Sunday, November 27, 2011

Apple Danish for Thanksgiving

This year we spent Thanksgiving with my Mom's family at my grandparents house in Palm Desert.  This year was extra special because Hubby and I and our newest cat, Oliver, made the hour and 45 minute drive Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving.  We went out early to help Grandma Jane cook and prep for the big day.

Yes, you read right, we took our cat.  I know, it's a little odd.  Oliver joined our family as a 4 month old kitten back in June.  He is a sweetheart, but he cannot be trusted to stay at home with the two big girl kitties.  He has an affinity for eating toilet paper, digging in trashcans and being a little too inquisitive.  Plus he has about 50 times the energy as the big girls and sadly they have zero interest in playing with the little guy.  This was actually Oliver's second trip to grandma's house (the first was in August--see photo below).  He doesn't love the car ride, usually spending the first half of the drive meowing his little head off, but once he's there he is a happy camper.  He purrs nonstop at grandma's and like everyone else, loves being there.

Hubby and Oliver on his first trip to Grandma's house in Aug 2011
(we drove at night for this most recent trip so we didn't get any photos)

Grandma has been doing our families Thanksgiving for my entire life.  My mom and aunt and I joked that none of us knows how to cook a turkey because Grandma always does it.  She puts on quite a spread and thinks of all her guests favorite dishes (even Oliver got a turkey day treat--a small rawhide stick wrapped with dried chicken--which he absolutely loved).  The big meal contains many dishes that grace most Thanksgiving tables, like turkey and stuffing (with an extra crispy crust on top), mashed potatoes and gravy, ham, sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallows, corn, cranberry and dinner rolls.  She also includes some other special dishes that aren't as traditional, like 7 layer salad (my personal favorite), blueberry pecan salad (my mom's favorite), ambrosia (my cousins favorite) and sweet potato casserole with crusted pecan topping (almost every one's favorite).  It's a feast of major proportions and I always look forward to digging in.  Grandma serves Thanksgiving dinner around noon.  Originally she did it early to accommodate the families that had to go two Thanksgivings in one day.  But no one has to tackle two meals in one day anymore.  So we do two at Grandma's.  The big feast at noon and what I like to call second dinner around 6 pm. I look forward to second dinner just as much as the main event.

There is never a shortage of sweets at Grandma's.  Every year she makes 3 kinds of pies...pumpkin, pecan and apple.  This year she let me make the apple pie using a favorite family recipe from my Dad's family.  I had a blast spending the day with Grandma in the kitchen prepping and baking.  She even helped me crimp my pie crust edges, a skill I am still working to master! 

Grandma also helped me develop the recipe for this apple danish filling.  I brought the leftover dough from my recent danish pastry making adventure.  We whipped up an apple pie like filling to fill the danish on Thanksgiving morning.  Between the two of us, I think we came up with a pretty awesome filling that is most definitely going on the recipe keeper list. 

The filling is sweet and tart, using 2 types of apples.  You can change up the apple mix to suit your tastes.  The danish is sweet with the icing on top so if you prefer a more tart filling, you can use all granny smith's.  A little cornstarch helps the filling thicken.  I recommend making it a day or two before you plan to bake the danish (you can also make the pastry dough ahead).  It sets up even more after chilling in the fridge.  This filling could be used with other dessert options, like an apple turnover using store bought puff pastry, it could be used to fill a crepe, top a cheesecake, or fill a tart shell.  This sweet breakfast treat is best served warm from the oven.

The apple danish was a big hit with my family.  I kept hearing, "Wow, you made this?"  Which makes me blush a little.  I am happy to report there wasn't a speck left over. 
Hope you all had a nice Thanksgiving and are gearing up for the holiday fun in December!

For the danish pastry recipe, including some step by step photos, click here.

Apple Danish Filling

Yields about 2 cups

3 apples (I used 1 granny smith and 2 rome apples), peeled, cored and sliced in 1/2 inch wide by 1 inch tall chunks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), sliced in 1/2 pieces


In a small bowl combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg until thoroughly mixed.  Heat a medium sized skillet over medium heat and add butter.  Once butter is melted add the apples and sugar mixture. Bring mixture to a simmer and stir occasionally and cook for about 15 minutes or until apples are just tender but not mushy and the sauce is slightly thickened.   Allow mixture to fully cool before filling the danish pastry.  The filling can be made up to three days ahead.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Danish Pastry Braid

I have never made pastry. When I was assigned Gitte's blog, My Danish Kitchen for this month's Secret Recipe Club I saw Danish pastry and there was no turning back.

Danish Pastry, also called Wienerbrød, is one of many Danish recipes on Gitte's blog. Gitte is from Denmark but has made a home in the United States with her husband and son. She writes that she experienced challenges cooking in a foreign country with unfamiliar ingredients over the years. She has tapped into her family back home to help her learn to cook. She has a lovely blog filled with an array of recipes both Danish and American inspired.  I'm totally intrigued by Danish treats and see some others on Gitte's site I need to make, like Danish Træstammer, like a marzipan covered cake truffle or Danish Hindbærsnitter, Danish cookies filled with raspberry preserves.  Yum!  Pop over to My Danish Kitchen and check out the great recipes. 

Making pastry takes planning and patience, two things I could be a lot better at. So I knew I wanted to give this a go.

The first order of business was to purchase cardamom. My local chain grocery store had it....for $11.79 for a 1.25 ounce bottle! I didn't really want to invest that much money for a spice I wasn't sure I would use again. So I went to a nearby Persian grocery store where I knew they would have an array of spices. I was able to get 0.75 ounce for $1.99.  Now that's what I'm talking about!  Cardamom has a spicy fragrence that reminds of spices similar to allspice and cloves.  I was worried it might be overpowering, but the cardamom flavor was extremely mild in the finished product. 

The dough needs resting time so plan  to make it the night before you want to have it for breakfast.  And then get up (really early) to roll and fold the dough (3 times), chill it again for 30 minutes and then roll it one last time, fill it, braid it, glaze and top it, bake it, ice it and finally cut and serve it.  Phew...I'm out of breath!  It's really not that bad.  Each step is pretty straightforward.  I would plan to allow at least 90 minutes of prep and cook time the morning you want to make this.  I didn't get up as early as I wanted to, but the Danish pastry was done technically done in the (late) morning hours.

A few notes.  I accidentally omitted the sugar in the dough.  I didn't even notice until I was typing up Gitte's recipe.  Whoops.  It still turned out great despite this omission.  There is plenty of sweetness from the filling and icing to make up for it.  Speaking of filling I used ollalieberry preserves that I had on hand in place of raspberry preserves.  Use your favorite preserves.  I had a little trouble braiding the pastry.  First off, I rolled it out too long (about 18 inches instead of 12).  I had too many strips to braid so I ended up cutting about 6 of them off.  This error wasn't noticeable in the finished product either. My braid baked for 15 minutes exactly and could have used 2 more minutes in the oven. 

Check out the big pieces of butter in the dough...this was the first of three times rolling and folding the dough

This is after 3 times of rolling and folding the goes back into the fridge to chill for another 30 minutes

Ready for braiding

The braid gets glazed with egg wash and topped with pearl sugar and sliced almonds

Fresh out of the oven

The result? Despite things not coming together perfectly, it was still a delicious, flaky fruit filled pastry. This beautiful pastry would be great for a special breakfast or for brunch. The recipe makes two 12 inch braids. I made one and froze the dough for the second one. So another Danish pastry is in my future.  I'm already thinking about filling it with apple pie filling.  Mmmmm.


Danish Pastry Braid {Wiernerbrød)
from My Danish Kitchen

Makes two 12 inch pastry braids

Pastry Ingredients:
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups cold unsalted butter
2 packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees F)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar

Seedless raspberry preserves

1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons water
Pearl sugar, for topping
Slice almonds, optional, for topping

1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons warm milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract


Place flour in the bowl of (an 11 cup) food processor fitted with the steel blade. Cut butter into 1/4 slices and add to flour. Pulse until the butter is the size of kidney beans.

Dissolve yeast and warm water in a large blow. Let stand for 5 minutes and stir yeast until smooth. Add in cream, cardamom, salt, eggs and sugar and stir until combined. Turn the butter flour mixture into the liquid mixture and use a rubber spatula to carefully mix until the dry ingredients are moistened. Dough will have large pieces of butter and may look slightly crumbly. Cover dough and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight or up to 4 days.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and dust the dough and your rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough to make a 16 to 20 inch rectangle. Fold the dough in thirds longwise, rotate dough 1/4 turn and fold into thirds again, make a small rectangle. Turn the dough over. Repeat the rolling and folding 2 more times (making it a total of rolling and folding 3 times). You will end with a small rectangle of dough. Wrap dough and chill for 30 minutes to overnight. (I chilled for an hour)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Divide the chilled dough into two parts. Roll each half into a 6 x 12 inch rectangle. If you are not making both braids at the same time, wrap the second half of dough and place in the refrigerator until ready to roll. Dough can also be frozen and unthawed in the refrigerator overnight.

Spread the filling down the length of the center 1/3 of each rectangle. Cut slanting (45 degree angle) 3/4 inch strips along both sides such that there are equal number of strips on each side. Carefully transfer the braids to the baking sheets and let dough rise for 15-30 minutes until it appears slightly puffy (it not double in size). Lightly beat the egg and water for the glaze. Once the dough has risen, brush the pastry with the glaze and sprinkle with pearl sugar and/or sliced almonds.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Make icing by mixing powdered sugar, milk and almond extract until silky smooth. Drizzle icing on the top and let set. Cut crosswise into 2 inch slices.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sweet Pepper Soup and Herb Parmesan Crostini

I have not been a huge soup person in the past and have only made soup at home once in a while.  The weather has officially turned cool and I've been craving soup lately. I have made three soups in the last three weeks.  The first was a butternut squash soup from Cooking Light.  It was ok, but I didn't deem it blogworthy.  The second soup was chicken noodle from Cook's Illustrated.  A good solid soup, but I forgot to photograph it.  Guess that means I have to make it again.  And the third soup was this sweet pepper soup.  You will notice that I didn't reference a recipe source for this one, because it was really an amalgmation of a few recipes I came across and I'm going to deem this one my own since it was vastly different from any of the individual recipes.   

What I love about all this soup making is how easy it is.  Especially since I am not making my own stock and using store bought stock or chicken base and water.  I've been making the soup the night before we want to have it for dinner.  I have noticed this extra time allows the soup flavors to develop overnight making it even better the next day. 

I created this soup out of necessity of not wanting to waste 6 sweet bell peppers sitting in my fridge for over a week.  I was very happy with the result.  Hubby said this soup would be great with a grilled cheese sandwich and I have to agree.  We had the soup with herb parmesan crusted crostini which is great to dip in and soak up all the sweet pepper goodness.


Sweet Pepper Soup

Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped into a medium dice
2 small carrots, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces (about 1/2 cup)
4 large garlic cloves, cut in quarters
1/4 cup dry white wine
6 sweet bell peppers, seeds and stems removed and chopped into 1 inch pieces
3 cups water
4 teaspoons chicken base (if you are using chicken broth instead, use 3 cups of low sodium broth)
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
8 large basil leaves plus extra for garnish
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream and feta cheese to top soup

In a dutch oven or large pot, heat olive oil on medium high heat and saute the onion, carrots and garlic until the onions are cooked, about 8 minutes.  Add wine and cook on high until only about a tablespoon of wine remains.  Add peppers, water, chicken base, red pepper flakes, basil and tomato paste.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for about 30 minutes until peppers are tender.  Use an immersion blender to puree the soup.  Alternatively, use a blender or food processor to puree the soup in batches.  Strain soup into a large bowl using a fine mesh strainer.  Don't skip this step if you like a smooth soup to strain out the skin from the peppers.  Serve with a small dollop of sour cream, a sprinkle of feta and freshly torn basil. 

Herb Parmesan Crostini


1 baguettte
1/2 cup coarsely grated or chopped parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoon fresh chives, minced (optional)
fresh cracked black pepper to taste

Preheat  oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment. 

Cut baguette on the diagonal crosswise into 1/4 thick slices.  Mix all ingredients together and lightly spread cheese mixture onto the slices and place face up on the baking sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Turn the oven to broil and bake for an additional 2-3 minutes until crostini is golden brown.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I totally cheated.  I not only made buckeyes back in September, I posted them.  I wasn't supposed to do that since Club: Baked was making them this week.  I know I'm bad.  But I'm going to pull the "Mom" card here.  I went in search of chocolate treats to make my Mom for her birthday and I choose two from Baked Explorations.  Marshmallow chocolate cups and buckeyes.  They made a great birthday gift and I couldn't resist posting them a little early.  Hopefully my fellow bakers will forgive me.

I really can't truly call my candies buckeyes since I didn't leave that classic exposed peanut butter eye on top.  To be honest I think that buckeyes look totally unappealing.  How do I say...they remind me of man parts...that I never imagined I would be mentioning on a food blog.  I'm totally uncomfortable that I just said that.  Maybe I'm a little prude, but I went with the fully covered up look, by dipping the entire candy in silky dark chocolate and drizzling a swirl of chocolate to pretty them up a bit. 

No matter what these candies look like, I can say they are delicious. They are like Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, but better.  The peanut butter filling has that sweet peanut butter flavor with a slightly gritty texture.  Gritty in a good way.  That texture comes from finely ground graham crackers which was something I didn't expect to find in this recipe.  Dip in your favorite chocolate and try to resist the urge to eat them 3 at a time. 

This recipe is most definitely a keeper and would make a great addition to your holiday goodie tray.  It's easy to make and even easier to eat. To see how what real buckeyes look like, head over to the Club: Baked site and check out posts from my fellow bakers.  To get the recipe head over to Karen's site, Cookies Cakes and More.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ooey Gooey Caramel Pumpkin Blondies

See that caramel peeking through the top?  That's ooey gooey goodness.  I was completely mesmerized by the words "ooey gooey" when I spotted this recipe on the Tasty Kitchen site about 2 weeks ago.  I bookmarked it and like many things, promptly forgot about it.  Sometimes I worry about my memory, or lack of.  Fast forward 2 weeks.  I picked up a large can of pumpkin puree at the store over the weekend, not sure what I would use it for.  But I figured a girl should have some pumpkin on hand in the month of November, you know, just in case.  Combing the depths of my memory did not send the light bulb off that I should make this recipe.  I was actually thinking a brownie might be nice on a cool Sunday afternoon.  I pulled up my brownies/blondies favorites folder online and that's when I saw the "ooey gooey" recipe.  The minute I spotted it, I knew these had to be made.  Especially since I had a hefty portion of caramel sauce left over from the previous week's caramel apple cupcakes.

I wouldn't necessarily describe this as a blondie.  It's more like a snack cake.  It's soft and cakey and has that ooey gooey caramel layer running through it.  The original recipe calls for chocolate chips and walnuts to mixed in with the ooey gooey layer, but I opted just for the chocolate chips.  I also added chocolate chips on top.  If you are a nut person, I think pecans would be great in this (I'm not really a walnut fan).  Though I generally avoid nuts in most desserts, I almost wished I had added pecans to at least half the pan.  These snack cakes are so soft and tender that a little crunch would bring a nice texture crunch. 

These keep well for about 5 days stored in an airtight container.  This served as my breakfast for at least 4 days this week.  Good stuff!


Ooey Gooey Caramel Pumpkin Blondies (with Chocolate and Walnuts)
from Lauren's Latest via Tasty Kitchen


For the blondies:
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the filling:

1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1 – 14 oz. package caramels, unwrapped
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 9×13 pan with non stick cooking spray and set aside.

In a medium bowl whisk the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda and salt together.  Using a mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, vanilla and pumpkin and mix on low until combined. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients into the batter. Mix until just incorporated. Spread 2/3 of the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle nuts and chocolate chips on the batter.

Make the caramel filling by placing the unwrapped caramels and the cream into a medium heat proof bowl. Microwave on high in 20 second intervals until caramel is smooth and completely melted, stirring in between intervals.

Pour melted caramel over the chocolate and nuts. Spread the caramel layer evenly with an offset spatula, butter knife or spoon.  Place dollops of remaining batter on top of the caramel layer. Gently spread the dollops out to try and get a smooth layer of batter. Don't worry if some of the caramel is showing though.

Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are golden and toothpick comes out clean when inserted.
Cool completely before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

I didn't plan to post 3 apple recipes in a row.  It just sort of happened that way.  I'm going to roll with it and call this apple week. I have to say, I'm loving all things apple right now. I think the culmination will be my Grandma Edna's apple pie recipe around Thanksgiving.   It's one of those non recipe recipes.  You know, a little of this, a little of that?  But it is hands down my all time favorite apple pie. This apple butter is very reminiscent of those beloved apple pie flavors.

Hubby came home when the apple butter had been in the slow cooker for about 4 hours or so and the entire house smelled of apple goodness.  He wondered what I was butter I told him.  But when he saw the finished product, he said, "that doesn't look like butter".  I tried to explain to him it doesn't actually contain butter, but it takes on a thick spreadable butter like consistency.  He still couldn't seem to get beyond the name and told me I should stop calling it butter, since there is no butter! Oh, honey, you can call it whatever you want.  This non butter butter is like a thick applesauce with an intense apple pie flavor. 

Apple butter is great way to pizazz up your toast or English muffin.  You can put it on graham crackers drizzled with caramel sauce for a snack like I did (I had some left over from the caramel apple cupcakes from earlier in the week begging to be used up).  We also had apple butter for breakfast, stirred into homemade oatmeal.  I'm kind of embarrassed to admit, it was my first time making homemade oatmeal (instead of using one of those Quaker oats packets). Now that I know how easy it is, I will be making it again over the coming winter months.

Apple butter is easy to make.  You start with cut up apples and juice in a large pot and cook it down until the apples are tender.  Then you blend the cooked apples into applesauce.  You can use a blender or an immersion blender to puree your apples into sauce.  What is an immersion blender, you ask?  It's a handheld stick blender that you use right in the pot you are cooking in to puree your food.  This handheld device does all the work a blender would do but you don't have the headache of transferring hot food to a blender in batches.  It's fantastic for making soups, sauces and apple butter of course.  If you are considering new gadgets for your holiday wish list, I highly recommend it.  Ok, now that my PSA on immersion blenders is over...Your pureed applesauce goes into the slow cooker and you stir in sugar and spices and let the slow cooker do its thing for 8 to 10 hours.  Part of the cooking time in the crock pot should be uncovered to allow the excess juices to boil down.  I wasn't so patient and think mine could have used another hour or so uncovered.  You can store the apple butter tightly covered in the fridge for a couple of weeks, or you can preserve it and give apple butter to your friends and family for the holidays.  The recipe yields 7-8 one half pints of apple butter. 


Slow Cooker Apple Butter

6 pounds of apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1 inch pieces (I used honey crisp)
2/3 cup of apple cider or apple juice or water (I used apple juice)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine apples and cider (juice or water) in a large heavy bottomed pot.  Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to simmer and continue cooking for about 30 minutes or apples are tender.  Puree the apple mixture with an immersion blender (or if using a regular blender, remove the center piece of the lid to allow the heat to escape when blending).  At this stage you will have applesauce. 

Transfer the apple sauce to a crock pot and stir in the sugars and spices.  Turn the crock pot to low and cook for 8 - 10 hours, until the mixture thickens and can hold its shape.  You can test the apple butter by placing a dollop on a small plate and put the plate in the freezer for about 5 minutes, or until the plate no longer feels warm on the bottom.  If the apple butter slides down the plate, it's not ready.  Note: I had to cook the applesauce for 10 hours with the last 90 minutes removing the lid from the crock pot to allow the excess juice/liquid to cook off.  The recipe doesn't specify whether to put the lid on the crock pot or not, but it was my assumption that it should be cooked covered. 

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 weeks.  Or you can easily preserve your apple butter.  Click here for instructions on preserving.  The butter should be preserved while it's still hot and then processed in your pot or canner for 20 minutes. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Caramel Apple Cupcakes

"It tastes like fall."

That is what my uber picky particular Hubby said when he tasted these cupcakes.  For those of you who don't know my Hubby or are new to the blog, that, my friends, is what I like to call a rave review!  Because tasting like fall is a good thing.  And he is absolutely right, these cupcakes do taste like fall.  The flavors have all the goodness of fall, with apples, cinnamon and other warm spices along with a delicious buttery caramel flavor pulling it all together. 

Caramel Apple Cake was Melissa from the Lulu the Baker's pick for this week's Club: Baked baking assignment.  And the timing couldn't be better coming right around Halloween.  Who doesn't love a caramel apple?  The recipe as written from Baked Explorations is a massive 3 layer cake that can be presented in a few impressive ways.  Below is a picture of how the cake appears in the book.

I also came across this amazing presentation from the Great Cake Company.   Jaime made the cake look like a giant caramel apple, stick included!  You have to pop over to her site to see her gorgeous cake.  It's really stunning.

If you have a party to go to this fall, this cake would surely be a crowd pleaser.  It would also make a nice addition to a Thanksgiving dessert round up.

This monster cake was too big for just Hubby and me so I halved the recipe and ended up 12 standard size cupcakes and 12 mini cupcakes...still way more than enough for the 2 of us!  I ended up giving some to my neighbor who has 4 year old twin girls and a friend helped take a few more off our hands. For the twins I decorated the tops of the cupcakes with caramel circles and made them look like spider webs (much like the photo above from the book).  I placed a spider ring in the middle of each cupcake.  Now I'm regretting that I didn't take any photos...laziness does not pay off!  Anyway, when I brought the cupcakes over the girls were immediately excited about the spider rings and licked the frosting off and put the rings on.  I chatted for a bit with my neighbor and her girls.  I had a conversation with one of the twins that went something like this,

Where do you live?
I live 2 doors down.

What's your name?

Do you have any daughters?
No, sweetie, sorry I don't

Can you make some?
Um...I can make cupcakes 

Kids are hilarious. 

Now, on to the cupcakes.  Three components make up this tasty dessert.  Apple spice cake.  Caramel buttercream.  Caramel sauce.

The apple spice cake is soft, light and moist and really delicious.  It could stand all on it's own.  With a simple apple glaze or even a dusting of powdered sugar and this would be a great cake (you could do 1/3 of the recipe to get an 8 inch cake).  I do have one minor comment about the cake..the apple flavor seemed to fade a little bit the day after I baked it.  The apple flavor was very pronounced, no mistaking, this is apple cake on day one.  On day two, it was more like this is a really good spice there a hint of apple in there?  I used store bought apple sauce, instead of making my own.  I also substituted 1/2 cup (of the 2 cups) of the apple sauce, for homemade apple butter I had made the same day.  I wonder if the spices in the apple butter were too much?  I would have thought the apple butter would give it a more "apple-y" flavor.  Next time I might use the applesauce recipe posted on the Great Cake Company blog as she mentions the use of boiled cider in her applesauce and that it gives an intense fresh apple flavor.  There is also a recipe for homemade applesauce in Baked Explorations.

The caramel sauce was pretty dreamy.  I made the full recipe for this component figuring I might use the left overs to top ice cream. A few the other bakers in the group seemed to have issues with the sauce being a little on the thin side.  I found it to be somewhat thin, but after sitting on the counter for an hour or so it thickened slightly and was just right.  The only issue I had with the caramel sauce was one of my own doing.  I tend to read through recipes quickly and that's what I did here.  They recommend cooking the caramel until it is a rich amber color or you can wait until the mixture reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer.  I just saw 300 degrees, so I took the sauce off the heat once it reached 300 and added the butter and cream.  Then I realized that my caramel was very pale in color.  I hadn't waited for it to take on the right color.  So I threw it back on the flame and cooked for another 5 minutes or so and it gained a small amount of color.  I didn't want to risk overcooking it, so I ended up with a pale caramel.  Though pale, it's still super yummy.  I think you could get away with reducing the butter by half in this recipe and still get a good result.  Note, I'm saying that without actually having tried it.  But I might try that next time.

Lastly, there was caramel buttercream....this was like no frosting recipe I've ever made.  It started with boiling a mixture of sugar, FLOUR, milk and cream until thickened.  I would never imagine flour to be in frosting, but that's what I love about Club: Baked...learning new things.  And this was a great thing to learn, because this frosting was awesome.  It was smooth and silky with just the right amount of sweetness.  I generally don't care for buttercreams because I find them to be overly sweet and buttery tasting.  I'm all about butter, but I don't want my frosting to taste like butter. 

The trick to this frosting is patience.  I had read in the P&Q that some bakers had trouble with the frosting and others suggested continuing to beat the frosting until it reached the desired consistency.  So I took that into account when I made it.  The boiled sugar, flour, milk cream mixture goes from the stove top to your stand mixer where you mix on high until the frosting cools.  This took maybe 8 minutes or so....I kept feeling the outside of the bottom of the mixing bowl and when there was no more warmth, I moved on to adding the butter and caramel sauce.  Then I let it beat for probably another 6-7 minutes.  At first it seemed thin but, slowly, it became more and more fluffy and eventually resembled frosting!  Really delicious frosting.

I'm not going to lie, this cake is not a let's throw this together in a hour kind of cake.  It's quite a bit of work and a lot dishes.  But the result was absolutely worth the effort.  You could make it a little more palatable by breaking up the work and making the caramel sauce the day before (as well as the applesauce, if you are doing homemade). This recipe is moving into the keeper file for certain. 

To get the recipe, head over to Lulu the Baker. Thanks for choosing such a fabulous recipe! To see how other Club: Baked bakers did with their cakes, click here.