I can be such a party pooper when it comes to surprises. Every year before his birthday, I spend weeks searching for the perfect gift for Mike, which I buy in secret and then stash away. This is all wasted energy really, since I always, always tell him what it is before his birthday (really, it’s sort-of a windfall for him).
At Christmas I’m no better. I’ve been known to bribe my sister with Tim Hortons coffee (her favorite) and homemade muffins for information on gifts. I can’t help it, lol…the anticipation is too much for me!
And I won’t even talk about the surprise party my mom collaborated with my college roommates to throw for me on my 21st birthday. Suffice to say, I was more than surprised – shocked, actually – and while I recognize that they did an amazing thing for me, surprises are not my strong point and I was not the happiest camper. (Don’t worry, I got over it quickly…chocolate cake and presents helped with that. ;) )
Mike knows about my strange issues with surprises. And being the sweetheart that he is, he usually obliges my eccentricities. Except last week when he called me mid-morning one day, to say that his boss was coming for dinner that night and could I make something nice. It was a total surprise, but I was prepared without even knowing it.
You see, I always have an abundance of apples on hand, especially this time of year (I just recently went apple picking), and what goes better with apples than caramel? (Ok, maybe peanut butter…or cinnamon…but caramel is definitely another great pairing.) I had actually made caramel sauce the night before to drizzle over some apples, and I was in the process of dreaming up this cake when he called.
Timing is everything, is it not? ;)
While I didn’t make this cake for the Eid, it would absolutely be a lovely thing to celebrate the occasion with. I’m wishing everyone a very happy Eid al-Adha!
Caramel Apple Cake (Inspired by the batter I made for Apple-Pear Crumb Cake)
Yields 1 (2-layer) cake
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 lb apples, peeled, cored, and shredded (I use Cortland)
1/2 cup Caramel Sauce, divided (store-bought or use homemade recipe below)
1 batch Vanilla-Cinnamon Frosting (recipe below)
Preheat oven to 350F; butter and flour 2 (9-inch) round baking pans.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, then whisk in the oil, milk, and vanilla. Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet, then fold in the shredded apple, being careful not to over-mix.
Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans, and bake until golden on top and a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean or with just a couple crumbs, about 20 to 24 minutes. Cool completely before assembling.
Measure out 3 tablespoons from the 1/2 cup of caramel sauce; transfer to a small bowl and reserve for drizzling on top of the cake once it’s frosted. To assemble the cake, turn 1 cake out onto a cake stand. Spread on the remaining caramel sauce (other than the reserved 3 tablespoons), leaving a border of about 1/2-inch all around. Refrigerate 1 hour or until fully chilled, then carefully place the other cake on top. Frost the top and sides with Vanilla-Cinnamon Frosting. Chill 1 hour before cutting and serving; wrap any leftovers in plastic wrap and store in the fridge.
Homemade Caramel Sauce (Adapted from Simply Recipes’ recipe for Caramel Sauce)
Yields about 1 1/2 cups
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
In a small bowl, combine the cream and vanilla; set aside.
Add the sugar and water to a medium-sized thick-bottomed pot; turn the heat on medium-high and cook until sugar is caramelized and amber in color (see this post for more explanation); you can give the pot a swirl to help the water and sugar dissolve, but do not stir until about 2/3 of the sugar is melted. From that point on, gently stir constantly with a wooden spoon.
Once the sugar turns amber-colored, carefully add the butter and salt, and stir to combine. Once the butter is melted, turn off the heat and carefully pour in the cream mixture, stirring until smooth.
Cool completely before using or storing.
A Note on Storing Caramel: This keeps well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Like any caramel sauce, it will harden after being refrigerated; to soften, you can gently warm it up in the microwave or on the stovetop.
Vanilla-Cinnamon Frosting (Based on my go-to recipe for basic buttercream)
3 tablespoons salted butter, room temperature
6 tablespoons vegetable shortening, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 lb powdered sugar
3 to 5 tablespoons milk
Use a handheld electric beater to cream together the butter, shortening, vanilla, and cinnamon. Alternate between beating in the powdered sugar and milk until all the powdered sugar is added and the buttercream is smooth and creamy.