Lesson#4 The Creaming Method – Caramel Apple Cider Spice Cake

21 Oct

 

One of my favorite parts of the day, besides the part where I get to eat my delicious adult gummy bear vitamins ( yes, I know, this is pathetic…but they are really really good ), is when I get to come home and check the mail. Most of the time it is a big disappointment of bills and ads, but a few times a month I receive one of my many food magazines. This month’s Cooking Light Magazine featured a delicious looking Apple Upside Down Cake that I couldn’t wait to make. I followed the recipe word for word last week and brought it to a party. It was so delicious, that today I decided it was time to make it just once more, for the purpose of this creaming method lesson of course, not at all because I plan on eating it all myself.  Now although I resisted napping when I got home from work, I did not resist immediately changing into pajamas. This presented a dilemma when I went to bake and was out of the milk and sugar that the recipe called for. Since there was absolutely no way I was getting dressed to go out to the store, I decided to improvise.  My adapted version uses apple cider instead of milk ,almond instead of vanilla extract, all-purpose flour instead of cake flour, a brown sugar butter caramel sauce instead of a sugar and water caramel and has the addition of spices. The cider and spices add a whole new element and really enhance the apple flavor.  Either way you make it, it’s pretty amazing, totally better than a nap and that’s saying a lot.

This recipe features the creaming method, which requires you to cream room temperature butter with sugar until light and fluffy. This process helps leaven the cake due to the bubbles that are formed when the sugar is beaten into the soft butter. Chemical leavening ( baking soda or powder for example ) in the recipe react with wet ingredients and help to “blow up” the many bubbles formed in creaming process. After creaming the butter and sugar together, eggs and extracts are usually added in, followed by dry ingredients and any solid add-ins, such as nuts or chocolate chips. The creaming method produces a uniform interior texture with many small bubbles and a tender delicate crumb. It is seen in cookies, cakes and quick breads.

This recipe differs from that basic method and features 3 other commonly used baking techniques that I think are important to learn and master.

1 – Making caramel from sugar.

2 – Whipping egg whites and folding them gently into a batter. 

3 – Alternating dry and wet ingredients when mixing, to help incorporate ingredients faster without over mixing and developing gluten, which will toughen the cake.

Adapted from Oct 2010 Cooking Light MagazineApple Upside Down Cake

Caramel Apple Cider Spice Cake

For the caramel

  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 TBL butter

For the cake

  • 1 large Honey Crisp apple – cored and sliced  
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 3 TBL butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 3 egg whites

Grease a 9 inch cake pan.

In a saucepan melt 1 tbl of butter for caramel topping. Add in brown sugar and cook 3-4 minutes until sugar dissolves and is thickening. Pour into prepared pan. Lay sliced apples in a decorative pattern over the caramel topping. Be careful not to burn the sugar. With white sugar you can visibly tell when it turns golden and it is time to shut the heat. When using brown sugar you get more of a caramel flavor but you can’t tell as easily when its beginning to caramelize, so watch it carefully for thickening and keep an on the time. Never walk away from caramel, it will burn on you in a second.

Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl. ( except sugar )

Cream together the 3 TBL butter and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy with an electric mixer. The mixture becomes lighter in color because the bubbles reflect the light and it becomes fluffy because you are aerating it.

Beat in egg yolks and almond extract until thoroughly combined.

Add dry ingredients and apple cider alternately. Start with part of the dry ingredients and mix, then add cider and mix again. Keep switching from one to the other until everything is incorporated.

In a separate clean bowl beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  If there is any grease present on your tools or any fat from the yolks, the whites will not whip up so make sure to have very clean, dry tools and separate the egg cleanly. It is very easy to over whip egg whites so as soon as you see them firming up, check them often for stiff peaks that hold their shape well.  

Gently fold whipped egg whites into batter.  Folding is the process of incorporating something lighter or whipped into something heavy, like this batter, without deflating it. To fold, first place some of the whipped egg whites on top of the batter and use a rubber spatula to cut down the center of the bowl, pulling some egg whites along.  Slide around and under the side of the bowl and bring some egg whites back up into the center. Repeat slowly and gently, adding more egg whites a little bit a time. The goal is to deflate the whipped egg whites as little as possible.

Pour batter on the caramel apple mixture in the pan.

Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool for 15 minutes.

Loosen the edges of the cake from the pan. Place a serving plate large enough for the cake on top of the pan. With both hands, turn the cake upside down while holding the plate. Remove the cake pan and the caramel and apples should be on top.

This recipe incorporates some tricky baking techniques for the beginner baker. A few of my students had a rough time the first time around but were able to get it right on the second try. Please let me know how yours comes out and as always, feel free to comment with any questions. The reward of this cake is worth the effort, I promise.

Good Luck!  – The Cooking Teacher

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