Apple Brandy Cake with Caramel Sauce

This dense, fruit-filled cake studded with brandy-spiked raisins is perfect for afternoon tea or dessert.  Snowing outside?  It goes well with gløgg by the fire, too.  I have made a version of this cake for many years, and what I enjoy about it is its unfailingly pleasing qualities. It reminds me of a classic, timeless dress: always in style – just add a few accessories, and it gracefully morphs into a new dessert.  Eat it simply as is, and call it a coffee cake. Top it with rich caramel sauce and it becomes a gooey, child-friendly indulgence (perhaps minus the brandy in the raisins.)  Add a dollop of whipped cream fortified with Calvados, and you have a decadent dessert fit to end a dinner party.  The quintessential little black dress of desserts.

Apple Brandy Cake with Caramel Sauce
inspired by Regan Daley’s recipe for Apple Cake in the Sweet Kitchen

1 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup Calvados brandy

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut in 1/2″ dice
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)

Combine raisins and brandy.  Let sit at least one hour.  Do not drain.

Preheat oven to 325 F. (170 C.)  Butter a 9×13 rectangular baking pan.  Line the bottom with parchment.  Lightly butter the parchment.

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt together in a bowl of electric mixer; set aside. Add brown and granulated sugars, butter, eggs and vanilla.  Using electric mixer, beat until batter is pale and smooth, scraping down sides of bowl, about 2 minutes. Fold in apples, pecans and raisins with brandy.  Pour into prepared pan and smooth top.  Bake in center of oven until cake center springs back when touched and a skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean.  Cool cake in pan.  (Cake can be made up to 3 days in advance.  Wrap in plastic and store at room temperature.)

Caramel Sauce:
Makes about 2 cups

1/2 cup butter, cut in chunks
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Calvados brandy (optional)

Combine butter, sugars, cream in heavy saucepan.  Stir over low heat until sugar dissolves.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Simmer, stirring, about 5 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Stir in optional brandy.  (Can be prepared in advance.  Cool completely. Cover and refrigerate up to one day.)

Whipped Cream with Calvados:

2 cups heavy cream
1 tablespoon sifted confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons Calvados Brandy

In a bowl of electric mixer, whip cream until whisk attachment leaves traces in the cream.  Add sugar and brandy.  Continue to whip until cream holds soft peaks.