The original recipe called for pears, but I had apples on hand so I used those. Butter, sugar, apples and cinnamon—yum! What could go wrong?
Plenty, as it turned out. What I ended up with was a runny heap of brown goo. Tasted great—as a topping for ice cream, maybe. But it was not a cake! It was a mess.
|The Disaster Version|
But I am both stubborn and curious. Where had I gone wrong? Several places, as it turned out.
-- I failed to caramelize the butter and sugar sufficiently, so there was no real base and everything leaked all over the oven (always put a pan under whatever you bake!).
-- The recipe just said four pears but said nothing about their size. I think Irish pears must be smaller than apples, so when the recipe called for grating one apple and adding it to the batter, I put in a lot of very juicy apple. One more strike against the poor cake, lying in a sad puddle.
But I persevered! Self, I said, make sure you get the caramel right, cut back on the amount of apple (and use a kind more appropriate for cooking—not all apples are), and bake it as long as you need to (the original instructions were a little vague about that too). When it comes time to unmold it, pray to the kitchen gods.
APPLE CARAMEL CAKE
Adapted from The New Irish Table by Margaret Johnson (2003)
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 apples, peeled and cored
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup vegetable oil
Wrap a 10-inch round springform pan with two layers of foil, to prevent leaking. (Only time I’ve seen this recommendation, but it’s a good one)
In a small saucepan, combine the brown sugar and butter over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until the butter and sugar caramelize. Pour the caramel into the springform pan and set aside. (It makes a layer about 1/2-inch thick. Yes, you may lick the pan--after it cools!)
Coarsely grate one of the apples (I left the skin on—you’d never know it). Slice the remaining apples.
In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and oil together. Stir in the shredded apple, Then stir the dry ingredients into the egg mixture.
Pour the mixture over the caramel base and arrange the sliced apples on top (in circles or rows).
Bake for 1 hour or longer (mine baked for about an hour and a half), until the base bubbles and the apples are soft and lightly browned. (Use a toothpick or wooden skewer to make sure the batter is cooked inside.)
Remove from the oven and let cool for about 10 minutes. Then (carefully!) remove the sides of the pan.
Cruel Winter (County Cork Mystery #5), available everywhere!
BTW, I've mentioned before that this book is loosely based on a real crime that took place in 1996. That crime lives on: the primary suspect (never arrested) is now suing the Irish police for framing him and concealing information--it was in the Irish news just this week. The Irish take crime seriously!