Saturday, September 12, 2009

Baking Adventure #1

On a daily basis I receive Recipe of the Day emails from Food Network, and this one immediately caught my eye. It just looked absolutely delectable. Sure, the level of difficulty read "Intermediate" and never had I made a bundt cake before (I have only made one cake in my life prior), BUT I love a good challenge and if the result tastes as good as it looks, than why not?

I began by gathering ingredients at my local grocery, which is conveniently next door. ;-) Mom let me borrow her pumpkin pie spice, but just about every other ingredient came from the store... this produced my first obstacle:

BUNDT Cake pan: The recipe calls for a 10-cup bundt cake pan. Ok, sure... no problem... NOT! If you're like me and have no previous knowledge of baking other than trial and error, then you would not be finding those words on anything in the baking aisle. However, there was a pan that resembled what I was looking for titled "Fluted Cake Pan". I called my mom to see if these were the same; she was no help as she's not a baker. Then, I pulled out my trusty pocket computer (aka iPhone) and googled it... low and behold, they're the SAME thing! The "fluted" part is just the shape of mold of the bundt cake pan. Evidently there are bundt cake pan molds shaped like flowers too... whodathunkit?!

Ok, back to the baking. Once all of ingredients were purchased, it was time to bake! First things first... PREP. You must prep all necessary ingredients before beginning the mixing and baking process.

For the cake the only labor-intensive prep necessary was the apples. The recipe calls for "peeling, coring, and roughly chopping" them. What's "roughly chopping" mean? Yea, I didn't know either so below is my stab at it.

Not too bad... basically I cut the apples into about 1/2 inch chunks.

After prepping the apples, I tossed them in the sugar and spice mix and then set to the side. Next I whisked together the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ingredients in another. The wet ingredients call for the zest of an orange. (Cool, since I had never zested anything before and didn't own a zester until an hour prior to this adventure.) It's pretty simple actually and kind of fun; it helps let out some aggression if you have any pent up. hehe.

TIP: Make sure, when zesting, that you only grate off the outside orange layer. Once you reach the more yellow part, move on. Use this tip when zesting any type of citrus.

Once everything was blended in its corresponding bowl, it was time to marry them together and layer into the bundt cake pan. The recipe called for place 1/2 cup of apples along the bottom of the pan first, but really you need about 1-1.5 cups. Then layer 1/3 of the batter, another 2 cups of apples, 1/3 batter, and 2 cups of apples, then the last 1/3 of the batter. Make sure you end with the batter. Also, it's a little sticky so you may need to use a spoon or spatula to spread it out evenly. That's it for the cake... after all ingredients are in the pan, it's BAKE TIME!

The recipe recommends baking the cake the night before that way all of the flavors and texture have a chance to fully develop. After an hour and 10 minutes, it's time to check the cake to see if it's done. I always use a wooden skewer or toothpick when testing my baking items. This is because if the batter is even remotely undercooked, then it will stick to the wood and you know to bake another minute or two or ten. [See below wooden skewer is clean of any batter aka time to pull from the oven!]

Once I pulled the cake from the oven, it was time to cool. I don't currently own a cooling rack so instead, I placed a piece of wax paper on a baking sheet and flipped (or "inverted" as the recipe says) the cake onto the baking sheet.

The cake then cooled over night at room temperature... aka I went and snuggled in bed after about 2 hours of labor. hehe. I'm like a little kid when it comes to baking for people. I can't wait to have them try it and see/hear their reactions! (Especially since I had been talking this cake up on facebook for the past 2 days) Given this personality trait, I awoke at 7am ready to finish, but it wasn't time yet. Cake delivery to my friends in family wasn't set to occur until 10am, so I went back to bed until 8:30am (this was a Saturday) then worked out and got to work on the final touch of the cake: the CARAMEL PECAN DRIZZLE topping.

First things first: PREP! The only prep for this was to toast the pecans. Being the avid Food Network television show watcher that I am have heard Giada de Laurentis say each time she toasted nuts that you can smell it when they're done. I used to think to myself "Ok, so if you can smell it, tell me what it's supposed to smell like." Well, ladies and gents... she's right! You really can smell it. The pecan scent began to permiate the kitchen when they were done toasting. The one thing they didn't do that I was expecting was to change color. The appearance stayed the same but they did get a little more crunchy and smelled delicious!

After the nuts are toasted, it's time to make the caramel, which I'd never done either. I don't even recall seeing it done on Food Network, so this was going to be an adventure! I mixed together and then swirled the sugar, corn syrup, and water while boiling like it said.

You're supposed to do this until it turns an amber brown color and it does! It's kind of cool the process of creating the caramel. I tried to get a picture but the camera and lighting didn't produce good enough results to show the pretty color. Once the sugar mixture turns amber, then I removed it from the heat and added the heavy cream. LESSON LEARNED: stir sugar mixture while adding heavy cream. I didn't stir it at first and paused b/c I didn't have the vanilla ready to go in and then it started clumping up. NOT A GOOD IDEA. However, with a lot of stirring, I was able to get it back to the consistency needed and add the pecans, then let the caramel sit and cool and thicken.

After the caramel cools some and thickens to a syrup consistency, it's time to pour on top of the cake. In order to ensure, even distribution of the amazing caramel pecan drizzle, I used a wooden spoon to scoop out the topping onto the cake. See FINAL result below! (There are two: one before taking to family and friends and one after they devoured half.)

See all of the apples loaded into the cake?

Alright, that's it for this cake. Time to take the second half to a football tailgate... Fall really is the best time of year!

Next baking adventure: Blueberry tart possibly? TBD!


  1. It is about time you started blogging again.

    Your peeps have missed your unique outlook on life. Unfortunately I guess we will only get a glimpse of what you are up to through your baking (btw that bundt cake looked delish).

    What else have you been up to? And what happened to the dancing man?

    Your peeps want to know!

  2. HI I enjoyed reading your blog. Nice job with the cake. Glad it turned out! I LOVE to bake too and love food network! : ) Beth

  3. Thanks so much Beth! Food Network is like crack for those of us who like to bake and cook! haha... can never seem to get enough!

  4. Made this cake today. Your information & photos were extremely helpful. There were a couple of instances where I thought I screwed up & referenced your blog for sanity check. My caramel cooled too quickly when adding the cream, but put over heat for a few seconds which worked out. The cake is great and happy I saw this link on the food network comments. Thanks again!

  5. Hi Dana! (I'm assuming that's your name. hehe)

    Thanks so much for your kind remarks and I'm so glad the blog post was helpful while you were making the cake!!! Caramel is quite finicky. That was my first time making it myself so I can relate!

    Have a Merry Christmas!