. Start off by dumping the 2 eggs, the ¾ cup of granulated sugar, the ¾ cup of sour cream, and the 1 tsp. of vanilla extract in a bowl and beating that all together with a mixer. I used my stand mixer because while US law is now correct in recognizing gay marriage it still contains an obscure legal standard that all married couples must receive a stand mixer as a wedding present. If you are single or the winner of a divorce (which means you didn’t get the stand mixer in the settlement), a hand mixer will work just as well and will help to build your shoulder muscles.
While still beating the mixture, slowly add in the 1 ½ cups of flour, then the stick of melted butter, then the 1 tsp. of baking powder, and then the salt. Continue to beat the batter with the mixer until everything is mixed together and it looks pretty smooth. It should only take a couple of minutes until everything is mixed together.
Once you are done mixing, take a minute and look around your house. Do you live with a weirdo that enjoys the taste of uncooked cake batter? If you are wondering, it is probably the same crazy person that likes to eat raw cookie dough. If you do, then give them the mixers to lick clean. They will love you for it and will think you are actually being thoughtful by sacrificing the joy of licking the raw batter so they could be happy. In reality, you are avoiding salmonella while simultaneously earning the good graces of this person and not eating that disgusting mush. Well done.
Go back to your bowl of batter and spread it evenly in the cake pan over the apple mixture. I like to tap my cake pan against the counter a few times to get rid of the air bubbles but that’s just because I’m anal. Bake the cake in your 350-degree oven for about 50 minutes (my oven tends to run a bit hot so it only took 43 minutes for me). Once you can pull a clean toothpick from the center of the cake you are all set. Let the cake sit in the pan for about 10 minutes then flip the cake over on a plate, slice, and serve.
I won’t lie. I’m pretty sure that this has been the most delicious thing I’ve made so far during this year of Make Me A Sandwich!. Not only that, the cake got better overnight. When it was served immediately the cake was spongy like a devil's food cake but still delicious with the combination of the apples and cranberries. The brown sugar almost seemed to melt and create a nice sauce/frosting over the top of the cake. It was good but after being in the fridge overnight the cake really thickened up and it became great. A slice of this cake, which was very light and airy, would be a very nice dessert after a big meal with a sweet white wine (like a gewürztraminer) or a sweeter hard cider. I really liked this dessert and so will you. So go, MAKE ME A SANDWICH!
P.S. I love the fall! I just like that bit by Lewis Black and think it is really funny.