Thursday, December 20, 2012

Semi-Homemade Caramel Apple Cake.

As much as I enjoy making recipes from scratch, there are those times that I want to cut corners too due to time constraints or just plain old laziness.  Now usually for the holidays I make dozens of different types of cookies and give them out.  Oh don't worry, I keep a good amount for us too.  However, this year I'm not able to do this because I had carpal tunnel surgery done on my left hand.  If you don't know what this means, basically a nerve in my wrist began to become compressed from repetitive work; for me it was from working with computers.  It begins with a tingling in the thumb, index and middle fingers gradually progressing to numbness to the point of not being able to feel something you are holding.  It also can be accompanied with severe pain in the hand, wrist and radiating up to the elbow.

Anyway, it takes about 4-6 weeks for complete recovery and you have to use the hand minimally which means no heavy lifting.  The bowls I use for my baking are of a heavy ceramic and definitely need two hands for handling them when they are full of batter or dough.  It's been 4 weeks now since the surgery and I have no intention of having a holiday dinner without some sort of dessert.  So, what to do, what to do?  Basically, do it semi-homemade, so it is as easy to manipulate and handle as possible; my right hand could still do all the work while my left hand kind of just went along for the ride.  While my right hand did all the grunt work, l let my lower left arm and inside elbow cradle the bowls; it still hurt a little, but my left hand didn't have any pressure on it.

Lets get to it then; to make it especially easy, I used a Super Moist Yellow Cake mix; but remember, this recipe is semi-homemade, so don't hesitate to use your own cake batter if you prefer.  Yellow cake mix can also be bland, so I umpted up the flavor intensity by adding apple pie spice mix and a bit of ground ginger.  You could also think of this as a type of "upside down" cake where the toppings are baking in the pan underneath the cake layer, but when you flip the finished cake out, you see all the lovely apples and caramel.

Caramel Apple Cake
For the Caramel Layer:
8 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
For the Apple Layer:
1 (21 oz) can apple pie filling
For the Cake Layer:
1 box Super Moist Yellow cake mix
1 tsp apple pie filling
pinch of ground ginger
Preheat oven to 350F; spray two 9 inch cake pans with nonstick baking spray.  Cut out two circles from parchment paper to line bottom of cake pans; spray the paper with the nonstick baking spray.
In a medium bowl, mix together the ingredients for the caramel layer until it resembles coarse crumbs. 
Divide the mixture up between the two pans pressing to the edges and 1/4 inch up the sides. 
Divide the pie filling between the two pans, spreading it out up to one inch from the edges.
Prepare the cake mix according to packages directions, but add in the apple pie spice and ground ginger.  Divide the batter up between the two pans and use a spatula to smooth it out.
Bake for 35-40 minutes; cake will be golden browned and you might see some of the caramel oozing up the sides of the cakes.  Remove pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.
When cooled, use a hot knife around the edges to make sure the caramel will not stick to the sides of the pan.  Carefully flip the cakes onto a serving plate and peel off the parchment paper.  Cut into 8 wedges and serve with a scoop of ice cream.
Makes 2 cakes, 8 servings each.
Mary Cokenour