Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Applesauce (and Pumpkin?) Cake

If you were to quickly peruse recent posts to this site (go ahead, I’ll wait…), you’ll see that I’ve been doing a lot of baking. Maybe it’s that the most prolific autumn ingredients (apples and winter squashes) taste best to me when enveloped in flour and butter and spices, then baked and, often, frosted. Or maybe it’s because as the days get colder, I can’t justify turning up the thermostat just for me, but I can justify turning on the oven because I plan to share.

I’ve got more recipes for apple cake than anyone needs, but I rarely try any of them, possibly because I can’t decide which one to bet on. Finally, I went with this applesauce cake from smitten kitchen because, well, I’ve been making applesauce. Actually, I’ve been making this Applesauce with Pumpkin and Spices, and I wanted to see if it would behave well in a cake such as this.

Applesauce with Pumpkin and Spices gets a gold star for its conformity, at least in this application. I just substituted it equally for the plain, unsweetened applesauce in the original recipe and it worked just fine. In fact, I quite liked the little bit of added pumpkin flavor. I also used the Pumpkin Pie Spice blend I threw together a little while ago, which saves time in measuring out individual spices. It also draws a little more attention to the pumpkin-spice quality of the cake. You could use whatever spice blend you like, or just use cinnamon and it will still be delicious.

Another change I made to the original recipe was to bump up its Whole Food Quotient (WFQ). Yes, applesauce and pumpkin in a cake can already take it dangerously into the health-food category, but I also put in some whole wheat pastry flour. I could definitely taste it in the cake, even through all the apple and pumpkin and spice flavors, but I’ve acquired a taste for its nutty, wheat-y flavor. If you or someone else who is going to eat the cake haven’t developed this resistance to the taste of whole grains, you can substitute it with more all-purpose flour.

Since I’ve had problems getting higher WFQ cakes neatly out of their baking pans (they can be a little crumbly), I left this cake in the dish and served it from there. Since this super-moist cake with its deliciously tangy and sweet cream cheese frosting should be refrigerated to store, the cake pan also made a handy storage vessel. I think it was probably firm enough, however, as evidenced by the nice, neat squares it could be cut into, to turn it out on your fanciest serving plate.

Not that this is a formal, fancy cake. It comes together quickly and easily, and requires no fussy procedures. The reward is much greater than the effort, especially since it’s such a good excuse to turn on the oven and warm up the house.

Applesauce and Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from smitten kitchen

I think you could substitute the Applesauce with Pumpkin and Spices with 1 cup plain, unsweetened applesauce and ½ cup pumpkin puree if you wanted the pumpkin-apple experience without having to make Applesauce with Pumpkin and Spices.

For the cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice (or spice mix of your choice, or cinnamon)
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 ½ cups Applesauce with Pumpkin and Spices or unsweetened applesauce

For the frosting
5 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon Pumpkin Pie Spice (or spice mix of your choice, or cinnamon)

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter or spray well with cooking spray an 8-inch square baking dish or pan. Set aside.

2. To make the cake, in a medium-size bowl, combine the all-purpose flour, whole wheat pastry flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 2 teaspoons Pumpkin Pie Spice. Whisk together until well-combined. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl or the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer, beat together the whole stick of butter and brown sugar until the mixture is fluffy, about a minute or two. (Use a hand-held electric mixer or heavy-duty mixer if you can.) Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. Beat in the 1 teaspoon vanilla and the Pumpkin Applesauce.

4. Mix in the flour mixture a little at a time. Stir until just combined.

5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake at 350 F for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out without any raw batter clinging to it. (Since this is a moist cake, it may come out with some moist crumbs.) Remove the cake from the oven and cool completely on a wire rack.

6. When the cake has cooled, prepare the frosting. In a medium-size bowl, combine the cream cheese 3 tablespoons butter, and ¼ teaspoon vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Sift in (please sift…I often forget and end up with lumpy frosting) the powdered sugar and Pumpkin Pie Spice. Beat until smooth. Spread the frosting evenly over the cake.

Makes 9-12 servings. Store in the refrigerator.

Other recipes like this one: Beet and Orange Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting, Maple Cake with Walnuts and Dates

One year ago: Barley and Wild Rice Salad with Cranberry Vinaigrette

Two years ago: Pasta with White Beans and Pesto

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