Friday, October 22, 2010

Double Apple Bundt Cake

I love fall.  Even though the leaves here don't change color, it still feels different - the dropping temperatures, the morning mist, the smell of wet pavement, the promise of pumpkin-spice lattes, the Christmas decorations that go up in stores the moment Halloween ends - every moment feels festive.

I think part of it also has to do with the anticipation of holidays that involve being in community with each other, whether it's going door-to-door, as with trick-or-treating and Christmas caroling, or gathering around the dinner table for a ridiculously heavy meal.  And this cake is perfect for any occasion or visit that may arise: it's quick and easy (in other words, perfect for my busy grad school schedule), feeds a small crowd, and with it's assortment of spices and the inclusion of apples in two incarnations, it tastes like autumn.  As a bonus, it tastes better the day after it's baked (though it's very tasty the day of, too).

This cake includes fresh, shredded apples and apple butter - the recipe says that either plain or spiced apple butter is fine.  I used an apple butter that was spiced with cinnamon and cloves, and I loved the extra flavor it gave the cake.  The shredded apples kind of melted into the cake, so you couldn't really tell they were in there, which disappointed me a little - I thought there would be small bits of apple in each bite.  Still, though, I can't complain - after all, this cake makes it possible to get the cinnamon-apple goodness of homemade apple pie in a fraction of the time.

Double Apple Bundt Cake
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teapoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated (or ground) nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup store-bought apple butter (I used Tropical brand)
2 medium apples, peeled, cored and grated
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.  Butter and flour a 9- to 10-inch Bundt pan (unless it's silicone - then there's no need).

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed with a hand mixer, scraping the bowl as needed, for 3 minutes, or until the mixture is smooth, thick and pale.  Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.  Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the apple butter.  Add the grated apple and mix to completely blend.  Don't worry if the batter looks curdled - that's normal.  Add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they disappear into the batter.  Using a rubber spatula, fold in the pecans.

Pour the batter into the Bundt pan and smooth the top of the batter with the spatula.  Bake for 50-55 minutes.  Transfer the pan to a rack to cool for 5 minutes before unmolding and cooling the cake to room temperature.

Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Store at room temperature.  Wrap well with plastic. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wedding Cake Part 3: Putting it Together

When preparing to make this cake, I got advice from lots of how-to articles, blog posts, comments on blog posts, and a friend of a friend.  I kind of picked and chose the bits of instruction that was most convenient from each one.

Note: Blogger is being kind of wonky at the moment, so there are certain pictures that I wanted to show you that didn't get on here.  I'll hopefully come back and add them later.

Assembling the Cake

1. White Chocolate Shavings
I used a pound of Callebaut white chocolate to make shavings to cover the cake. At first, the shavings were very skinny and looked like toothpicks. It took me a while to figure out how to make the big rose-petal-like shavings - as it turned out, the chocolate was too cold. I warmed the edges of the chocolate with my hands before shaving off a thin sliver of chocolate with a kitchen knife - I was worried that warming them using a method other than body heat would result in too-soft or melted chocolate. I ended up liking the combination of large and small shavings on the cake.

2. Cake boards

The top cake tier sat on a round cake board that was slightly smaller than its bottom.  The bottom tier sat on a cake board that was slightly larger.  In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to check with the bride and groom to see if they would be providing a cake stand, but as it was, I sat the bottom cake board directly on the table and covered the parts that jutted out with icing and white chocolate shavings.

3. Wooden and plastic dowels

I inserted four wooden dowels into the bottom tier before setting the top tier on it - this prevents the cake from collapsing into itself.  I first inserted a dowel into the bottom tier, marked it about 1/8 inch from the top of the cake, and removed it from the cake.  I then cut all four dowels at the mark.  I used wooden dowels, and they were very, very difficult to cut.  I unfortunately couldn't find plastic dowels, but I heard that plastic straws could also work in a pinch.

4. Cake Assembly Kit

I assembled the cake at the reception site - luckily, both tiers fit side-by-side inside my cake carrier.  I knew that the frosting would definitely get messed up during transportation, so I brought a kit with me so I could make all necessary repairs.  I brought piping tips, piping/ziploc bags, paper towels, an offset spatula, a butter knife (which is what I usually use to repair small sections of cake), scissors, extra icing, and a really big spatula, which I used to lift the top tier from the cake carrier to the top of the cake. 

After stacking the two tiers, I frosted over the damaged parts and piped little pearls in between the tiers (to cover the small gap) and at the bottom of the cake (to cover the board).  Then I covered the whole thing in white chocolate shavings.