Cake of the Day: Toffee Apple Cake from ‘Lovely Layer Cakes’

Every day, Yahoo Food features delectable cakes. They taste good, they look good, and they’re made by good people — talented bakers from around the world. Today, Peggy Porschen shares a stunning fall cake just in time for Thanksgiving from her new cookbook Lovely Layer Cakes that hits bookshelves January 2016.

Toffee Apple Cake that will steal the show this Thanksgiving. (Photo: Georgia Glynn Smith)

Makes one 6-inch round cake, serving 8 generous slices.

This is a deliciously moist apple cake, packed with nuts and spices. I decorated it with tiny apples form my neighbor’s garden, dipped in golden caramel.

For the spiced apple sponge:
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/8 cups packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 medium eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
A pinch of salt
7 ounces cooking apples, peeled and chopped 
1/3 cup hazelnuts, toasted and finely chopped
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon

For the vanilla syrup:
5/8 cup water
3⁄4 cup superfine sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract (or to taste)

For the caramel frosting:
1 cup cream cheese, softened 
Generous 1 cup unsalted butter, softened 
5 1⁄4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
5 1⁄4 ounces dulce de leche (alternatively, use caramel made from sweetened condensed milk)

For the dipping caramel:
1 1/8 cups packed brown sugar 
1⁄2 cup water
1⁄2 teaspoon vinegar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
2 tablespoons butter

For the decoration
3 mini crab apples Bay leaves or apple leaves

Equipment
Three 6-inch round sandwich pans
Sugar thermometer
Pastry bag
Large round piping tip

Step-by-step directions for decorating the Toffee Apple Cake. (Photo: Georgia Glynn Smith)

Make the sponge one day ahead.

Preheat the oven to 347°F.

Line three 6-inch sandwich pans with oil spray and wax paper.

Place the butter, sugar, and vanilla extract in an electric mixer and, using the paddle, beat at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.

Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl or pitcher and slowly pour into the mixer, while beating at medium speed. If the mixture starts to curdle, add 1 Tablespoon of flour to bring it back together.

Sift the flour, cinnamon, and salt into a bowl and fold into the batter until just combined.

Fold in the apple, hazelnuts, and lemon zest, transfer the batter to the lined pans, and gently spread it out toward the edges with a step palette knife. The batter should be higher around the edges than in the middle, to ensure that the cake bakes evenly and that the height is level.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The sponges are cooked when they spring back to the touch and the sides are starting to come away from the edges of the pans. To double-check, you could insert a clean knife into the middle of the sponge; if it is cooked, the knife will come out clean.

While the sponges are in the oven, make the sugar syrup following the instructions (see below), then add the vanilla extract to taste.

When the sponges are baked, remove from the oven and let them rest for about 10 minutes. Brush the tops of the sponges with vanilla syrup (setting aside some for the assembling stage and storing it in the refrigerator overnight).

Once just warm, run a knife all the way around the sides of the pans, remove the sponges, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

When the sponges are cool, wrap them in plastic wrap and let them rest overnight at room temperature. This will ensure that all the moisture is sealed and that the sponges are a good firm texture for trimming and layering.

Make a cream-cheese frosting following the instructions on (see below), then gently fold in the dulce de leche.

Put the sugar and water in a saucepan and place over moderate heat, stirring lightly with a rubber spatula, until the sugar has dissolved.

Stir in the vinegar, syrup, and butter, then bring to a boil, stirring continuously until the caramel reaches 280°F.

Immediately dip the apples in the caramel and let harden on a lightly oiled tray or wax paper. (Steps 1 to 4, opposite.)

Dip the tips of the bay leaf stalks in the caramel and stick them to the tops of the apples.

Trim the three sponge layers and soak the tops with vanilla syrup, as shown on pages 150 to 151.

Put the frosting in a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Pipe a ring of large dots around the outside of the bottom layer, then pipe a swirl in the center and place the second sponge layer on top. Repeat the piping on the next layer, then put the last sponge in place. (Steps 5 to 6.)

Repeat the piped pattern on the top of the cake and, using a palette knife, drag each dot toward the middle. (Steps 7 to 9.)

Place 3 mini toffee apples in the center.

This cake has a shelf life of up to 3 days if stored in the refrigerator. Serve at room temperature.

Makes about 7/8 cup sugar syrup

5/8 cup water
¾ cup sugar

Place the water and sugar in a saucepan, stir well, and bring to a boil. Let it cool down.

When lukewarm, add the flavorings. Store the sugar syrup in the refrigerator if not using immediately. It will keep for up to one month.

Makes 2 3⁄4 pounds cream-cheese frosting

1 cup whole cream cheese, slightly softened
Generous 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
5 1⁄4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Place the cream cheese in a bowl and beat until smooth and creamy using an electric mixer.

Place the butter and a third of the sugar in a separate bowl and cream until very pale and fluffy. Add another third of the sugar and repeat.

Add the remaining sugar and beat again, scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure no lumps remain. Add the cream cheese, a little at a time, and mix at low speed until combined.

Chill until firm enough to spread or pipe.

Cream-cheese frosting will keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Reprinted with permission from Lovely Layer Cakes

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