Sticky Spiked Double-Apple Cake

We recently had Jimmy’s folks over for dinner. It was very Sunday dinner-ish (roast chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans). The meal was fine on its own, but it’s almost impossible for me to have guests and not serve them dessert. On this occasion I made an apple cake. It wasn’t just an everyday apple cake though — it was a sticky spiked double-apple cake with brown sugar-bourbon sauce. I never drink bourbon on its own, but I love it in recipes and this was my second bourbon-laced dessert in the past few weeks (the other was chocolate-bourbon pecan pie bars). The recipe actually calls for brandy, but I didn’t have any on hand, and I think the bourbon goes just as well with the apples. It was the perfect ending to our meal.

Sticky Spiked Double-Apple Cake with a Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce
Adapted from Regan Daley’s In the Sweet Kitchen via The Kitchn

Following is the recipe as originally written. As I mentioned above, I substituted bourbon for brandy in both the cake and the sauce. I couldn’t get any of the recommended apple varieties or unsulphered dried apples at my grocery store, so I used granny smiths and sulphered dried apples instead. I also shredded the fresh apples on the large holes of a box grated instead of dicing them (just my preference).  Keep a close eye on the cake while it’s in the oven — mine was done quite a bit earlier than the recommended baking times.

  • 1 cup Lexia, Muscat, or sultana raisins
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 1 cup unsulphured dried apple slices (if only rings are available, cut them in half)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (preferably freshly ground)
  • 1-1/2 cups tightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 2 medium-sized tart cooking apples, such as Northern Spy or Rome Beauty, one peeled, one unpeeled, both cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • Additional unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the pan
  • Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce (recipe below) warmed slightly, to serve.

In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the brandy for 45 minutes. Add the dried apple slices and macerate for a further 15 minutes. Do not drain!

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan and line the bottom and up the two long sides with a sheet of parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the edges by an inch or so. Lightly butter the paper. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together into a bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl with a hand-held electric mixer or whisk, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend both sugars. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed until thickened and pale, about 2 minutes with a machine, 4 to 5 minutes by hand. Add the cooled melted butter and mix to blend. Fold in the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing just enough to moisten most but not all of the flour. Add the dried fruit and brandy mixture, chopped pecans, and diced fresh apple, then fold them into the batter with long, deep strokes. Don’t fret about the ratio of fruit to batter — there is a remarkable amount of fruit but it bakes into a wonderfully chewy cake.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and set in the center of the oven. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the center springs back when lightly touched, a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a wire rack and cool. This cake keeps beautifully, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 5 days, although it is best within 2 or 3. Serve warm or at room temperature with a healthy pour of the warm Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce.

Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce

Makes about 2-1/4 cups

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream (36%)
  • 2-1/2 tablespoons brandy

Combine the butter, sugars and cream in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir this mixture over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat to medium and bring the sauce to a very gentle boil, stirring all the while. Cook 5 more minutes, then remove from the heat and stir in the brandy or other liqueur. Serve immediately, or cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. To rewarm, either microwave the uncovered sauce on low power or transfer the cold caramel to a saucepan and stir over low heat until warm.

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