12 September 2011

Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Frosting

This is not a cake to wheel out for a flashy dinner party.  This is a cake which will happily sit on your counter, beckoning to you throughout the week.  It will say things like:

"Care for a morning snack with your coffee?"
"Oh, what a tough day you had a work, let me console you!"
"Come on-- curl up with me and a glass of milk before bed. You know you want to."

This cake is a simple pleasure to enjoy a whole week long.  Because it is made with apples, it only gets yummier and more moist as the days pass.  And since it is made with apples, you can believe that it is healthy enough to eat every day at any hour.

Oh, the frosting?

Look away from the frosting.  Think about all those healthy apples.

(But eat the frosting.  Definitely eat it, while thinking about the apples.)

Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Frosting
loosely adapted from James Beard's American Cookery

3 small to medium apples
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves

1. Grease and flour a 5 x 9 x 3 inch loaf pan.  (Add a piece of parchment to the bottom of the pan if you like.)  Preheat the oven to 350F (170C).

2. Peel, core, and slice the apples into roughly equal pieces. Place them in a small saucepan with 3 tablespoons of water, and warm over a medium-high heat until they are soft and more or less crush with the push of a wooden spoon (about 20 minutes).  Add more water in spoonfuls as necessary, to keep the apples from scorching.  Stir them up roughly, crushing the big pieces into smaller ones, until the texture is a chunky applesauce. Set aside to cool slightly.

2. Beat the butter until very light and creamy.  Add the sugar, and beat together until creamed well.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla.

3. Sift together the flour and other dry ingredients.  Add the flour to the butter mixture, alternating with the applesauce.  (Begin and end with applesauce.)

4. Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake in the preheated oven for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake springs back when pushed lightly.

5. Cool on a rack, unmold, and frost when completely cooled.  Sprinkle with slivered almonds or other nuts.  The cake will keep very well, even improve after the first day.

1/3 cup butter
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp milk
slivered almonds (or other nut, optional)

1. Melt the butter over a medium heat.  Let it sit on the heat, bubbling softly but not scorching, and patiently wait for it to start to form small amber crystals on the bottom, and turn a golden brown.  This took about 7 minutes on my stove, but you should keep a close eye out because you need to remove it from the heat right when it turns brown.  Pour the butter into a small dish and refrigerate for 10-15 minutes, to cool it.

2. Pour the powdered sugar in a bowl.  Add the butter and 2 tablespoons of milk.  Beat, adding more milk by teaspoons as necessary, until it is a thick but spreadable consistency.

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