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Published 8:17 pm Thursday, October 13, 2016

Long-overdue fresh apple cake appeases hubby

DW asked me an embarrassing question recently.  And I sure did feel bad about the reason behind the question.  He was right and I was…well at fault, maybe even negligent.   He very politely and sincerely asked me if I still made apple cakes with caramel icing.  I had to hang my head in shame and answer well yes I do… that is, well I could and probably should, and yes, I know, I’m sorry, not often enough….evidently.  I felt bad that he had to ask because it’s such a good cake.
My grandmother McAlexander’s Fresh Apple Cake with Caramel Icing rates right up there with my other grandmother GaGa’s pecan pie, my mother’s fresh coconut cake, DW’s mom’s caramel cake, and his Grandmother Effie’s tea cakes.  Such good cooks and their famed desserts are what family legends are made of and subjects of future articles.
Maw Maw’s recipe is one that my sister has achieved fame and recognition for, probably because she makes it on a regular basis; in fact, she told me she had made one for a church supper just recently.   And, it’s a recipe I’ve written about before but never shared.  Maw Maw’s wonderful fresh apple cake calls for three whole cups of chopped apple and way too much oil.  It is so moist and so good you almost need to eat it with a spoon.
But, what really made it good was the caramel icing on top that she, so effortlessly, almost carelessly, could make.  My mother and I have remembered how she made that icing.  Actually we don’t know how she did it.  She could put sugar in a black skillet on the stove, leave it, go hang clothes out on the line, gather eggs, pick a mess of greens, and come back to a perfect icing.  No recipe, no candy thermometer, no fuss, just one perfect caramel icing every time.  Proof that practice makes perfect caramel icing.
Another reason her cake was so good was the apples.  Small, tart green apples from the old orchard suited that cake perfectly.  In fact I don’t know which came first, the apple or the recipe.  But there was one last apple tree in what was once the orchard when I came along and, bless its wooden heart, that old broken, gnarled tree kept right on bearing those little green apples until it just fell apart. I wish we knew the variety of apple, definitely an heirloom lost.
Luckily her recipe was not lost (just lost to me).  It makes a very rich 9×13-inch cake so very good with a cup of coffee.  My sister eats it for breakfast.  It’s also laden with fat, but to make it somewhat healthier you can use only 1 cup oil and then add ½ cup applesauce to make up the other half cup. It will still be moist but with less fat. Use Granny Smith apples; they’re most like her homegrown.
Speaking of nutrition:  apples just may keep the doctor away; they are rich in antioxidants, phytochemicals, and fiber (especially with the peeling on).  This means that apples may help prevent cancer, stroke, and heart disease when you include them in a low-fat, high-fiber diet.  Don’t just eat them in cake.
So one apple cake coming right up, DW.  Put some coffee on….

Grandmother’s Apple Cake
Had to text my sister for this recipe, maybe that’s why it’s been so long since I made it!

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1 ½ cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
2 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
3 cups peeled and chopped tart raw apples

Place oil, sugar, and eggs in large mixing bowl. Beat on low speed until creamy. Sift flour, measure out 2 ½ cups. Add salt, soda, and baking powder to flour and sift again. Add slowly in small amounts to creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. Stir in vanilla flavoring. Fold in pecans and apples with a wooden spoon.  Spread in lightly greased 9×13-inch baking pan.  Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 45 – 55 minutes.  Cool in pan.

Easy caramel icing (My sister’s version)
Mix ½ cup butter and 1 cup brown sugar over low heat until melted and blended.  Remove from heat. Add 3 tablespoons whole milk and 1 pound powdered sugar.  Beat until spreadable, adding another 1 – 2 tablespoons milk as needed. Spread on cooled cake.