I have a lot of very strong opinions about fall desserts. I love pulling on my boots, walking through crunchy leaves, and spices that warm you from the inside out, but —and I know that this might not be a popular opinion— but pumpkin desserts are way overhyped. During the month of August, I drove past a local bakery marquee proudly proclaiming “Pumpkin is here!” In the month of August. In Florida. In 90 degree weather. Now, I am not a monster and I think pumpkins have their place in the fall dessert world, but I think that we miss a lot of wonderful seasonal produce in our mad-rush for everything pumpkin.
Late August and early September give us some of the year’s best tomatoes, end of year berries are begging to be stuffed into buttery little pie crusts, and it is prime apple season. This cake is here to help you take advantage of the apple bounty and ease you into fall at a leisurely pace. It was inspired by a spiced apple cake that my mom has been making for as long as I can remember and a really lovely apple olive oil cake created by Yotam Ottelenghi. Using olive oil gives the cake a moist, tender crumb while the egg whites provide a little extra structure and height. A slice of this is with a cup of coffee is a perfect start to your semi-fall morning and I promise, there will still be plenty of time for all that pumpkin.
Fall Apple Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting and Butter Caramel
Yield: 1 9x13 pan
*Note: If you are not in the mood to make cream cheese frosting and feathered caramel, this cake is delicious simply dusted with a bit of powdered sugar or served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
1 cup olive oil
800 g assorted apples, peeled and cubed
2 cups sugar
2 egg whites
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-1/2 cups chopped nuts, toasted
2/3 cup golden raisins, optional
1 cup warm water
For the Frosting:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
4 oz butter, at room temperature
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
For the butter caramel:
4 1/2 T (65 g) butter
3/4 cup plus 1 T (160 g) sugar
7 T heavy cream
Pinch of salt
To make the cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees grease a 9x13 baking pan.
Place raisins, if using, in warm water and set aside.
Sift together flour, cinnamon, all spice, nutmeg, cloves, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add chopped apples and toss to coat with flour, set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, beat whole eggs, sugar, vanilla, and olive oil on medium speed for about 7 minutes, until the mixture is light in color and has almost doubled in size. Remove the bowl from the mixer and use a rubber spatula to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl.
Gradually, fold in dry ingredients and apples until combined and no flour remains. The mixture will be very thick.
Drain the raisins, reserving the water that they were soaking in, and fold raisins and nuts into the batter. If the batter looks dry, add a little of the reserve water (tablespoon by tablespoon) to loosen. *I only used about 1/4 cup of water, you want the batter to remain pretty thick so be careful not to add too much.
Place the egg whites in a separate, clean bowl and whip until soft peaks form when you lift the whisk from the bowl. Gently fold the egg whites into the cake batter.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean and the edges of the cake start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Depending on how consistent your oven heats, baking time may very. Start checking your cake at 45 minutes and check every 5 minutes after until done.
Cool cake completely before frosting.
To make the frosting:
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and cream cheese.
Add powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt and beat until smooth and fluffy.
To make the butter caramel:
Place the sugar and the butter, cubed, in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly until it becomes a smooth, dark caramel. If you notice lots of sugar crystals sticking to the sides of the pan, you can use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush down the sides of the pan. The sauce may look like it has broken and the butter and sugar are separating, this is ok, just continue to stir.
Once the desired color is reached, continue stirring and carefully add cream. Remove from heat and let cool.
Caramel can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Heat in the microwave for 30-45 seconds to loosen before using.
To assemble the cake:
Remove cooled cake from pan and place on a work surface.
Use an offset spatula to smooth frosting over the top of the cake. (The best part of making your own cake is that you can use as little or as much frosting as you want!)
To create the feathered caramel, place some of the caramel in to a piping bag and cut a small hole at the tip. Make horizontal lines across the cake, dragging your caramel drizzle all the way off the side of the cake before coming back across the other way. Continue your horizontal lines, evenly spaced, all the way down the length of the cake. Use the tip of a small paring knife, to drag vertical lines, alternating up and down, over the cake.