They say that scent memories are very strong memories. As a child growing up, the scent I most associated with my Granny Hamilton was the smell of apples. Blindfold me and cover my ears and drop me onto her back porch and I would immediately know where I was just by the smell of honeysuckle in her yard and apples in her kitchen.
This recipe is one I remember her making, using some of her own homemade applesauce. It’s a heavy and dense cake, but very flavorful. To make it perfect, you have to use the Brown Sugar Frosting. Although I never remember her making it as a layer cake, I do just for the presentation value and, of course, because it gives me the excuse to have just a little more frosting with every bite.
It’s going to vary a bit from person to person based on their choice of applesauce. Mine has a slightly pink tint which comes from using my own homemade cinnamon applesauce in the recipe.
For the cake:
2 1/2 cups flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves, ground
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups applesauce, thick and cold
3/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup nuts, chopped (optional)
For the Brown Sugar Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and granulated sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time and continue beating until the mixture is pale yellow and creamy. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda and spices. Add to the butter and sugar mixture, beating just until the dry ingredients begin to incorporate. Add in the applesauce and continue beating just until mixed. Do not over beat the mixture. Add in the raisins and/or nuts if using, stirring in by hand.
Grease a 9 x 13 pan or 2, 8 or 9 inch cake pans. If using round layer pans, spray the pans, add parchment and then spray the parchment with non-stick spray. Add the batter, making sure to distribute it evenly.
Bake the cake in the preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes for the layers and 40-45 minutes for a 9 x 13. Check before the max doneness time given here as ovens vary.
Remove from oven and cool completely. If using round layers, remove from pans and let cool on a wire rack before frosting.
BROWN SUGAR FROSTING:
In a large heavy bottomed saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the brown sugar, stirring to mix well. Continue cooking and stirring until the mixture comes to a boil. Add the milk and continue cooking until the mixture again comes to a boil. Cook for about 2 minutes or until it begins to thicken. Turn off heat and add vanilla. Let cool until lukewarm.
Add the brown sugar mixture to the powdered sugar and beat until creamy. This frosting sets up pretty quickly, so if you’re making a layer cake, you’ll need to work fast to get it frosted before the frosting stiffens.
Decorate the top with whole or chopped pecans, if desired. Cover when storing.