Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting
Over the summer, the kids and I were privileged to attend two magic shows sponsored by our local library. The magicians were both really engaging with the children and featured a reading theme throughout their show. The tricks were simple but there were a few that I have no idea how they pulled off. The kids were enthralled for both shows. Even Lucy was enchanted by all the legerdemain she witnessed! For both shows, Matthew and Emma raised their hands enthusiastically when the magicians asked for volunteers and Matthew was called up for both shows. Emma was a little upset that she got ignored, but I have a feeling that at the tender age of three, she might just be a bit too young and behaviorally unpredictable to make a good magician's assistant. So, Matthew was the privileged chosen one and I have to say that he made an excellent asset to the show because nobody laughed more heartily at their corny jokes and was more amazed by their tricks than he.
The first time Matthew was called up to the stage, he jogged right up there and listened carefully as the magician began to explain the trick. Suddenly, I noticed that he began to look a bit uncomfortable as he began to stand with his knees slightly bent and his toes just beginning to turn inwards. "Uh oh," I thought. My sister Amy was sitting next to me at the time and we both exchanged a look of terrified concern. Matthew had to go to the bathroom.
The magician continued to delay the actual execution of his trick by making some jokes and teasing Matthew. He did a couple "trial runs" of the trick where the end result was not the expected one and then he would begin to blame the error in the trick on Matthew. Of course this was quite funny and Matthew was laughing so hard that he began to start clutching at the top of his pants and doubling over in a mixture of pain and hysterics. Amy and I were both on the verge of a panic attack. I began praying to ever saint in my arsenal: "Please please, oh please, do not let my kid pee his pants onstage!"
From behind me, I heard a guy whisper to his wife, "Oh man! That poor kid has to go!"
The jokes continued and the magician seemed completely unaware that his assistant was struggling to keep the dam from exploding. Matthew was dancing about, knocking his knees together, and looked to be in complete agony. I was so on edge that I debated going onstage and pulling Matthew off. But, soon enough, the magician finally got to the trick - basically, Matthew was holding a plastic ball and he had to cover it with both of his hands and when the magician said the magic words and Matthew opened his hands no less than 10 balls suddenly came cascading out of his hands and onto the floor. It was actually pretty cool. The magician thanked a very pained and hobbling Matthew for his help, handed him a prize, and then shooed him off the stage. Matthew bolted from the stage and ran and ran and ran until he reached the restrooms in the back. It was close, but he made it. Probably the most tense ten minutes of my life so far. Amy actually ended up filming the entire thing on my cell phone so Paul got to watch it later and cringe along with us. It provided a great laugh for all of us.
Before the second magic show, I made sure that both kids used the bathroom. Matthew's second round as the magician's assistant was far less eventful. The magician put a blue-colored scarf into his magic hat and handed Matthew a magic wand, instructing him to wave it over the hat while saying the magic words: "Abracadabra! Turn this blue scarf into red!" However, instead of a blue scarf, the magician kept pulling slices of toast out of the hat. "Matthew! I told you to turn the blue scarf into red, not bread!" This repeated over and the scarf multiplied into an entire loaf of sandwich bread before finally turning the red shade as promised. Matthew laughed so hard, I was so afraid that we would have another incident but he pulled through just fine.
Matthew's greatest magic trick around the house lately has been helping me peel apples. Peeling anything is one of those kitchen tasks I loathe the most. And if you are going to be baking anything with a bunch of apples, there is a lot of coring, peeling, and slicing to be done. Lucky for me, Matthew actually enjoys peeling and enthusiastically volunteered for the job. However, after he badly peeled his forefinger instead of the apple he was holding, Paul ordered a fancy little tool to help Matthew chug out peel, cored, and sliced apples in a matter of seconds. Matthew was especially excited about the long, snake-like peel the machine left behind once finished with an apple and took it upon himself to eat it. A little extra fiber never hurt anyone!
Our new apple peeler/corer/slicer has been so helpful in the making of all our apple confections. Including this Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Icing. This cake is a breeze to whip up - with or without a fancy-dancy apple peeler. Unlike most cakes that involve multiple steps or careful folding of ingredients to produce the desired texture, everything is dumped into one bowl and beat together until combined. The apples and nuts are then added and the mixture begins to loosen as the apples release some of their juices. The dough is spread in a pan and baked until it turns a deep golden brown and makes your entire house smell like fall. The cake is allowed to cool completely before the best, most gorgeous brown sugar frosting is spread over the top. Oh my word, such a perfect cake for this time of year! We snacked on it all week long. Emma and Lucy were especially fond of it. Simple enough to whip up on a whim during a busy weeknight yet enticing enough to serve to dinner guests, this cake has something for everyone. Don't let the fall pass you by without making it!
Old-Fashioned Apple Cake with Brown Sugar Frosting
from King Arthur Flour
For the Cake:
2 1/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour or King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
4 cups peeled, cored, chopped apple (about 1 1/3 pounds whole apples)
1 cup diced toasted walnuts or pecans
For the Frosting:
7 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour a 9" x 13" pan.
To make the cake, mix all of the ingredients except the apples and nuts in a large bowl. Beat until well combined; the mixture will be very stiff, and may even be crumbly. Add the apples and nuts, and mix until the apples release some of their juice and the stiff mixture becomes a thick batter. Beat for about a minute.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 45 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, or with just a few wet crumbs clinging to it.
Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a rack to cool completely before frosting.
To make the frosting, melt the butter in a small pan over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and salt and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts. Add the milk, bring to a boil, and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, stir in the confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat well to create a smooth, spreadable frosting. If the mixture appears too thin, add more confectioners' sugar. Spread on the cake while frosting is still warm.