I have so many memories of Thanksgiving dinners as a child. I loved the gathering of friends and family, I loved polishing the silver with my mom, and I loved getting to stay up past my bedtime and put on plays with my brothers and friends. What I didn’t love was the food. I never liked turkey and I was totally grossed out by gravy. Stuffing and mashed potatoes are all well and good but they really need gravy. (I have since remedied this problem by making vegetarian gravy each year.) So my dinner consisted of dry starchy things that I would choke down. And, at the end of that meal, my dessert choices were always pumpkin pie or pecan pie. Neither of which I liked.
My mom’s friend Marilyn is an expert pumpkin pie maker. But if you don’t like it you don’t like it, and I still don’t. Once I had a bit of baking experience under my belt, I started bringing an “other” dessert to our family gathering. What I really wanted to bring was chocolate but even I knew that something that rich would not be good after a huge feast. I usually settled on something apple and over the years I made pies, tarts, and cakes. To this day, when we now host the dinner in our home, I delegate lots of dishes to others. This year I have passed off the stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and an appetizer. That may sound like I outsourced the entire meal but I am still making bread, cheeseballs, green beans, a potato/horseradish gratin, vegetarian gravy, sauerkraut with apples, and two desserts. Oh yes! And a 23 pound turkey and “regular” gravy. I really wouldn’t think of letting someone else make the “other” desserts. I gotta make sure I get my apple.
A word about bundt cakes. As cakes go, they tend to be easy but I have a deep-rooted fear of them. I have had so many decide that they would rather stay in the pan than be eaten by me and my family. I recently replaced my old and no-longer-non-stick pan which does help. So if yours is old and shows any sign of rust, time to get a new one. I also highly recommend you use Crisco and flour to grease it and don’t forget to get the middle part greased up well. A little offering to the kitchen goddess before you turn it out doesn’t hurt either.
2 cups clear apple cider or unsweetened apple juice
3 cups granulated sugar
3 sticks plus 2 tbsp. (13 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 pounds large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
3 cups cake flour
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground mace (DT: I didn’t have mace so I just added a little extra nutmeg)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
6 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1. Make the cake: In a large saucepan, boil the apple cider over high heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until reduced to 1/2 cup, about 15 minutes. Add 1 cup of the granulated sugar and cook over moderately high heat until a dark amber caramel forms, about 4 minutes. Off the heat swirl in 2 tablespoons of the butter until melted. Add the apples and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the apples are softened and have absorbed a lot of the syrup, about 8 minutes. Pour the apples into a heatproof bowl and let cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 350°F and position a rack in the lower third. Grease a 12-cup bundt pan. Sift the cake flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, salt, and baking soda into a bowl. In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 3 sticks of butter until creamy. Add the remaining 2 cups of granulated sugar and the vanilla and beat at medium-high heat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well between additions. Add the dry ingredients in 3 batches, alternating with the sour cream; beat just until combined. Stir 1/2 cup of the batter into the apples, then stir the apple mixture into the remaining batter.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan and smooth the top. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top is golden and cracked and a skewer inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Transfer the cake to a rack and let cool for 20 minutes, then turn it out onto the rack to cool completely.
4. Make the glaze: In a medium saucepan, melt the butter. Add the brown sugar and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until thick and smooth. Gradually stir in the heavy cream and bring to a boil. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until thick and bubbling, 3 minutes. Let cool completely. Sift the confectioners’ sugar directly into the pot and add the vanilla.
5. Lay a piece of wax paper under the rack. Drizzle glaze all over it. Sprinkle with pecans.
(The cake can be kept in an airtight container at room temperature overnight or refrigerated for up to 1 week.)