Drunken Apple Cake - the apples being the drunk ones, mind you

I may be well on my way to turning 21st birthdays everywhere into celebrations of alcoholic food. And by everywhere, I mean two birthdays in the very small sphere I call my life. First there were the margarita cupcakes, and now this: a moist, subtle cinnamon cake topped with some of the best rum-soaked baked apples ever.

As a side note, I have done it - I have baked a cake in a tiny kitchen, with naught but a measly hand mixer. I have left my family's beautiful kitchen aid behind, and I am here to tell you (what most of you probably already know): despite my doubts and little stomach butterflies about screwing up royally, it can be done.

This recipe is really a fusion of two recipes, tweaked to meld together more perfectly. I took a basic cinnamon cake (intended to be topped with caramel apples), doubled it, added a brown sugar middle between two layers, poured in some rum extract (why not?) and turned my attention to Famous Dave's (very large) Drunk Apples recipe. I don't know if you've heard of Famous Dave - I hadn't, really, but L had, and he very much approved of his intoxicated fruit. Luckily, Famous Dave is not miserly with his recipes, and he put them up on the World Wide Web for me to steal. I trimmed the recipe down (there was no yield, but it called for 24 apples, and I really can't imagine making that many Drunken Apples), and used it as the icing, so to speak, for the cinnamon cake.

Everyone devoured this cake. Granted, I cut them enormous slices, saying to them as I handed them a plate loaded down with dessert, "Here, have some cake!" in my best Jewish Grandmother practice voice. So, it isn't surprising that we went through as much of the cake as quickly as we did, but regardless, it got rave reviews. I have a few changes to make next time, but those mostly have to do with my shortcomings in the thinking ahead department, and my unfortunate lack of light-metal pans (for those of you who haven't discovered this through food classes or your own baking experiments, dark pans promote browning and a kind of crusty action going on around the edges - not always bad, but not always good, either; light pans, on the other hand, reflect the light and produce a softer baked good).

I'm giving you the recipe as I made it, because it worked the way it was, and I'm not about to send you off with a set of instructions that I haven't even tried. However, afterwards I'll talk about how I'm going to do things differently next time, because there's always room for change.

Drunken Apple Cake, courtesy of The Purple Foodie and Red Rocks Sunrise Publishing
Yield: 2 8-in. cakes, and lots of drunken apple topping
The Ingredients - The Cake
4 C flour
4 tsp. (or 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp) baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 C sugar
2 sticks butter
4 eggs
1 cup yoghurt
1/2 tsp. rum extract
For the middle layer:
1/3 C brown sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon

The Ingredients - The Apples
6 granny smith apples,* peeled, cored, and sliced
3/4 - 1 C sugar
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
2 Tbsp. rum**

The Method - The Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (or, if you have a crazy oven like mine, try to remember to set it lower because it will inevitably rise up to 400 during the baking process and brown your cake before the insides are done) and grease two cake pans somehow - I used butter and then, because I was paranoid of the cake sticking, added some olive oil for good measure. Worked like a charm.
2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon. Set aside.
3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs in one at a time, beating well after each addition (it says for about a minute per egg - I tried counting in my head and decided 1 minute was a very long time to beat an egg into butter and sugar).
4. Reduce the speed in order to alternate adding the flour and yogurt, starting and ending with the flour. Note that the batter is supposed to be very sticky. Once this is accomplished, divide the batter into the two pans, and use a spatula to smooth out the tops.
5. Bake for 25-30 minutes, meanwhile preparing the middle layer by mixing the cinnamon and the brown sugar together. I was worried that adding the layer right away would burn it, but if you know more about baking and say it'd work just fine right off the bat, do this step before placing in the oven at all. After 25-30 min., remove one cake from the oven and sprinkle generously with the brown sugar mixture. Place back in the oven and bake 25-30 min. more, or until the crumbs are golden and a toothpick comes out clean in the center. Be warned that my batter puffed up extraordinarily during baking, which ought to be expected with over a tablespoon of baking powder AND baking soda. It did not deflate, really, so just be careful when filling the pans up.
6. Now, here the recipe tells you to remove the cakes from the oven and immediately brush with some melted butter and roll in a mixture of cinnamon sugar. Referring back to my being paranoid of ruining this cake, images of cracked and crumbling cakes raced through my mind, and I let it sit in the pans for a few minutes, then I took them out and let them sit on cooling racks for a long time. Then, I brushed them with butter and rolled them in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar...but it didn't really work. It definitely did not ruin the cake, but I imagine that a little crunchy-sweet coating around the edges would have been enjoyable.
7. To assemble the cake, stack the layer without the brown sugar topping on top of the one with the brown sugar. They won't really adhere to each other, but I didn't find this to be a huge problem. More on that later. Once the apples are done, if you're planning to eat the whole cake in one sitting, spoon the apples on top. If, however, you want to be able to preserve the cake, save the apples for individual topping during actual serving.

The Method - The Apples
1. Mix together the cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg. Add the apples, and stir well to coat.
2. Pour in the rum - which, in my case, turned out to be 1 normal tablespoon and one ridiculously overflowing tablespoon (the more the merrier, right?).
3. Place the apples in a pot over medium heat until they start to get juicy and begin to boil. Maintain the boil for around 20 minutes. I think I let mine get a little bit too cooked, but that's more of an aesthetic thing than taste. I don't think anyone noticed.
4. If serving immediately, either place alongside or on top of cake. If not serving right away, let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until use. When ready, place over the stove on medium heat once again, using the age-old stick-your-finger-in-the-pot method of determining when it's hot enough to serve.

The cake is simple but delicious, not overly sweet but far from bland. I didn't really pick up on the rum extract that I added, but then again, I've never tasted the original. And besides, I was hungry when I ate the cake, and it tasted good. I'm sure I missed tons of little nuances that any decent food critic would be describing in intimate detail now. I apologize. The apples added another dimension of flavor - again, not too sweet; I think here, the rum flavor really was detectable and offered a really nice contrast to all of that sugar and fructose boiling up together.

In the end, I would keep this as a one layer cake, and make the brown sugar layer more of a swirled middle. There weren't enough apples to adequately drown the cake as I had hoped, but rather than adding in the cost of buying even more apples, I think cutting back the cake works. I will definitely try using a lighter cake pan next time, if possible, and attempt to roll the cake in the cinnamon-sugar coating right away. Other than that, I really don't have too many changes. I'll just warn you that sitting in my cake carrier throughout the weekend, it dried out relatively quickly. By Sunday, it was not nearly the same cake (I baked it Thursday night). So, if you make it, force yourself (and your guests, of course) to eat it all right away. It's too good to let it sit there - another reason why sticking to the original one layer may be wise.

I've realized that amidst all of these birthdays, there has been a serious lag in savory dishes on here. That being said, I'm not planning to tell you about any dinners I've made recently. Yet. You see, I still have a batch of peanut butter cookies sitting at the top of my "to blog" list, and I can't leave you without this recipe for much longer. You're already missing out. 1 cup of peanut butter + 2 sticks of butter?

Yes, I can feel my dietitian heart clogging as we speak.

Yes, these cookies are absolutely amazing.

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