Oh gee, well I guess I've got sweets on the brain. And yes, well, I suppose I've got apples on the brain, too. Yet another sweet treat, this one just as apple-y and delicious as an apple crisp, and as undeniably brunch-able as those pumpkin sticky buns.
But let's cut to the chase: cake. Yes, sometimes a good, old-fashioned cake is really the only way to go when it comes to satisfying a sweet tooth. I was tasked with doing dessert for a small dinner gathering the other night, and a few less-than-perfect apples were simply screaming for inclusion in something baked.
I'm a very enthusiastic fan of anything with warm spices, so I decided to make an apple cake based loosely on the premise of pain d'epice, a French spice loaf. I added some molasses to get a deep brown hue, and wasn't shy with the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ground ginger. Good and spicy, just the way I like it. Oh, and the bourbon. Seems I can't make anything sweet without a little bourbon to give it that kick of flavor.
Even though I only put a few tablespoons of the stuff in my cake batter, the flavor came through beautifully. Not too strong, but definitely there, permeating the cake with a faintly caramel-y, deep, warm sweetness. It works really well with the chunks of apple that are laced throughout the batter (yes, I prefer abundant chunks to dainty slices of apple in my cakes).
Funny story about this cake, though. The first time I made it, it was a smashing success but I was focused more on getting it to the table than on taking photographs. This, of course, was the perfect excuse for making it again. This cake is really quite simple, and I mixed up all the ingredients, popped it in the oven, and, just as I finished setting the timer, I realized I had forgotten an ingredient. We're not talking nutmeg or vanilla extract, here - I had forgotten the sugar. And cakes without sugar, in addition to not rising properly or maintaining a soft crumb, tend to disappoint in the taste department.
I didn't have much of a choice but to bake the non-cake, though, and I figured that since this recipe calls for a touch of honey and molasses, perhaps not all was lost. Although I wasn't about to serve the sugar-less version for dessert, it wasn't half bad as a not-to-sweet snack. Definitely not a cake, but not trash either.
Of course, I wanted to really get it right for blogging purposes, so I whipped up the batter a THIRD time (in one week, I might add), this time in muffin form. Perfection. Full of apples, full of spicy flavor, and kissed with the brass of bourbon, this apple cake can do anything from dinner party dessert (I served mine with bourbon-caramel sauce and some ice cream), to weekend brunch, to afternoon tea. Just don't forget the sugar!
Spiced Apple Bourbon Cake
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. each nutmeg and ground cloves
1/2 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 tbs. molasses
2 tbs. honey
2 tbs. bourbon
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 small-medium apples, peeled and diced
handful chopped, toasted pecans (optional)
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices. Mix in the brown sugar, stirring to distribute evenly. In a separate bowl, mix eggs, apple sauce, oil, honey, molasses, vanilla, and bourbon. Add wet ingredients to dry, and mix just until combined. Add diced apples and pecans, and mix to incorporate. Pour batter into a greased 8-inch round cake pan or into 12 greased muffin cups, and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes (muffins) or 30 minutes (cake).