Apple Caramel Spice Cake

While Italy has swiftly jumped from Halloween to Christmas  -- lights have been hung, panettone and torrone are on display! -- my home country is still very much focused on Thanksgiving. In the U.S, you see, there is an unwritten, yet very much respected rule that Christmas festivities begin only once we are done with our turkey, gravy, stuffing, and in some cases, but certainly not mine, the viewing of the Thanksgiving day football game. Then -- and only then! -- do us Americans commence listening to Christmas carols and decorating the tree. It simply feels wrong to do otherwise, or in other words: you'll have to wait until after November 28th for any Christmas recipes. My blog, my rules. 

So! While the first half of the Thanksgiving meal is characterized by cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and green beans, the end comes in the form of pie, most typically pecan, pumpkin, and apple. I'm a fan of this tradition -- I happen to love pie -- but what about those people who -- gasp! -- don't really like pie? After all, much like cookie vs brownie, pancakes vs waffles, pizza vs pasta, there is cake vs pie, or rather: two camps of people, one who prefers soft spongy layers and frosting to buttery pie crust and lattices and fillings. What about those who find pie less than perfect, or rather the pecan pie cloying, the pumpkin pie strange, and baked apples off-putting*?! Surely they too should have some options at the Thanksgiving, arguably the most food-centric holiday of them all?! 

(For the record: I love pecan pie and pumpkin pie, but have never gotten fully on-board with apple pie*).

For all of you I'll-pass-on-the-pie people on Thanksgiving: I give you Apple Caramel Spice Cake, the cake-lovers answer to the last course of the biggest meal of the year. First things first: while it is true that all recipes published on the blog have been tested, swooned over, and subsequently deemed worthy of sharing with you -- those that do not meet my standards aren't posted, plain and simple -- this one was truly over-the-top and supremely swoon-y. Ladies and gentlemen, this Apple Spice Cake is One of My Very Favorite Things I Have Ever Baked -- the highest honor! -- and with good reason. It's deeply spicy and superbly moist, infused with apple and cinnamon and ginger and all things Fall, delicious on its own but so spectacular when dressed up with a buttery, salty-sweet caramel glaze which -- if you're not careful! -- might never make it to your cake (my advice: try your best to limit yourself to one spoonful, ok?) This is festive and rich and special and most certainly deserves a place at your Thanksgiving table, or, if you're me: in your office, for your lovely colleagues, some of who will pass once, twice, three times for a slice. This is festive and autumnal and even a little bit magical, in that disappearing-act sort of way -- and, in my experience, equally good eaten in between photographs for this blog, while you have your Dad on speaker phone. Enjoy, everyone!
A couple of notes: You can use store-bought applesauce here, but I have to say that I have always made my own -- it really doesn't get any easier, promise -- and I would imagine that it makes for a cake that is a lot tastier. Up to you! If you wanted to simplify this cake, I imagine you could leave the frosting out and dust the whole thing with powdered sugar with good results (though the caramel glaze is pretty special...). Finally, I baked this cake in a bundt pan but a rectangular pan to make this a sheet cake would work well too!

Looking for other apple desserts? I've got this Best Ever Apple Cake, this Apple Pie, this Apple Tart, these Apple Muffinsthese Apple Dumplings, and these Apple Crisps

Cake recipe from Merrill Stubbs of Food52; icing recipe from the blog The Runaway Spoon
Serves 12.

Ingredients for the cake:
2 cups (260 grams) all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 rounded teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 rounded teaspoon cloves
2 large eggs
1 cup (200 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (100 grams) light or dark brown sugar
1 ½ cups (375 grams or 354 mL) unsweetened applesauce -- I used this recipe here
2/3 cup (80 mL) canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for the caramel glaze:
4 tablespoons (56 grams) salted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup (100 grams) packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup (80 mL) heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (90 grams) sifted confectioners’ sugar

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F, and butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and cloves, and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs with both sugars until light. Then add the applesauce, oil and vanilla, and mix until smooth.
Using a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients (careful not to overmix!). Pour the batter into the Bundt pan, and bake for about 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan on a rack before turning it out and cooling completely on the rack. Wait until the cake is cool to make the caramel glaze.
The make the glaze, put a piece of foil or paper under the cooling rack to catch any drips before you start. Then, put the butter in a medium saucepan with the brown sugar, cream and salt over medium heat. Bring it to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute, and then pull it off the heat.

Leave the pan to cool for a couple of minutes, and then slowly whisk in the (sifted!) powdered sugar until you have a thick but pourable consistency (you might not need all the sugar). If the mixture seems too thick, add a splash of cream to thin it out a little. Immediately pour the glaze over the cake, moving slowly and evenly to cover as much of the cake as possible. Let the glaze set before serving the cake.

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