Caramel-Glazed Apple Cake

October 23, 2008

Over the past several months, Sundays have come to mean one thing: our little neighborhood farmers’ market. Well, actually, Sunday also means a couple grocery stores, yogurt parfaits, baking extravaganzas and, more recently, Mad Men. And, sadly, this Sunday two of these things—the market and Mad Men—are coming to a close for the season. Whereas Mad Men has been building toward this final act for weeks now and will likely exit in highly dramatic fashion, the farmers’ market has just kind of petered out.

It’s funny, really, how the farmers’ market season unfolds. It debuts in the spring, when the patrons are desperate, but the crops are meager. I am practically moved to tears when the first verdant spears of asparagus appear. And by the time my misty eyes clear, strawberries, ramps, rhubarb and green garlic swoop in to really set my heart rate racing. Then, as if overnight, summer’s bounty sneaks up and we’re swimming in a rising tide of juicy tomatoes and fuzzy peaches and sweet corn. It’s difficult to remember, in the glut of July and August, that such delicacies won’t last forever.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

But last forever they do not. For the last couple weeks, the harvest has slowly shrunk. Last week, the flower tent even folded up shop. No sunflowers, even? And it makes me feel a little bewildered and regretful. That is, until I reach the very end of the path that winds through the market. That’s where Nichols Farm lays out their primary-colored crates brimming with apples—no fewer than a dozen varieties. These apples are the entire reason I keep going back for these last few skimpy weeks.

Not only have the apples been helping me hold off the inevitable barren months that lie ahead, they’ve also served as a crunchy afternoon snack. And, you might not have noticed, but they’ve shown up in each of this week’s posts, albeit in a variety of forms. On Monday and Wednesday, savory recipes called for apple cider, vinegar and juice. And while those two recipes happened to both be delicious, we all know that apples are at their very best in the sweet realm—preferably coupled with warm spices or sticky caramel.

Or, in the case of today’s recipe, warm spices and sticky caramel. The spices thread the sturdy cake batter, which bakes into an incredibly moist sheet cake studded with chunks of apple and bits of chopped pecan. The caramel comes into play after the cake has cooled a bit, when it is drizzled atop the cake’s broad surface, enticing rivulets spilling down the sides. Perhaps the end-of-market-season apples can match Mad Men’s drama after all? Even if not, both season finales this Sunday will surely leave me waiting with bated breath for the next season.

Caramel-Glazed Apple Cake
Edna Lewis’ The Gift of Southern Cooking via Leite’s Culinaria

1 cup        light-brown sugar, packed
1 cup        granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups     vegetable oil
3 large           eggs
3 cups           unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon    baking soda
2 teaspoons     ground Ceylon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon    freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon           salt
5           fresh apples (such as Winesap or Granny Smith), peeled and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/4 cups     not-too-finely chopped pecans
2 teaspoons     vanilla extract

1/2 stick     unsalted butter
1/4 cup     granulated sugar
1/4 cup     light-brown sugar
pinch of salt
1/2 cup     heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).

Make the Cake: Put the sugars and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl, and beat until very well blended. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt, and gradually add to the sugar and eggs, mixing just until well blended.

Stir in the apples, pecans, and vanilla, and pour into a buttered and 9-by-13-inch baking pan.

Bake in the preheated oven until a skewer or toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 1 1/4 hours (begin checking after 50 minutes). Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the pan while you prepare the caramel glaze.

Make the Glaze: Melt the butter in a saucepan, and add both the sugars and the salt. Stir until blended, and cook over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream, and boil for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Use a skewer or toothpick to poke holes all over the top of the cake, and pour the warm glaze over the surface. Serve warm or at room temperature.

20 Responses to “Caramel-Glazed Apple Cake”

  1. Amanda Says:

    The end of Mad Men’s season is going to make me so sad! What else will I watch on Sundays now? My new addiction is True Blood on HBO, but its a bit gawdy at times… I will miss my beloved farmers market as well, but at least we will get to sleep in and relax on those early mornings. It’ll be so cold, you won’t want to leave the house.

  2. Hélène Says:

    Pictures are so good. I want a piece of this. Yummy!

  3. katie102006 Says:

    Seriously, apple cake is my FAVORITE! This looks so good! I love the rustic feel of it.

  4. Leanna Says:

    Do you think that pears would work well in this cake? I have a bag of fresh pears at home that I need to use.

  5. ingrid Says:

    I’m such a sucker for icing or frosting dripping down the sides of cake, bars, or cookies! Yours looks good and I’m not even crazy about chucks of apple in anything!

  6. Amanda: I need to look into True Blood. I’m really excited for Big Love to come back. It seems like it’s been forever. And I need to fill the Mad Men void somehow!

    Hélène: Thanks!

    katie102006: Well, then you must try this one. So good.

    Leanna: That sounds wonderful! I might swap the nutmeg out for ground cardamom. And maybe trade the pecans for walnuts? I like those pairings better.

    ingrid: Me too! The chunks of apple in this are small, which I like. Otherwise, it can mess with the texture/structure of a cake or bar.

  7. eggsonsunday Says:

    This looks so delicious, Kristin! Sometimes I feel like I could live on apple cakes alone throughout fall. 🙂 -amy

  8. This looks like a delicious and beautiful cake. Wish I could try a piece!

  9. holler Says:

    That looks so good! I enjoyed working my way down the photos. I would love a slice of that right now 🙂

  10. Mia Says:

    We are so on the same wavelength right now – hoping to get my apple cake up on Red Ramekin sometime in the next few days :)Yours looks really fantastic, though – I love the drippy caramel!

  11. janice Says:

    The recipe looks perfect and I will try it.
    But..OH NO!! I didn’t know that Mad Men was coming to the end of the season!!!!!
    This is very distressing.
    Good thing I have this cake to make and eat up.

  12. Katie Says:

    Yum! This cake looks great. I love your sequence of photos.

  13. Robin Says:

    Oh this looks amazing! Is it super-sweet?

    Luckily, I have a few farms and orchards around here so I can get some produce (at least kale and apples) throughout the winter. I’m waiting for the Granny Smith’s before I start baking—since now I’m overflowing with Honeycrisps and they are just too good out of hand to bake! I’m bookmarking this recipe.

  14. Amy: A very balanced diet, indeed. : )

    Gretchen Noelle: I wish you could too! It makes A LOT of cake.

    holler: Thank you!

    Mia: Can’t wait to see it! Your apple crisp looked so good.

    Design for Mankind: Why, thank you.

    janice: I’m so sorry to be the bearer of bad news. We’ll make it through the off season with this cake and others though, I’m sure.

    Katie: Thanks!

    Robin: No—not super sweet. The cake is more homey and spicy than sweet. And the glaze, while sweet, is very thin and not an overwhelming part of the cake (even if it’s the prettiest part). I know what you mean about the honeycrisps. I used Ida Reds here.

  15. Hello –
    I am a filmmaker in Atlanta. I read your blog with the mention of Edna Lewis and her recipes.

    I just wanted to let you know I produced a 21 minute documentary about Miss Edna Lewis and its viewable in its entirety on Internet at a Gourmet Magazine website:

    and at a Georgia Public Broadcasting website:

    My documentary is called Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie.

    My website,

    has more information about the film and the story of Miss Lewis.

    Bailey Barash

  16. Winker Says:

    I’ve been a fan of your website for a while, the only thing I didn’t ever care for was the blue background. Now, I LOVE your new look and will peek in more often!

  17. Leanna Says:

    The pears worked great. It was a big hit. The hubs said it was as good as my German Chocolate cake. That is a BIG compliment.

    I look forward to making it again using apples this time. Thanks!!

  18. Molly Says:

    Hi Kristin, I recently found your blog, and have been reading through all the archives… It’s lovely and I’m finding a whole lot I want to cook! I recently went apple picking, though, and have more apples than I know what to do with. This recipe may have to be the first on my list.

  19. Bailey: Cool! Thanks.

    Winker: Thank you!!

    Leanna: That’s wonderful to hear! I’ll have to give that variation a try. Maybe once apple season has come and gone …

    Molly: Thank you! Enjoy your apples. : )

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