Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Honey Apple Almond Layer Cake

As part of my New Year's Resolutions, I want to continue to get better at food photography.   A friend of mine and I decided to do a food photography challenge to hold each other accountable.  I had seen another blog that did a challenge where they made every recipe out of a food magazine- while it appealed to me, there are just a lot of recipes, I know I couldn't stomach, particularly those involving seafood.  I do want to expand my taste palate, so we are using food magazines as our source, and this month we chose a Honey Apple Almond Layer Cake from the Food Network Magazine.  I'm not usually keen on making cakes from magazines- I like to stick to my favorite cook books (Cook's Illustrated, Baked, Pastry Queen)- so not only was this a completely new flavor of cake, it was a new cake recipe source.

My overall review is that the cake came out pretty good.  I think it was not as sweet as your traditional vanilla or chocolate cake and for those of you looking for something different, give this a try.  My favorite part of the cake was the frosting.  It is almond flavored swiss meringue butter cream- for those of you unfamiliar with swiss meringue butter cream, it is a very fluffy light frosting, that you can pile on  high without feeling disgusting from the sweetness.  However, in this case, the cake was very dense, almost like a pound cake, so if I made the cake again, I would use a thicker frosting, such as a traditional buttercream.  The apple butter layer in the middle was not overwhelming and complimented the cake well.  I feel like the brushed honey could almost be skipped, I'm not sure it made that much of  a flavor difference.  I opted to top the cake with cinnamon red hots, because I just thought it would compliment the apple butter, as opposed to slivered almonds.

The thing that excited me most about this cake was frosting it.  My husband got me a rotating cake stand for Christmas and I am wondering how I lived without it.  It is definitely awesome and any serious cake baker should add it to their wishlist now!

Honey Apple Almond Layer Cake

Oven:  350

2 sticks unsalted butter
2 cups all purpose flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 TBSP vanilla
1 1/4 cup whole milk

4 egg whites
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2 sticks unsalted butter (room temp** see note below)

3/4 cup apple butter
3 TBSP honey
2 TBSP water

1) Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease 2 9" cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.

2) In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Set aside.

3) In mixer, beat the butter with the sugar on medium-high until fluffy (~3 minutes).  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Scrape down the sides, then beat in the vanilla.

4) In alternating batches, starting and ending with the flour mixture, add in flour mixture and milk.  Scrape down sides after last flour addition and give one final mix until smooth- do not overmix or cake will be very dense.

5) Evenly divide the batter in the two prepared cake pans.  Bake in oven for 30-35 minutes, rotating halfway through- a cake tester inserted in the center should come out clean.  Let cakes cool for a few minutes, then invert to remove cakes and let cool on baking rack.

6) Once cakes are completely cool, make the frosting.  In heatproof pan (or double boiler) set over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk egg whites and sugar.  Heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches a temperature of 160'.  Remove from heat and pour into bowl of your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.  Beat on medium high until completely cool and stiff white peaks form- will sort of look like marshmallow fluff.  (If you have never made swiss meringue buttercream before, here is a great tutorial/video).  Once it is at this stage, switch to the paddle attachment.  One TBSP at a time, drop in the butter and beat on medium.  Eventually the frosting will thicken like pudding and you will notice a different sound of it slapping against the paddle.  After you have added all the butter, scrape down the sides and beat in the almond extract and vanilla.
**If you run into a problem where the frosting is too runny or looks curdled because you did not use room temp butter - like I did- go here to find out how to save your frosting- it saved mine!

7) To assemble the cake, use a bread knife and level off the bottom layer- place it on a plate or cake stand.  Heat the honey and water in a saucepan until simmering.  Brush half of the honey mixture onto the bottom cake layer.  Drop the 3/4 cup of apple butter onto this layer, and spread out to about 1/2" from the edges.  Place the top layer of the cake on.  Brush the remaining honey onto the top layer.  Frost the cake, starting the the sides.  Set some frosting aside for decorative edges, if you want.

Source:  Adapted from Food Network Magazine, Jan/Feb 2013
Enjoy the cake!  If you make it, let me know if you liked it or not.

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