Caramelized Apple Cake with Cararmel Sauce

Early fall marks a significant turning point in our household.  As soon as our favorite apples are available for picking, we abandon Chicago on a weekend morning and head up to Wisconsin for our annual apple picking.  And from that point on, every thing we cook has a distinctly apple-y character.

This year, instead of risking failure in our attempt to get a bushel of Honey Crisps—our favorites!—we hedged our bets by making the trek a weekend earlier to get a half bushel of Galas—our second favorites—and then again a mere 7 days later for another half bushel of Honey Crisps.  Yes, we have 56 pounds of apples sitting in our two-bedroom condo…

With our orchard-ful of apples, we have already enjoyed one apple pie—with promises of a few dozen more.  Of course, we have been faithfully juicing our apples very morning, sometimes with strawberries and at other times with carrots.  Will bakes a terrific Nigella Lawson apple cake, but it didn’t use a lot of apples (and did I mention that we have a lot?), so he was quite happy when he came across another apple cake recipe in the October 2013 issue of Bon Appétit. 

The recipe for Gateau Breton aux Pommes used 2 lbs of apples, almost twice as much as Nigella Lawson’s recipe calls for.  Is the Nigella Lawson’s cake a tad butterier and richer?  Well, it does use more butter and sugar…  Perhaps it’s true that I like the Nigella Lawson apple cake just an pinch more, but the recipe by Mimi Thorisson is quite lovely, and it has the added advantage—in addition to using more of our mountains of apples—of being an easier, less fussy, and less labor-intensive recipe.

The recipe (click here) was quite easy to follow, but we made just a few changes, some out of necessity and some out of convenience:

1) Caramelizing apples.
Perhaps it’s because we were using a nonstick pan, but the apple slices that were supposed to turn “golden brown” in 10-12 minutes over medium heat were still pretty pale by the end of 12 minutes.  Seeing that we were using a 12 inch skillet and using the largest burner, I’m thinking that other people might have this problem too.  We cooked for 20 minutes or so—sometimes increasing the heat to medium high—before the apples started turning anywhere near golden brown.

2) Pan size.
The recipe called for an 8-inch cake pan, but we looked at the mound of apples (2 lbs!) and then at the batter and then again at the apples.  We decided to use a 9-inch springform cheesecake pan (pictured above).  We are very glad that we made the change.  The cake does not at all seem too thin for a 9-inch pan, and we suspect that it would have spilled over at some point during the baking had it been in an 8-inch pan.  Besides, it was so much easier just to remove the side of the cake pan than to “turn out onto a rack” from a cake pan.  Just remember that you want to cook for the shorter time period (40 minutes, instead of the 50)!

3) Toppings.
I would recommend that you actually follow Mimi Thorisson’s directions and make the caramel sauce and serve with crème fraiche.  However, we happened to have a jar of caramel sauce topping in the back of the refrigerator that we needed to get rid of.  We also had the last remains of some Devonshire cream.  (It’s actually the Turkish “kaymak,” but it’s the same essentially.  Both are heavenly thick creams, sort of like clotted cream except without the little tang that clotted cream has.) 

All in all, a great way to use 2 lbs of apples.  Now, we have to bake another apple pie, and then make some apple sauce.  Apple butter.  Apple bread.  Then another apple pie…


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