Sunday, September 5, 2010

Blue-Ribbon Apple Cake

With Labor Day weekend's arrival, summer has come to an end. And while I'm sad that the season of fresh berries and sweet corn has passed, I'm excited to welcome crisp evenings with mugs of hot chocolate, sweet potatoes, winter squash, and luscious apple desserts. I made my first crisp of the fall this past week and I'm ready to tackle a long list of apple-based culinary projects. With a busy weekend full of visits from friends, Taste of Madison, and the normal tasks and chores, I didn't have time to tackle apple pie, so I opted for apple cake. This is essential pineapple upside-down cake made with apples, so if you like apples and pineapple upside-down cake you'll love this dessert.

Blue-Ribbon Pound Cake
from the America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
makes one 9-inch round cake; serves 8

4 T. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 c. packed (3.5 oz.) light brown sugar
1.5 lbs (3 to 4) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/8 t. salt

1/2 c. sour cream, room temperature
1 large egg, room temperature
1 large egg yolk, room temperature
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1.25 c. (6.25 oz.) all-purpose flour
3/4 c. (5.25 oz.) granulated sugar
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces and softened

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.

2. For the apples: Melt the butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the brown sugar and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar looks dark brown (like dark brown sugar), about 2 minutes. Stir in the apples and salt and cook, stirring often, until the apples have softened slightly and the juices are thickened and syrupy, 5 to 7 minutes. Scrape the apple mixture into the prepared cake pan and lightly press into an even layer.

3. For the cake: Whisk the sour cream, egg, egg yolk, and vanilla together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Using an electric mixer on medium-low speed, beat the butter into the flour mixture, one pieces at a time, about 30 seconds. Continute to beat the mixture until it resembles moist crumbs, 1 to 3 minutes.

4. Slowly beat in the sour cream mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat the batter until smooth and fluffy, 1 to 3 minutes.

5. Spoon the batter over the apples and gently spread it into an even layer. Gently tap the pan on the counter to settle the batter. Bake the cake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking.

6. Let the cake cool slightly in the pan, about 10 minutes. Place a serving platter over the top of the cake pan, invert the cake, and let sit until the cake releases itself from the pan (do not shake or tap the pan), about 1 minutes. Gently remove the cake pan and serve warm or at room temperature. 

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