Today I’m Grateful: Save the Best for Last

The fourth and final “Today I’m Grateful” features undoubtably many people’s favourite part of the night! Dessert!

I made this cake for the first time about a year ago for Keith’s mum’s birthday. It was a HUGE hit; it is the perfect fall cake combining all the yummy flavours we associate with fall. My one disappointment is that I totally blew the drizzled caramel (Yes! There is drizzled caramel involved!) so the cake sort of looked like it just had a lake of ketchup on top (seriously? EW).

My first attempt. See? It looks like a ketchup puddle!

The second time I made it I used no fat cream cheese instead of regular fat mascarpone cheese (Yes! There is mascarpone cheese involved!) and it was a flop. Think overly runny, gooey separated gross looking icing AND I skipped the caramel altogether on that one. Fail. Although it still tasted really good. Really it was just a presentation fail. Which in my opinion is actually half the battle when you want to impress guests.

So this was take three. NO low grade ingredients involved and huge determination to nail the caramel. Third time’s the charm right?! By the way, this cake has a long list of instructions and may seem like a lot of work, but it’s not really and is totally worth it!

(Original recipe from Epicurious)

Cake

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons light molasses
6 large eggs
3 cups cake flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup sour cream
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger (optional – I didn’t use it)

Pre-heat the oven to 350 fahrenheit and line three nine inch round cake pans with a parchment paper round (hint: parchment paper and wax paper are NOT the same – I have made that mistake more than once). Grease the parchment and the sides of the pan and set aside.

In a big mixer bowl (trust me, use your biggest) beat the softened butter with the paddle attachment for about 30 seconds to break it up. Add the sugar and beat on medium until the sugar and butter is light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the molasses and mix until combined. Add the eggs one at a time beating on low until combined.

In a separate bowl, mix together the dry ingredients. Alternate adding the flour mixture with the sour cream in three parts beginning and ending with the flour. Beat on low speed in between additions until just combined.

To shred the apples I used a cheese shredder and it seemed to work well. It’s a little juicy and a bit messy, but it really adds a lot to the cake so stick to it! Stir in the apples, vanilla and ginger (if using).

Spread the thick batter evenly between the three pans. You will need to spread it around a little bit because of the thickness of the batter. Bake in pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes. You likely won’t be able to fit all three cakes on one rack, which is fine. Just place one below but make sure to stagger the cakes so that the one below isn’t directly under one of the top ones. The cake is done when a tester comes our clean, and when the top is springy. Each cake will likely be done at a different time due to the staggering of the cakes.

Remove from pan and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before running a knife around the edge of the pan and then inverting the cakes on to wire racks. Cover with a light kitchen towel and let cool fully. These can be wrapped in plastic wrap once fully cooled and frozen for up to three weeks or refrigerated over night. I made mine the day before to cut down on day of preparations.

Icing

One and a half 14-ounce bag caramels
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar (give or take)
1 cup (8 ounces) mascarpone at room temperature (Italian cream cheese, available at most grocery stores)

Using a double boiler (or a stainless steel bowl over a small pot if you’re like me and don’t have one) combine the caramels, whipping cream and butter. If you don’t have whipping cream, milk can substitute. The caramels will be a pain in the butt to unwrap (unless you’ve found some that don’t need unwrapping…in that case let me know!!!) but it’s worth the work as the caramel sauce takes the cake to a new level. Melt the caramel/butter/cream mixture stirring occasionally. It will take a while to get to a point where it can be stirred. Once it is melted together remove from heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, in your mixer with the paddle attachment cream the butter then sift in the icing sugar. If it gets too dry add the vanilla for some moisture. Add the mascarpone and beat on medium low until combined. Now here is where I always make my own path with icing. Usually it isn’t my desired consistency or taste so I start adding more icing sugar or maybe some water. I really have no idea how much extra I add, but I keep going until I think it will be nice and easy to spread. Use your judgement; I’m sure some people have much superior icing skills so don’t need it their perfect consistency.

Once you have achieved the perfect consistency and the caramel has cooled quite significantly, add all but about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup to the icing. Use big, gentle strokes to mix in the caramel and don’t over mix. It looks amazing if you can see some of the swirls of caramel.

Ice cake starting by completely cover the sides and top of the first layer, drizzling a little bit of the reserved caramel and then placing the second layer on top. Repeat with the top two layers assuring that you reserve some of the caramel for the final (artistic!) drizzling. Be generous with the icing. If you’re like me and Keith, the icing is the key element of a cake! Once the cake is completely covered and you start to drool (it should look that good!) set aside and heat the remaining caramel back up just a bit. This will make for ease of drizzling. Don’t overdo it (or just let cool a little bit again) as the caramel can melt the icing if it’s too hot.

Resist the urge to take spoonfuls and drizzle as the caramel is too thick and it may result in ketchup-pool-esque drizzling. Instead, take the bowl and using the spoon to control the flow. Try to get it all over with some falling down the side, but don’t put too much! I actually ended up saving some of my caramel (which turned into delicious caramel lattes!) because again, I was trying not to ketchup-pool.

When you think it looks just right, show your room mates or family. I guarantee ooooh’s and aaaaaah’s that will make you feel really great! Pop the cake in the fridge so that everything gels in place. When your guests arrive I suggest removing the cake and placing it in another room. You don’t want a clumsy hand reaching for a drink to ruin your presentation!

Finally, enjoy a big ol’ slice and the chorus of mmmmmmmm’s. Seriously, this cake is a keeper! I realize that I have said a lot about making it LOOK good, but in all seriousness, the taste is incredible! It does not disappoint!

The finished product! I’m very proud of my drizzling!

From a different angle. One of the most impressive aspects is the height…three tiered!

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2 thoughts on “Today I’m Grateful: Save the Best for Last

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