This one really took me by surprise. I had no intention of making a cake or an applesauce cake or even dessert, actually. But as fate would have it, I stumbled upon this cake on the Food52 website and I thought it looked pretty good. But what was more compelling was the jar of applesauce in the fridge that needed to be used up, so, I thought, OK then, cake it is!
So my intention was to make the cake and forgo the icing as it seemed rather splurg-y. I would just make the cake in a loaf pan and have it on hand as sort of a snack cake. But that required some math to try and figure out what size loaf pan would work and baking times and all, and I require a very compelling motivation for doing math on a voluntary basis, so out came the bundt pan.
The cake smelled heavenly while it was baking but my eyes kept wandering down to the part of the recipe that described the icing and at some point my resistance and good sense must have completely crumbled because as the cake was cooling, I found myself stirring brown sugar and cream and butter and vanilla in a little pan and anticipating those beautiful icing drizzles up there and well, by then it was a done deal. No going back.
I'm sure I've mentioned this before in numerous posts previously, but I don't have a big sweet tooth. It's just a little sweet tooth that mostly lies dormant, and I do my best not to disturb its dormant state because some very unpredictable behaviors reside down that path. But this was just an applesauce cake, right? No big deal. So we sliced it up that evening and I felt it happening pretty quickly. This cake is like culinary subterfuge. A simple applesauce cake for snacking? I THINK NOT!!! No, this cake is crazy good. Like wake up the sleeping sweet tooth fire breathing beast good. Like either this cake has got to go or we've got to hide every fork in the kitchen. I will spare you the unseemly details, but I can tell you that this cake has now been safely parceled out to loved ones and the forks are back in the drawer.
Whew! So I'm posting this recipe along with a very strongly worded caveat... this cake is dangerously good. It's so moist from the applesauce, but sweet and spicy and don't even get me started on that icing. Oh my ever lovin' goodness.
But hey! This would make a great cake for Hanukkah or that upcoming holiday party or just to have sitting on your kitchen counter, taunting you to pick up that fork and take another bite. It's just an applesauce cake, right? Here's the recipe...
Applesauce Cake with Caramel Icing
You might find the addition of ground black pepper a little odd in this recipe, but flavor-wise, it doesn't read "black pepper". I think it mostly contributes to the wonderful spice notes and I would advise you not to leave it out. I used a chunky applesauce and would advise you to do the same. Musselman's makes one with small chunks of apple that was just perfect in this. Homemade would be even better!
Recipe Courtesy Food52
For the cake:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon finely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup dark brown sugar
1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce (homemade would be awesome)
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the glaze:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
½ cup light or dark brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
About ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F.
Butter a standard-size (12-cup) Bundt pan (or spray with nonstick cooking spray).
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt, pepper, and spices, and whisk to mix well.
In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, beat the eggs with both sugars until light. Beat in the applesauce, oil, and vanilla until smooth. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the flour mixture, and beat briefly, just to combine. Use a rubber spatula to fold gently, making sure that all the dry ingredients are incorporated.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for about 45 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the thickest part of the cake comes out clean. Cool the cake for 10 minutes in the pan on a rack before turning it out and allowing to cool completely. (The cake should be room temperature before applying the glaze).
When you’re ready to glaze, set the cooling rack (with the cake on it) on top of a rimmed sheet pan. This will catch drips.
Put the butter in a medium (2- to 3-quart) saucepan with the brown sugar, cream, and salt, and set over medium heat. Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute exactly, and then pull the pan off the heat. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes, and then gradually whisk in the confectioner’s sugar until you have a thick but pourable consistency. Only add as much sugar as you need to make a thick glaze. If it gets too thick, add a little cream to thin it down.
Immediately pour the glaze over the cake, evenly covering as much surface area as possible. Let the glaze set before serving the cake.
Yield: about 10 servings