I’ve never been a huge fan of Halloween. Don’t get me wrong, jack -o’-lanterns, eating candy until you bust, and dressing up in costumes are things I can wholeheartedly get behind. It’s the other side I don’t like. You know, the “spook” factor?
For as long as I can remember, I have been skittish. And like all siblings, my sister did a wonderful job of nurturing that phobia throughout childhood. I.E.: All I wanted was to be invited to play with her and her friend in her big girl room. So I would wait and wait and one day she called out, “Maaarrthaaa, come play!” . My dreams realized, I sprinted up the stairs only to find confusion in an empty room until my dearsister and her sweetfriend would burst from the closet eliciting a panicked howl from me, quickly followed by tears. This exact scene played out for years and I always fell for it, each time thinking maybe, just maybe, they actually wanted to play with ME?!
I suffered in agony through the teenage years when scary movies and haunted houses exist as a convenient excuse for flirting. The yearly trip to the Ashland Berry Farm’s “Booger Woods” (ridiculous name, by the way) was always bittersweet. I loved the hayride out to the woods, the prickle of hay, the scent of fallen leaves and the clammy hand-holding. Then came the dreaded “spook” portion, the screaming bloody murder, the erratic waving chainsaws, the climbing through mazes of blackened plywood and rusty nails. And in one year’s brilliant performance, a swan dive face plant into a mud puddle as I fled the maniacal aforementioned chainsaw wielder in a panic. Not my finest moment but hey, it's tradition.
But I took solace in what waited on the other end of the mud puddle. Another cozy hayride and my favorite, a concession stand dishing out trays of hot apple cider, kettle corn and caramel apples. Afterall, if there’s food involved I can tolerate most anything.
I discovered this Caramel Apple Cake in the midst of a search for another. My dad’s mom was famous for her Applesauce Cake and I knew it would be a perfect fall feature here. This cake, however, comes courtesy ofYie and I love her use of fresh apples and a caramel sauce. I couldn’t decide which to make so I present to you – The Dueling Apple Cakes: In Two Parts. Look for Mary Jo’s spiced up Applesauce Cake next week, but this week cut yourself a slice of the sweeter side of this duo and embrace the call of fall.
Caramel Apple Cake
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
3 (heaping) cups apple, chopped into medium chunks (go for tart – Granny Smith works well)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick (8 Tbs) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup milk
1/4 – 1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and lightly spray a bundt or tube pan with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In the bowl of a mixer, or large bowl, combine the oil, sugar and eggs. Add the apple and walnuts and beat moderately to slightly crush the apple pieces. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, soda, baking powder and baking soda and slowly add the flour mixture into the apple mixture. Mix, pausing to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add the vanilla and continue to mix until well incorporated. Pour batter into pan and bake on the center rack until a toothpick inserted in the deepest section comes out clean – about 50 minutes to 1 hour. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely.
3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter, brown sugar and salt over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Let the mixture come to a boil and carefully add the milk, stir to combine. Boil for 2 minutes, remove from heat, and let cool until just warm to the touch. Whisk in the confectioner’s sugar, 1 Tb at a time, until a thicker, glaze consistency is reached. With the cake on a wire rack placed over a piece of parchment paper, slowly pour the glaze on top, letting it run down the sides and middle. Allow glaze to cool and harden slightly before serving.