Apple-Walnut Bundt Cake

I’m a little off-season in making this cake, but, a few weeks ago while organizing my baking supplies – I guess I have too much time on my hands – I came across a Bundt pan and remembered that I specifically bought it to make this cake after finding the recipe in a Martha Stewart magazine last fall. Every October I go apple picking and I always like to try a new recipe or two with the apples, but,  before I got a chance to make this cake I had used up my apples baking a few Apple-Raspberry Crumb pies and enjoying an apple a day.
I started off by toasting the walnuts and caramelizing the apples. I’ll be honest, when a recipe calls for toasting walnuts, or any nut for that matter, I usually by-pass that step. I did like the flavor of the toasted walnuts, but, I am not sure if it will sway me one way or another to toast them in future recipes. My apples came out a little mushier than I would have liked, but, they tasted great.
While my apples and walnuts were cooling I got to work on making the batter for the cake. I started off by sifting the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt together. The recipe called for freshly grated nutmeg which I didn’t have on hand so I used regular ground nutmeg. Once that was done I got to mixing the brown sugar, butter and eggs in my stand mixer. Once they were blended together well I added the flour mixture, alternating with milk, per the recipe directions.
I folded in the caramelized apples and walnuts by hand so the apples wouldn’t be further broken down by mixing them. I must say, cake batter doesn’t look very appetizing sometimes. I poured the batter into my prepared pan and baked it for about 50 minutes in a 350 degrees oven.
And voila, a not-so-appetizing looking cake batter turned into a delicious spice cake that filled my house with a nice aroma while baking. And while the recipe did call for an apple-cider glaze on top of the cake I opted not to do it because I am not a big fan of how sweet icings can be.
Prep Time: 40 Minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 Minutes
Serves: 10
Ingredients
For the Caramelized Apples:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
3 tart green apples, such as Granny Smith, cored, peeled, and cut into 1-inch chunks
For the Cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
Coarse salt
1 3/4 cups packed light-brown sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk
3/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
For the Glaze:
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
3 tablespoons apple cider
Directions
Make the caramelized apples: Cook granulated sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, without stirring, until sugar caramelizes, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Stir in apples. Cook, covered, until softened, about 6 minutes. Slightly mash apples with a fork until broken down but still chunky. Continue to cook, uncovered, stirring, until liquid evaporates, about 5 minutes. Let cool completely.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make the cake: Butter a 10-inch Bundt pan. Dust with flour, tapping out excess. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt into a medium bowl.
Beat butter and brown sugar with a mixer on high speed until pale and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time. Reduce speed to low, and add flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Mix in caramelized apples and the walnuts.
Transfer batter to pan. Bake until cake is deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cake cool in pan set on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Turn out cake onto rack, and let cool completely.
Once cake is cool, make the glaze: Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and cider. Drizzle over top of cake, letting it drip down the sides.
Cook’s Note
Storage: Glazed cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Elmo Cake

It’s been a while since I have properly decorated a cake and I have never done a character cake. But, for my friend’s daughters’ second birthday I decided to make her an Elmo cake; it’s one of her favorite characters and was the theme of her birthday party. After going to three different Michael’s craft stores I was finally able to find the Elmo cake pan that I would need.
 
I used a basic yellow cake mix to make the cake. I have never been so apprehensive about making a cake. I was fearful that when I flipped the pan over Elmo would somehow be stuck to the pan or worse break in half. Thankfully I prepped the pan well and Elmo popped right out!
After cooling overnight Elmo was ready to come to life. First I needed to make the icing and color it. While I did use a box mix for the cake (my favorite is Betty Crocker) I decided to make the buttercream icing from scratch. Coloring icing is not always fun, especially when you have to make dark colors like red and black. I ended up using the entire 1 oz. jar of Wilton no-taste red to get Elmo’s fur the proper shade of red. Thankfully orange wasn’t as daunting to make.
Now that my icing colors were the right shade it was time to decorate. I started off with filling in Elmo’s mouth and icing his nose.
After an hour or so of meticulous work Elmo was done and I must say I was quite pleased with how he came out. His eyes took me a while to get right but it was well worth the time. He was a hit at the party and brought a great big smile to the birthday girl’s face.
Buttercream Icing (From Wilton)
1/2 cup solid vegetable shortening
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon clear vanilla extract
4 cups (1 lb.) sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons milk
Cream butter and shortening with an electric mixer. Add vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl often. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy.
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