Apple-Pecan Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce

No one is the “mango of my eye.” Does “a fig a day keep the doctor away”? Ever heard someone called a “plum polisher”? There’s good reason that there are more sayings about apples than about any other fruit. Apples are the most varied food on the planet. There are more than 7,500 known varieties of apples grown worldwide and about 2,500 varieties grown in the United States, according to the U.S. Apple Association. But, I’d say I only need a few varieties out of that bunch and I’m set. Honeycrisp always is a favorite, as well as Jazz—nothing “Delicious” for me. I’m sure you’ve narrowed it down to one or two favorite varieties, too.

Since it’s apple season, we can enjoy local pickings. The early spring and mild winter in Minnesota shifted this year’s apple harvest about a week or so earlier than usual so make sure you get some of your favorites before they’re gone.

And they may look nice in a bowl on the table, but unless you’re painting a still life or plan to eat them right away, apples should be stored in a cold place to stay crisp and juicy and to prevent decay. The best way to store them is inside a plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator. And keep them away from cabbage, carrots, and onions, since apples can absorb odor.

When you’re looking for something different than your usual apple crisp or pie, try this tasty recipe by Regina Schrambling, which appeared in Real Food. This upgrade of a classic community cookbook recipe is one of her top desserts for company. More apple than cake, it is rich and spicy and satisfying in ways pie never could be. You can skip the sauce and just serve it warm with ice cream, but you will miss out on serious bliss. It uses Granny Smith apples, which may be the best for cooking since the tart flavor and crunchy texture stands up to the heat. Hang onto your precious Honeycrisps for snacking.

Apple-Pecan Cake with Warm Caramel Sauce

Serves 6 to 8

½ c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for the pan
1 c. sugar
1 large egg
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. sea or kosher salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¹⁄8 tsp. ground cloves
2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
½ cup chopped pecans

¼ c. heavy cream
¼ c. (½ stick) unsalted butter
¼ c. sugar
¼ c. packed dark brown sugar
½ tsp. teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch square glass baking dish.

Using a mixer, cream the butter, sugar, and egg. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, nutmeg, and cloves, and beat in. Using a rubber spatula, thoroughly blend in the apples and pecans. Spread evenly into the prepared pan. Bake 45 minutes.

Just before serving, combine all the sauce ingredients but the vanilla in a small saucepan and cook until the sugars dissolve. Stir in the vanilla. Cut the cake into squares and pour the sauce over.

Nutrition info (per serving) Apple-Pecan Cake with Caramel Sauce: CALORIES 461 (229 from fat); FAT 25g (sat. 13g); CHOL 81mg; SODIUM 319mg; CARB 58g; FIBER 2g; PROTEIN 4g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.