Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year's 2012!!!!!


Did you accomplish what you wanted this year? Anything you wish you would have checked off or are you excited about what you were able to accomplish. 

Where did the time go? I can't believe we are already to 2012. This weekend is always one of my favorites for the year and I am very sad to see it end. However, I had amazing times with friends and family that I cherish already and wouldn't trade for anything. 

For me, this is a time of reflection of what is possible in the future and memories of the wonderful moments from this last year. This refection has reminded me how much I love baking. The concepts, the work and finally the completed product. 

It is a great feeling to find something created that is enjoyed by those who are important around you. So I offer you a twist on a classic - Spiced Apple Cake with Pecans and Currants. I dont use currants much in my baking so I had to hunt for them in my local area. This is a moment when I wish for Whole Foods...but this is Eastern Iowa and we have yet to have one...so on I hunt! 

I took this cake to one of my New Year's Day parties and one person was quoted as stating "it is like fruitcake but sooo much better!!!". I will take that.....but I don't think it tastes much like fruitcake (which i guess is the point) but maybe it is what we all wish it really tasted like the one time we all tried it in our life....I hope you enjoy and Happy 2012!!!!

Spiced Apple Cake with Pecans and Currants
Adapted from Epicurious.com

Cinnamon-Sugar Pecans
1 Egg White
1 C Pecan pieces
2 Tbsp Sugar
1/2 Tsp Ground Cinnamon

Apple Cake
1 Tbsp plus 3/4 C Unsalted Butter, room temperature
2 medium Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium Honeycrisp Apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 3/4 C Unbleached Flour
1 Tsp Cinnamon, ground
1 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Allspice, ground
1/2 Tsp Cloves, ground
1/2 Tsp Salt
1 1/4 C Sugar
1 Egg
1 Tbsp Dark Run
1 C Pecans, toasted & chopped
1 C Currants, dried

Icing
1 - 8 oz pkg Cream Cheese, room temperature
1/2 C  Unsalted Butter, room temperature
1 C Powdered Sugar
2 Tsp Vanilla 
1 Tsp Currants, dried

For sugared pecans:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Line large baking sheet with foil. Beat egg white in medium bowl until foamy. Mix in remaining ingredients. Spread pecans in single layer on prepared sheet. Bake until golden, about 10 minutes. Cool on baking sheet. 

For cake:
In a separate bowl, combine egg and rum until well combined. Add currants, cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, at least. (Hint: this adds moisture back to currants so it doesn't get removed from the cake while baking. Can use this trick for anything with dried fruit. ex: Raisins, currants, etc.)

Melt 1 Tbsp butter in heavy large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add all apples; cover and simmer until apples are juicy and almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes. Uncover and simmer until almost all juices evaporate, about 6 minutes. Using potato masher, mash apples in pan. Cool.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and sugar two 8-inch round cake pans (Can butter and flour…but I prefer this method). Whisk flour and next 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat remaining 3/4 C butter and sugar in large bowl until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Beat in half of flour mixture on low speed, then all of applesauce, then remaining flour mixture. Mix in currant mixture and 1 cup toasted Pecans (not Sugared Pecans).

Divide batter between pans; smooth tops. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 - 45 minutes. Cool cakes in pans. Once cool, turn cakes out onto racks.

For icing:
Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and butter in large bowl until fluffy. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and beat to blend.

Place 1 cake layer on plate; spread 1/2 cup icing over top. (Hint: if you want to keep your plate clean place three pieces of wax paper on plate like a triangle to cover edges of plate then put first layer down)
Top with second cake layer. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake. Arrange sugared pecans in ring 1/2 inch in from edge of cake. Sprinkle sugared pecans with currants. Chill cake until icing sets, about 30 minutes. 

(Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome and keep chilled. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

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