Sometimes, life just calls for cake. And sometimes that cake needs to be topped with ooey gooey caramel. Whether you’re celebrating an anniversary, a new job, a friend visiting, or heck, a birthday! Around these parts, we’re doing a bit of celebration for the first birthday of the Vintage Recipe Swap! While I haven’t been involved for a year’s worth of swaps, I’ve enjoyed every recipe I’ve swapped. And, duh, any excuse is a good excuse when it comes to baking a cake.
Although maple harvest is in the late winter and early spring, it seems to really sing in the fall. Maple pairs very well with so many foods we gobble up in October and November – spices, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and today’s co-star, apples. Between tart apple slices and practically sparkling fresh cider, the sweet depth of maple is fantastic in this dessert. A maple-infused, tart, sticky-sweet caramel that sits atop a dark, molasses-spiked cake with apple slices and chopped walnuts.
This cake is not for the weak of heart – it’s a dense, moist, sweet cake. Even without the caramel topping, the cake is plenty sweet. After drowning it in maple-cider caramel, you most definitely want to slice the cake thin and serve with coffee [or a dry rye cocktail if you’re like myself]. The recipe uses molasses and white sugar in place of brown sugar, giving you a dark, gingerbread-like coloring. If you’re not as into molasses, feel free to swap the white sugar for dark brown sugar and nix the molasses. But there’s one ingredient that I want to beg you to use: boiled cider. Boiled cider is a syrupy, caramelized, extremely reduced concoction. The bite that it adds to both the caramel and the cake is hard to replicate. While you can use apple juice concentrate, or buy some of King Arthur’s boiled cider, you can also just… boil cider. 32 ounces of delicious Red Jacket Orchards fresh cider [not spiced] boiled for about 90 minutes. Did I mention the final product is shelf stable?!
So get in the kitchen and make cake that celebrates the season. The cider won’t be around forever, nor will the apples stay tart and crisp. But while the chill is in the air, we can dig into a warm slice of maple walnut apple upside down cake with friends.
maple walnut apple upside down cake
adapted from the recipe above and this recipe.
for the maple caramel topping
makes 1 1/2 cups caramel
- 57 grams [1/2 stick] butter
- 28 grams [2 tablespoons] brown sugar
- 140 grams turbinado [or white] sugar
- 40 grams [2 tablespoons] boiled cider
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients. Heat over medium, bringing to a simmer. Once all sugar granules have dissolved, remove from heat. Set aside.
for the walnut apple cake
- 100 grams vegetable oil
- 50 grams butter, melted
- 150 grams white sugar
- 2 taaspoons molasses
- 39 grams boiled cider
- 2 large eggs
- 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 177 grams all purpose flour
- 2 medium apples
- 75 grams walnuts, chopped
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" round cake pan [make sure the pan is at least 2" deep.] Line with parchment and grease the parchment.
- In a large boil, add the oil, butter, sugar, molasses and cider. Beat together at medium speed (or with a strong arm and whisk) for one minute. Add the eggs, five spice and salt. Beat for an additional minute.
- Mix the flour with the baking soda and stir it into the wet ingredients. Gently stir until the batter is combined.
- Finely chop one apple and gently fold it into the batter.
- With the second apple, slice the top of the apple off evenly. Place that ring, stem side down in the center of the pan. Slice the apple into 1/4" slices and arrange the slices in a circle around the center apple.
- Top with 1/2 cup of the prepared caramel. Sprinkle the walnuts on top of the caramel. Carefully pour the cake batter into this prepared pan. [Drop dollops of it over the apple and spread gently if it's too thick to pour evenly.]
- Bake the cake until done. And by done, I mean until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out mostly clean. This can take as few as 50 minutes, or as long as an hour and 15 minutes. Watch and see.
- Remove the cake from the oven and run a thin spatula or knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes on a rack and the carefully turn the cake out onto a serving pan. Any bits of cake or sauce left in the pan should be scraped out and put on top of the cake.
- Optional: Add additional caramel topping. If the caramel is cool, reheat gently. Pour the warm sauce over the cake. Serve the cake warm or room temperature. Especially delicious with unsweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche.