But this cake is still our favorite thing from its pages; maybe our favorite cake ever. It has all kinds of textures and tastes going on: chewy dried apples, peeled and unpeeled fresh apples, brandy-soaked raisins, toasted pecans. It's dark, rich, and unutterably good for breakfast. Topped off with the brandy and brown sugar sauce it will make your guests moan. It's just really that good. Apple week wouldn't be complete without it.
Sticky Spiked Double-Apple Cake with a Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce
1 cup Lexia, Muscat, or sultana raisins
1/3 cup brandy
1 cup unsulphured dried apple slices (if only rings are available, cut them in half)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (preferably freshly ground)
1-1/2 cups tightly packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans, toasted
2 medium sized tart cooking apples, such as Northern Spy or Rome Beauty, one peeled, one unpeeled, both cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
Additional unsalted butter, at room temperature, for greasing the pan
Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce (recipe below) warmed slightly, to serve.
In a small bowl, soak the raisins in the brandy for 45 minutes. Add the dried apple slices and macerate for a further 15 minutes. Do not drain!
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9 x 13 inch pan and line the bottom and up the two long sides with a sheet of parchment paper, letting the paper hang over the edges by an inch or so. Lightly butter the paper. In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves together into a bowl and set aside.
In a large bowl with a hand held electric mixer or whisk, or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend both sugars. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed until thickened and pale, about 2 minutes with a machine, 4 to 5 minutes by hand. Add the cooled melted butter and mix to blend. Fold in the dry ingredients in two additions, mixing just enough to moisten most but not all of the flour. Add the dried fruit and brandy mixture, chopped pecans, and diced fresh apple, then fold them into the batter with long, deep strokes. Don't fret about the ratio of fruit to batter -- there is a remarkable amount of fruit but it bakes into a wonderfully chewy cake.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and set in the center of the oven. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes to 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the center springs back when lightly touched, a tester inserted into the center comes out clean and the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan. Transfer to a wire rack and cool. This cake keeps beautifully, well wrapped, at room temperature for up to 5 days, although it is best within 2 or 3. Serve warm or at room temperature with a healthy pour of the warm Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce. Makes enough for 10 to 12 people (or 2, if you give them a couple of days ...).
Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream (36%)
2-1/2 tablespoons brandy
Combine the butter, sugars and cream in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan. Stir this mixture over low heat until the sugar dissolves, then increase the heat to medium and bring the sauce to a very gentle boil, stirring all the while. Cook 5 more minutes, then remove from the heat and stir in the brandy or other liqueur. Serve immediately, or cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until needed, up to 3 days. To rewarm, either microwave the uncovered sauce on low power or transfer the cold caramel to a saucepan and stir over low heat until warm.
Credit: Recipes from In the Sweet Kitchen by Regan Daley. Artisan; September 2001; $35.00/hardcover
• Buy In the Sweet Kitchen: The Definitiive Baker's Companion at Amazon
Related: Recipe: Apple Custard Tart
(Images: Faith Durand)