The February Gift Project: Caramel Apple Cake
by Ms. Joy
Standing in the very small kitchen, only half the size of my own kitchen at home which is not exactly spacious I peered into the pantry. The boxes and jars of pasta were painstakingly organized in that familiar manner of order in the midst of chaos. On the third shelf down were three smallish boxes, two green and one red. I plucked them off the shelf and in that dusty apartment a flood of memories came back. In my hands I held a box of Dr. Oetker’s Apple Sauce ‘n’ Cake and Caramel Sauce ‘n’ Cake and could hear my father’s voice teasing me from my childhood as I stared at the front of the box.
The nature of the sauce and cake is that you make a spongy cake with the first package from the box and then sprinkle the powder from the second package over the cake and add boiling water. The process seemed mystifying as a child but I was absolutely sure the cinnamon coloured powder I spread over the cream coloured batter made up the sauce. To tease me, my father would insist the powder made up the cake and we would debate the different qualities of each packet and what made it essentially cake versus sauce. The true beauty of this dessert was that you actually mixed the cake in the dish in which you planned to bake it. Minimal dishes!
I think what surprised me the most as I held those boxes in my hands was that this most essential part of my childhood continued to be a fixture in my father’s life even though I hadn’t thought of the Apple Sauce ‘n’ Cake in years. I wandered into the living room to show the selection of boxes to my brother and like me, he gravitated towards the apple variety. There is something about that flavour that was quintessential childhod. I took a box of it home, carefully tucked next to my black funeral clothes and a few trinkets for my own children. I didn’t know if I would make this Apple Sauce ‘n’ Cake with it’s delightfully jaunty name but just to have it in my cupboard held a little reaussurance for me. This past week I made the cake for my family and as I sprinkled that powder over the bright yellow cake batter I smiled. Damn right that powder makes the sauce.
The flavour was ejoyable and brought back the cherry tree in the front yard of my first home, the quiet kitchen of my father’s House on Sunset, the house so aptly named that he moved into after he finally left the original house. I would not be me if I did not make a proper homemade, “from scratch” version of this dessert but you can always improve upon something when you truly make it yourself. The cake is very light owing to the large amount of egg whites but this is what makes it most enjoyable. Obviously the allure of the limited dishes has flown out the window with this recipe, necessitated by the whipped egg whites and the almost caramel sauce. The sauce is a very rustic and basic caramel sauce with finely diced apples mixed throughout it. Be sure to keep it thin because it will be baking in the oven over the cake.
The Apple Sauce ‘n’ Cake, or my incantation of it is my gift to my husband and children for the February gift project. The theme was love and affection and I do believe it goes without saying that I love those three very much. There is another reason for my decision; February 28 would have been my father’s 66 birthday and and it was my intention to serve this cake on that day. I do, however, think it most important that we are having it for the night’s dessert on March 1 because not only am I a terrible procrastinator, so was my father. Truly, I believe on of the first “big” words I learned was procrastination and all of its tenses.
For administrative purposes, let me just say that if you are in anyway like me you are certainly welcome to join The Gift Project at any time and I will add your post to the link up. I will be posting March’s theme this coming Saturday so if you have something in mind for it, do let me know!
A special thank you to Merry of Merry Makes who has embraced The Gift Project and has been making all sorts of delicious and fun things. For this month she made a crocheted Back Scrub Pattern and it is delightful, looks soft and would make a great gift for anyone in your life.
Caramel Apple Sauce Cake
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs, separated*
¾ cup pear butter
2 apples, peeled and chopped
*The first thing you do should be to separate the eggs. It is much easier to do this when they are cold and then they will need to sit to reach room temperature as they will whip more quickly.
1.Whisk together the dry ingredients and set aside.
2.In a separate bowl, cream the butter. When it is light and fluffy add the brown sugar and vanilla. Add the egg yolks and mix thoroughly.
3.Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the pear butter to the butter mixture until it is smooth.
4.Whip the egg whites to stiff peaks.
5.Fold the batter into the egg whites and spread into a greased dish. Spread the apples over top and reserve for the caramel sauce.
A note: Be sure the baking dish is greased very well, the caramel will seep down below the cake and it will stick. I did it as an afterthought and was not as careful as I should have been. Grease it up like a body builder desperate for a perfect 10 at the regional tournament.
2 cups white sugar
1 cup water
pinch of tartar
1-2 tablespoons (goat) butter
1.In a medium sized saucepan (the caramel will bubble ferociously), bring the sugar, water and tartar to a boil and continue to keep it on high. Stir vigorously and continuously to prevent sticking. Remember, use a wooden spoon with a long handle.
2.The caramel will slowly turn caramel. The whole process will take about 10-15 minutes, watch it carefully, the caramel should not reach a true candy state. Keep it fairly liquid with a very light colour.
3.Add the butter and stir very quickly. The caramel will bubble viciously, lift the pot off of the burner and continue to stir to break up the bubbles and return it to a creamy state.
4.Pour over the cake and using the back of the wooden spoon, push it into the cake batter and disrupt that lovely job you did smoothing out the top.
Bake at 350º for 40-45 minutes. Enjoy with a dollop of ice cream or as suggested by Mr. (but not actually done by us – let me know if you do!), Devon cream.