Haralson, Honeycrisp, Honeygold, Prairie Spy, Regent, Beacon, Red Baron and dozens of other varieties  of apples have all been developed at the University of Minnesota. We may be known for our 10,000 lakes, but few people outside of the state realize that we are also a leader in apples. I didn’t realize this until my friend Stephen Durfee came to visit. Yes, it took a pastry chef from CA to show me what treasures were right in my own back yard. He set up a tasting with one of the “breeders” from the University and my education of apples began at a coffee shop on campus. We tried several of their latest and greatest developments and I realized for the first time the subtle and not so subtle differences of the fruit. The textures, acid, sugars and skins were all incredibly different, she talked about the characters as though we were tasting a bottle of fine wine.
I grew up in Vermont thinking that McIntosh apples were the end all, but realize now that there are apples to satisfy my every mood; crisp, luscious, sweet, spicy, tangy, juicy, tart, even nutty. I’ve learned to combine them in my recipes to get a more complex and interesting flavor and mouth feel. Some of the apples will keep their shape when baked and others will turn to sauce. Depending on the variety you choose it may affect the amount of sugar that you use in the recipe. This cake is rather sweet and rich so I like to use tart apples, combined with the layer of pear. This delicious recipe was the inspiration for my very first post on ZoeBakes, before I owned a camera. I make it every year at this time, with different apples and a this year I added the pears.
Caramel Apple and Pear Cake:
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons Calvados (apple brandy) or Brandy
3 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (1/4 teaspoon if freshly ground)
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups peeled, cored and diced apples (Beacon, Haralson, Granny Smith or other tart variety)
1 cup chopped nuts (optional) – my eldest son is in a non-nut eating phase and so I left them out.
1 bosc pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
sugar for sprinkling on pan
For Caramel Glaze:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons Calvados
2 tablespoons heavy cream
Prepare a tube pan with a parchment round. Grease the pan and the paper and then sprinkle with sugar. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Fan the sliced pears around the bottom of the pan.
Whisk together the flours, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl, set aside. In a stand mixer combine the oil, sugars, vanilla, Calvados and eggs. Add the dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Add the apples and nuts. Pour into the prepared pan, over the pears.
Bake for about 1 hour and 25 minutes in the center of the oven, until a tester comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool for about 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
Carefully invert the cake onto a cake plate. Use one that has a slight lip to it to catch the caramel sauce.
In a small sauce pot combine all the ingredients for the caramel and bring to a gentle boil for 2-3 minutes. Allow the glaze to cool slightly, to thicken it, and pour over the top of the cake.
I served it with an apple cajeta ice cream that my friend Jen made me! It was out of this world. A dollop of whipped cream or just a cup of coffee would be a great match as well.
See the version I did with Brioche dough and streusel on my other website www.artisanbreadinfive.com !