Usually during the fall months, I focus on pumpkin, but this year I'm focusing on another fall fruit – I'm on the autumn apple train, and nothing can get me off of it.
Friends, in the fall fruit department, New England is the apple of my eye! Apples here are so fresh and sweet and crunchy and crisp and delicious: sliced to scoop my breakfast yogurt, easily tossed in my backpack for a snack, roasted and savory in my dinner salad, and of course baked into dessert.
My most recent culinary confection may not be quite as American as apple pie, but roasting the apples for this cake ensures that they're soft and sweet and apple pie-ish in the layers. And it's covered in cream cheese frosting. Trust me: Everything good in this world involves cream cheese frosting.
I left class on Wednesday, my coursework in apple-pie order, looking forward to finishing an assignment and beginning to bake my first layer cake in a loooong while! (According to Eat. Run. Read., which never lies, my last legit layer cake was this Black Forest Cake from last February!) Anywho, Roommate Rachel and I had invited friends over for a mid-week dinner party, and though she and I may be apples and oranges appearance-wise, we are the same in the food and hosting department: We want to cook delicious things and invite others to enjoy. So we commandeered the kitchen and cooked up a storm – pizza, roasted butternut squash salad, and this cake, of course!
It was really good – very moist and apple-y, as there are 3 whole apples in the cake plus more than 2 cups of applesauce, and just the right hint of autumn-y spice. My only error in execution was that I did not make enough cream cheese frosting to adequately sandwich between the layers, so the recipe below reflects a slightly larger frosting recipe than I made. Also, this makes a ton of cake. I had enough for all three layers, plus 10 muffins (breakfast cake? With some streusel crumbled on top? Yes, please!). Or you could make thicker layers. Or you could make 4 layers!
Roasted apple spice cake
Adapted from SK's giant sheet cake recipe
For the cake
3 medium apples, any variety you like to bake with (I used Granny Smith), peeled, quartered or halved, and cored
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoons table salt
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup honey
2-1/4 cups applesauce
3/4 cups (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed dark-brown sugar
3 large eggs
For the frosting
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
3/4 cups (1-1/2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups powdered sugar
Milk, as needed
1. Roast apples: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet or roasting pan with parchment paper. Arrange apple halves face down on paper and roast in a single layer until they feel dry to the touch and look a little browned underneath, about 15 minutes.
2. Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter or spray three 9-inch round cake pans.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg. In a medium bowl, whisk together applesauce and honey.
4. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the butter and dark brown sugar until very fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the bowl between every other addition.
5. Add 1/3 of the flour-spice mixture and mix it until just combined.
6. Add 1/2 the applesauce-honey mixture, again mixing it until combined.
7. Add the second 1/3 of the flour-spice mixture, the remaining applesauce-honey mixture, then the remaining flour-spice mixture, stirring between each addition.
8. Chop roasted apples into smallish chunks (1/2 to 2/3-inches) and fold into batter.
9. Divide batter between baking pans. It makes a ton of cake, so I actually made 10 muffins in addition to the three layers of cake.
10. Bake about 35 minutes. Transfer baking pans to cooling racks and let rest for 10 minutes, before flipping out of the pans onto racks and cooling the cakes right-side-up.
11. Make the frosting: Whip butter and cream cheese together with an electric mixture until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla extract. Add powdered sugar and beat again until smooth and light. If it's too thick, add milk one splash at a time as necessary.
12. Frost the cake, sprinkle the top with cinnamon if you're feeling fancy, and enjoy!