I know, I just gave you an apple cake recipe (and Cleo Coyle provided another intriguing apple recipe this week), but this is the week Golden Malicious was released (the seventh of the Orchard Mysteries), so it just seems wrong to talk about fish or vegetables. Plus this is a different cake.
I’m also celebrating my first successful cider-making effort. In pursuit of all things apple, last year I acquired a small antique cider press. Before you start imagining a room full of equipment, this one is table-top size (and also doubles as a sausage maker and lard press, but I don’t think I’m trying those functions) and has a container that holds maybe two quarts of material to be pressed.
I confess I tried this last year, but I made a fatal mistake: I thought it would be all right if I just put the whole apples in the press and started cranking. After a lot of apples, I ended up with one-half cup of cider. That was the end of the experiment for the year.
But this year I talked to a couple of people who know what they’re doing, and they said, grind or chop up the apples before pressing. Duh. So I used my antique hand-cranked grinder and made a huge pile of apple mush (scattering bits of apple all over the room along the way). Then I put batches of that mush into the press and voila! Cider! I pressed a half-bushel of apples (a mix of four newly-harvested and very fresh varieties) and ended up with two quarts of cider—which is delicious, I must say.
|This is a half bushel of apples|
Cider Spice Cake
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp salt
2/3 cup apple cider (note: for both the cake and the frosting you should use unpasteurized cider)
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3 large eggs at room temperature
Put the oven rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two round cake pans.
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a bowl.
With an electric mixer, beat the butter until it is light and fluffy, then add the brown sugar and beat until combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each (this will look curdled, but don’t worry).
Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture and the cider alternately, beginning and ending with flour.
Divide the batter between two pans (rap on the counter once to release any big bubbles). The layers will be thin.
Bake in the preheated oven until the layers begin to pull away from the sides of the pans and a skewer or toothpick comes out clean, 25-30 minutes.
Cool in the pans on racks for 5 minutes, then invert onto the racks and cool completely (at least 1 hour—you can’t frost a hot cake!).
Cider Buttercream Frosting
¾ cup white sugar
3 Tblsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
¾ cup apple cider
1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, softened
Whisk together the sugar, cornstarch and salt in a heavy saucepan. Whisk in the cider, then bring to a boil over moderate heat, whisking constantly, and let boil, still whisking constantly, for 1 minutes. This will be very thick! Cool quickly by putting the mixture in a metal bowl, and then setting the bowl in a larger bowl of ice and cold water. Stir occasionally until cool, about 30 minutes.
Beat the butter in a large bowl at medium-high speed until it is light and fluffy. Mix in a third of the cider/sugar mixture and beat until well blended. Add the rest and continue beating until smooth.
Then frost your cake! Place the frosted cake in the refrigerator to set the frosting, about 2 hours. But let it warm up again so the frosting softens when you’re ready to serve. One more note: this is a very flavorful buttercream frosting, so you can use it for any spice cake or cupcake recipe.