bewitched — brandy apple cake w maple walnut meringue frosting

by hungryrabbit on November 25, 2011

Brandy Apple Cake w Maple Walnut Meringue Frosting

As far as holiday birthdays are concern, Thanksgiving probably ranks in the middle of that list. Most people are either busy getting ready for Thanksgiving or simply take the week off for vacation. So if you are planning a big birthday party, you need to tell people far in advance. Well, good thing M is a low key kinda guy who doesn’t like big B-day parties.

M was born on Thanksgiving Day many moons ago, and as long as I’ve known him, his birthday only fell on Thanksgiving once. Sometime we celebrate it quietly, just the way he likes it. A few years ago, we combined it with a vacation. Most of the time, it’s simply dinners and presents. I love celebrating other people’s birthdays, especially M’s.

As the date approached this year, I asked M what kind of birthday cake he would like to have. All I got was a one-word answer: “apple.” Now, I was not surprised by this choice, but M’s idea for an ideal apple cake isn’t that simple and obvious. My immediate thought was to use caramelized apples of some sort, perhaps in tarte tatin, my Toffee Apple Cake, or Spiced Apple Cake. These are all fine choices, but I wanted to add more of a birthday dimension to it.

If I know my M, he would love a cake that taste like apple sauce, an all time comfort flavor and texture for this Pennsylvania boy. He adores the simplicity and healthy aspect of the sauce, along with a mix of spices to remind him of this childhood pleasure. As I have mentioned, because of Thanksgiving preparation, I simply didn’t have time to peel, cut and stir apples for hours. So I employed dried apples to speed up the process.

Thin layers of old-fashioned tender yellow cake alternate with brandy apple puree. This is absolutely sufficient for what he asked for, but where’s the fun of a birthday surprise? I encased the cake with fluffy clouds of maple walnut meringue, so he might suspect citrus or chocolate lived inside—not an apple surprise.

As he cut into the cake, he discovered multi-layers of brandy apple puree. When he separately sampled the sweet meringue, his nose wiggled, like Samantha on Bewitched, as if he wanted to unmask the secret of nutty taste. M said the intriguing balance of the sweet meringue with the slightly tart brandy apple puree was a perfect combination of old flavors with a new twist. Birthday Surprise accomplished.

Brandy Apple Cake w Maple Walnut Meringue Frosting

yield: one 8-inch cake

Brandy Apple Filling


9 ounces dried apples
4 cups apple cider or water
1/4 cup (2 ounces) packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons brandy


1. Place apples and cider in a medium saucepan, add water if necessary to cover the apples. Cover and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until apples are completely softened and most of the liquid is absorbed but not dry, about 10-15 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking.

2. Add sugar, cinnamon, cloves, allspice, salt and brandy to softened apples. Stir to combine and cook until sugar has dissolved and mixture is not wet, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Remove from heat and  cool until just warm, about 15 minutes. Puree apples in food processor until smooth or slightly chunky if you like.. Transfer to bowl and let cool completely. (Filling can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.)

Yellow Cake Layers

adapted from Cook’s Country


4 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups ( 7 ounces) cake flour
1-1/2 cups ( 7-1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 16 pieces


1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bottom of two 8-by-1-1/2-inch cake pans with cooking spray and cover pan bottoms with rounds of parchment paper. Grease parchment rounds and side of cake pans, dust with flour, and tap out excess.

2. Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla with fork in small bowl; set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment; mix on lowest speed to blend, about 15 seconds. With mixer running, add butter one piece at a time; mix until butter and flour begin to clump together and look sandy and pebbly, with pieces about the size of peas, 30 to 40 seconds after all butter is added.

3. Add 2/3 of egg mixture and mix at lowest speed until incorporated, 5 to 10 seconds. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Stop mixer and thoroughly scrape sides and bottom of bowl. With mixer on medium-high speed, add remaining egg mixture in slow steady stream. Beat until thoroughly combined, batter will look slightly curdled, about 20-30 seconds longer.

4. Spread 2/3 cup of batter evenly in each pan, smooth with off-set spatula, and bake until edges are golden brown and cake springs back when touched, 10 to 14 minutes. Cool on rack 5 minutes. Run a knife around pan perimeter to loosen cake, then invert onto lightly greased rack to finish cooling. Clean cake pans and repeat process 2 more times for a total of 6 layer.


Place 1 cooled cake layer on serving platter. Spread about 3/4 cup apple filling over cake. Top with second cake layer and additional 3/4 cup filling. Repeat, alternating layers of cake and frosting and finishing with cake layer.

Maple Walnut Meringue Frosting

yield: 2 cups


2 large egg whites
1-1/4 cups (10 ounces) packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
3 tablespoons Nocella, walnut liquor
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted (optional garnish)


1. Add egg whites, brown sugar, maple syrup, water, cream of tartar and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer. Place it over 1-inch simmering water in a medium sauce pan. Lightly whisk until combine and egg white mixture reaches 140℉/60℃. Remove from heat and attach bowl to the stand mixer with whisk attachment.

2. On high speed, whisk until mixture has cooled completely and formed stiff and glossy peaks, about 6-8 minutes. Frost cake immediately and use a torch to brown the edges and sprinkle with toasted walnut if desire. Serve or keep at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Jackie Gordon Singing Chef November 25, 2011 at 11:38 am

What a lucky man he is!!!! That looks stunning!

Living The Sweet Life November 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

Happy Birthday to your dear “M” … this cake is truly a thing of simplistic beauty :)

Elizabeth @Mango_Queen November 25, 2011 at 12:59 pm

What a fabulous birthday cake! I love all those layers & the apple puree looks delish in itself. And the icing is divine! Thanks for sharing this amazing recipe!

Diane {Created by Diane} November 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm

What a fabulous cake! Love all the layers and it’s so pretty.

Barbara | Creative Culinary November 26, 2011 at 2:31 pm

My birthday is holiday centric in that it shares a month with the guy who has the biggest celebration of all and it happens two weeks before that big day, right smack dab in the middle of holiday cocktail party time. Dec 10th to be exact.

I would be happy to provide you with my address Ken if you have any interest in making a cake and sending it across country. This is absolutely spectacular my friend.

Brian @ A Thought For Food November 27, 2011 at 7:21 am

What a gorgeous cake, Ken! I don’t see how M couldn’t have been anything more than elated by your creation. The toasted frosting is just stunning (I really do need to purchase a torch).

And a big belated happy birthday to Mitch! I think Thanksgiving sounds like a wonderful day to be born!

Jaclyn November 27, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Gorgeous cake! Work of art!

Meeta November 28, 2011 at 3:39 am

You are a star! Love this cake and the reason it was created! happy belated birthday to M! He’s a lucky one to have you! Did you sing ABBA for him too?

MikeVFMK November 28, 2011 at 8:33 am

Ken, what a truly stunning cake. And a great surprise for M, no doubt. I’m sure he was thrilled by your efforts and beautiful cake. Really lovely stuff.

Rosie @ Sweetapolita November 28, 2011 at 9:01 am

Love this cake, Ken. I love all of the thin layers, which I remember you did with that insanely gorgeous red, blue & white cake. I also love the surprise element of not knowing exactly what’s inside. It’s kind of fabulous, really! xo

Emma @ Poires au Chocolat November 28, 2011 at 9:03 am

What a gorgeous cake! Lovely combination of flavours. I haven’t seen maple syrup in a meringue before – does it come up to a full swiss meringue peak?

Jeanne @ CookSister! November 28, 2011 at 9:37 am

Hey – happy birthday M! :) And holy moly – Ken, if I ask nicely will you come and do a birthday surprise cake for ME next year?! Although to be honest, I would be happy with a big bowl of that brandy apple filling and a spoon (and to be left alone for an hour or so!!) Adore everything about this cake, especially the frosting.

abby dodge November 28, 2011 at 11:02 am

You are killing me with this cake – Gorgeous! Happy post-BDay to M!!

Colleen November 28, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Stunning creation….a magnificent birthday surprise if ever I have seen one. Well done!

hungryrabbit November 28, 2011 at 2:13 pm

Hi Emma, the meringue is slightly softer than a swiss meringue, but it does whip up nicely.

Jesica @ Pencil Kitchen November 28, 2011 at 3:44 pm

The meringue icing is totally new for me… I would have to try these…

Jean (Lemons and Anchovies) November 28, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Ken, this is one of the most beautiful and unique cakes I’ve seen in a while. Would love to make this sometime–I love apple everything! Happy Belated Birthday to your M!

Rosa November 29, 2011 at 5:26 am

What a splendid cake! I love those flavors and the ingredients used. Wonderful.



Winnie November 29, 2011 at 8:33 am

Oh, Ken! What a wonderful birthday cake! I actually made a big batch of brandy applesauce a few weeks ago that really similar…such great flavors in there, and everywhere else in this cake. Please wish M a happy one from me :)

Chez Us November 29, 2011 at 8:26 pm

Oh Ken! You have done it to me again! This sounds like the prefect birthday cake to me. Want to teach Lenny how to bake it for me!! :) I have been hunting for a great yellow cake recipe as well – so thank you for this!

Happy belated to M.

merry jennifer November 30, 2011 at 7:19 pm

It’s stunning! You are such an amazing baker. Next year, I want you to bake me a cake for MY birthday. :)

Jen Laceda November 30, 2011 at 10:32 pm

YUM!! Looks like hard work to me, though. LOL!!!

leaf (the indolent cook) December 1, 2011 at 10:47 pm

This completely has that wow factor. What a beautiful, beautiful birthday cake. Lucky M!

Lora @cakeduchess December 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm

I couldn’t remember if I came back to comment after seeing this gorgeousness a few wks back. Oh my goodness! This cake is stunning and delicious and M is the luckiest person ever!xx

Russell van Kraayenburg December 8, 2011 at 5:32 pm

That meringue looks awesome! Heck all of this cake looks awesome. And that recipe sounds killer too. How do you churn out so many scrumptious, beautiful cakes?

a spoonful of yumm December 23, 2011 at 9:58 am

love the flavors in this cake ! looks gorgeous…..happy holidays

Mary April 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm

I realize this comment comes very late – or early for this coming year – but this cake sounds amazing. I will definitely be giving it a try.

Raymond Collier December 9, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Mmmm! Mmmm! Wickedly Delicious!!!!

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