Tuesday, January 5, 2010

spiced apple cake with brown sugar meringue

meringue cake, two hours later
somehow in the midst of
catching up on recipes, i jumped
right past our chanukah dinner
and into new year's eve.

but, our dinner that evening -
a couple weeks ago at this point -
was really fun and everything
a holiday with
your family should be.
we brought back chanukah harry,
a play on secret santa, in its second
incarnation. we ate latkes and yummy challah,
before pulling gold wrappers
off our gelt. and later, we played catch phrase,
which you should know can get pretty
dangerous in our house.
(we're just a little intense about our games -
there's clue screaming and
chair bouncing, but i think it's only
natural when faced with true
challenges: how would you get
your team to guess the word
shazam without a lot of
hand gestures and
widening of the eyes?
i didn't know either.)

if i skipped chanukah,
i wouldn't be able
to tell you our night - or about my
new friend, the apple cake.

i first saw this recipe in early october,
during one of the first contests i really took
serious interest in on food52.
and by took seriously, i mean from afar -
i was still a voyeur, not yet even voting.
but i was immediately smitten by one
of the finalists for that week:
by betteirine, that i'm sorry to say i
probably never would have looked
at once, if not for the gorgeous picture.
but i would have missed out.

because once i spotted
the shattered top, i was in.
i loved that amanda and merrill
called it a "cake with a snow cap,"
a phrase that popped into my head,
every time i thought of the dessert.
and i loved that they said something
to the effect, that this cake should never
actually work, but it does.
and, is it just me, or does anything with
brown sugar sound instantly worth it?

so, i filed it away until i had a need.

and then, i'm so glad, in december,
i had a need. even though we're slightly
past apple season, there's no denying
that apple shortages are never really
something we deal with.
and the brown sugar
(did i mention the brown sugar?),
absolutely made me feel ok about
baking this fall cake in the winter.

usually most of the ingredients
are in the house, but it wasn't until
i was packing up the bag to go to my
mom's, that i realized that um,
somehow i ran out of golden raisins
and eggs. and butter.
thank goodness, i have a mom,
who has a house stocked with
such necessities. and a sister,
who is willing to pick things
up from the grocery store,
on a rainy miserable day,
when i, for some odd reason,
assume that my mother
does not actually
have butter in her house.
egg yoks
and, usually, i would
think that this recipe would
not take very long to prepare
at all. but probably, that's the
case if you are not talking to your
family and telling stories and stopping
every five seconds to interject into
their conversation because who
wants to be forgotten about in
the kitchen?
apple cake batter
batter covered with meringue
but still, it's an easy enough cake,
and just the kind i love:
a spiced thick batter,
studded heavily with
golden raisins and toasted walnuts,
then strands of grated apple.
the glossy meringue is thickly spread
over the batter and baked
until the top is crisp
and the whole house smells of
sugar and cinnamon.
meringue cake, out of the oven
oh, and another thing:
i was really concerned about the
top cracking. you see, i wanted
it to crack. for me, that was the
charm behind the cake, the
reason for wanting to make it
in the first place. so how nice
for once, after years of fretting over
cheesecakes garnished with
deep top pockets, to pull the pan
out of the oven, watch the top
crack down the center and just
not care? well, i'll tell you:
it was nice.

but i shouldn't have been so
worried about the top - or
about baking it at my mom's,
hours before serving,
just to be sure it would crack.
because it did. the moment
the knife hit the surface that
evening, the cake set out to
prove that it would not conform
to perfect just-so squares. no,
this cake was going to form
its own lines, fracturing here
and fissuring there and looking
like it was cut by a small child
with a plastic knife. and i loved it.

but the thing about this cake -
which by the way was so good:
moist, sweetly spiced, textured,
and, in fact, topped with a snow cap -
is that i shouldn't
have worried so much
about the cracking.
in spite of
what the instructions said,
the next day, the top still
splintered on its own
when we cut off
an experimental sliver.
in fact, it took a few days for
a knife to
cut smoothly through.

but now,
crack or no crack,
i would make this cake again -
not for the novelty,
or the double use of brown sugar -
but because, frankly,
it would be a shame not to.
this cake is delicious.
apple cake, all cut up
spiced apple cake with brown sugar meringue
adapted from betteirene via food52
well, i'm sad to say that i know one reason why this cake was so good - i realized way too late (like looking at the recipe again after the cake was already served late), that i doubled the butter. yes, doubled. i cannot believe it either. for some reason that day, with the rain and the wind and the people (my family) talking and me worried about my chanukah harry gift and trying to make a meringue with crazy weather, i had what i'll just call, a moment, and read 1/2 cup to mean 2 sticks. i know. but, below, i've written the recipe with the true 1/2 cup.

also - and maybe i'll just say right now that this was not the day to prove i'm a good reader - i somehow missed the part that said to add all dry ingredients and then the flour. i had already packed a resealable plastic bag with all dry ingredients combined - so i crossed my breath and stirred only a couple times with great intent. nothing suffered. maybe it was all that butter.

oh, and i'm sorry, but i have one more thing to tell you. when the recipe was made on food52, they baked the cake in a round cake pan (if you haven't looked yet, the picture is here again, for good measure). i loved that idea - especially because this is obviously not a fancy cake plate-cake, but a serve out of the pan confection that maybe only works for after-lunch slices, teas or family dinners. i, however, stuck with the square pan - only because all my round pans are not so easy to get to. ok, now i'm done.

brown sugar meringue
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar (i had dark - it worked well)
2 tablespoons water

position rack in center of oven. heat oven to 350˚f.

prepare a double boiler or small saucepot by filling it with 1 to 2-inches of water. over high heat, bring to a boil. in top of double boiler or a small heatproof mixing bowl that can sit on saucepot without touching water, combine egg whites, brown sugar and water. using electric mixer, beat egg white mixture 3-5 minutes, or until peaks form. set aside. (just a note - if you're using the bowl/saucepot setup, have an oven mitt nearby in case the now-hot bowl begins to tip - you might need to hold it.)

apple spice cake
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (1 stick)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional - i did not have)
2 large meaty apples (i used huge fuji apples)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 large meaty apples (i used huge fuji apples)
2 cups all-purpose flour

grease 9 x 9 baking pan.

in mixing bowl using electric mixer, beat together butter and brown sugar 2 minutes, or until fluffy. add egg yolks and beat 30 seconds, or until completely blended. using a wooden spoon, stir in baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, walnuts and raisins.

peel apples. grate apples on the large holes of a box grater; add to batter. fold in flour, just until combined, taking care not to over mix.

transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth the top. spread brown sugar meringue evenly over batter, smoothing. bake 45 minutes, or until top is crisp.

(as i said, at this point, the recipe instructs to serve it the first day for a meringue that cracks; the next day for neat slices. i say, just enjoy it whenever you're ready.)


MaggieB said...

Now I need to make this cake. Both versions! :)

brooke said...

it's really worth it - go for it and let me know how the cake turns out when made correctly.