Thanksgiving Countdown: 6 DAYS.
That means it’s time to finalize the menu, collect colorful leaves for the table, and take out (and share) our new Thanksgiving dessert recipe: Almond Cakes with Brown Sugared Apples. Oh, it’s as good as it sounds. And it’s served warm.
Picture this… Wait, we literally have a picture of this above, but still hear us out because there are a few things even that seriously tasty photo can’t do justice. Everyone gets their very own personal-sized cake: moist and not too sweet, these cakes taste and smell exactly the way something called an almond cake should. Ground almonds not only pack every forkful with flavor, but they also give a little bit of bite to the otherwise pillowy cake. Warm apples simmered in brown sugar, butter, Applejack, and cider spill over the sides. To top it all off: soft whipped cream, dusted with nothing more than cinnamon.
This cake is so perfect with an afternoon cup of tea, but this year, it’s headed for bigger things… Thanksgiving things. It’s a little different—not the same apple pie as usual—but still familiar enough that it hits the sweet spot between beloved tradition and something completely new. We couldn’t go entirely without apples on our Thanksgiving dessert table and we’re always in full support of yearly traditions, but we’re also in favor of throwing in a little twist on something expected.
When it comes to traditions, so many of ours center around our dining table. Some time ago, the table we had had for years—even before Lee was born—had gotten pretty old and a little too small for us. So much happened at that table: big celebrations, yes, but it was also where we ate every meal, sat down with friends, read the Sunday papers, did homework, wrote letters and stories and cards, made crafty things (that sometimes went well and sometimes did not), rolled out our doughs for so many breads, pies, and cookies and just… sat together. So many important things—whether or not they seemed important in the actual moments—happened around that table. Papers were always spread out, books opened and stacked, elbows sprawled. It always looked loved and well-worn.
So when it came time to get a new one, we knew it would have to be one hell of a table. Finally, for Frank’s birthday one year, we found the exact right one: a beautiful cherry table that could not only fit us, but a whole bunch of friends and family, eating, drinking, reading, writing, discussing. The table arrived in the late afternoon on Frank’s birthday, and we centered it in our dining room where it waited for him to come from work. But just before he walked in the door, we grabbed a permanent marker, crawled underneath, and wrote a birthday wish for all the days ahead where only the four of us would know it existed:
At this table may you:
Eat good food
Laugh with loved ones
Break bread with friends
Speak with calm
Write with eloquence and
Read with speed
This Thanksgiving, we wish you all these things and much more. May this year’s holidays be the best yet.
* * * *
Almond Cake with Brown Sugared Apples
Notes: The apples should be made in two batches. They will not all fit in a large sauté pan and it will help keep the apples from falling apart. When cooking give them a gentle stir at the beginning but don’t over mix or the apples may break apart too much. It’s not a catastrophe if they do brake up a bit because they will be sandwiched between the two cake layers. But the kind of apples you use is important. You want to use apples that will hold up when cooked. We like the sweetness of Golden Delicious and the tartness of Granny Smith so we used a combination of both.
– A mixer
– A food processor or blender for grinding the almonds
– A half sheet pan
– Parchment paper
– Cooling rack
– 1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
– 1 cup granulated sugar
– 3 eggs at room temperature
– 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
– 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp salt
– 3/4 cup blanched almonds, ground
– 3/4 cup milk
– 1 tsp almond extract (not imitation!)
– 1 cup heavy cream (for topping)
– Cinnamon (for sprinkling)
* Preheat oven to 350° F and line your sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
* In a small bowl mix the flour, baking powder, and salt.
* Place the sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and beat at low speed until well-mixed.
* Keeping the mixer on low speed, add the eggs one at a time, pausing between each addition so every egg gets fully incorporated.
* Add one third of the flour mixture and beat. Follow with one third of the milk. Repeat, alternating the flour and milk until both have been entirely mixed in. Beat well after each addition.
* Beat in the almond extract.
* Remove the bowl from the mixer and gently fold in the ground almonds.
* Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan, smoothing with a spatula to level it out.
* Bake for about 12 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted comes out clean. (If there are one or two crumbs, it’s probably ready—just be sure it’s not wet.) The cake should be set and the top should be only lightly golden in color.
* Remove the cake from the oven. Let it rest for 10 minutes, then invert the cake onto a cooling rack. Carefully peel off the parchment and cool.
* Wrap the cake well in wax paper and foil. Store at room temperature until needed. Can be made the day before serving.
* * * *
Brown Sugared Apples
– A large sauté pan
– 12 apples (see notes above)
– One large lemon, juiced
– 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
– 4 tbs unsalted butter
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 2 cups apple cider (or 2 1/4 cups if you won’t be using Applejack)
– 1/4 cup Applejack brandy (optional)
* Pour half the lemon juice into a large bowl.
* Peel and core half the apples and cut into approximately 1/4″ slices. Toss them in the bowl with the lemon juice. Mix to coat.
* Heat your pan over low heat and melt half the butter.
* Add half the brown sugar. Stir to melt.
* Add half the apple cider. Raise heat, bring to a boil then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer for a few minutes to reduce a bit.
* Add the apples. Gently toss to coat them with the cider. Cook the apples until tender.
* Remove the pan from the heat. Wait a moment to let cool briefly and add about half the Applejack if using. Set these finished apples aside in a large bowl.
* Repeat the process with the remaining ingredients.
* The apples can be made a day in advance. Cover well and refrigerate. Warm up before eating!
To assemble the cakes:
* Whip the heavy cream to soft peaks.
* With the bottom side of the cake up, cut into 12 pieces (3 cuts on the short side and four on the long).
* Carefully cut each piece in half horizontally so you have two layers.
* Warm the apples and divide them among the 12 bottom layers. If you like, you can reserve some of the apples to place on top.
* Add a dollop of whipped cream to the top layer and pile on any reserved apples.
* Sprinkle with cinnamon.
©Lee and Lou Cook 2014. All rights reserved.