Caramel-dipped lady and crab apples glisten atop a moist cake. The top tie is supported with walnut dowels; apple tree branches fill the space between the tiers.

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Ingredients

For the cake layers (one batch)

For assembling

Directions

To bake the cake layers

  • Heat oven to 325 degrees. Butter one 12-by-2-inch round cake pan and one 6-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust with superfine sugar. Tap out any excess sugar; set the pans aside.

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  • In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside.

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter and superfine sugar on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating 2 minutes after each. Add applesauce; beat to combine.

  • Fold in flour mixture and the pecans. Fold in vanilla, Calvados, and apple slices. Fill the 6-inch pan with 1 1/3 cups batter and 12-inch pan with remaining batter.

  • Bake cakes until they spring back when you touch centers, about 1 hour for the smaller cake and 1 hour 15 minutes for the larger cake. Transfer cakes to a wire rack, and let cool completely, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn out cakes. Wrap the cakes in plastic until ready to use.

To assemble the wedding cake

  • Place one 12-inch cake layer on a serving platter. Spread 1 1/4 cups cream-cheese filling over the cake. Place a second large layer on top, and spread with another 1 1/4 cups filling. Top with the remaining large cake layer, top-side up.

  • Cut a 5-inch round out of cardboard; place round in the center of top cake layer. Around the cardboard, mark four equidistant points with a toothpick. Remove cardboard; mark four more points 3/4 inch in from first marks. Stick a dowel into each new point, making sure the dowels are straight. Sift confectioners' sugar over top.

  • Place one 6-inch cake layer over the cardboard round, pressing gently so cardboard will not be visible. Spread cake with 1/2 cup filling. Top with a second small cake layer; spread with another 1/2 cup filling. Top with remaining small cake layer, top-side up. Sift confectioners' sugar over top. Place this tier on top of the dowels, centering it perfectly.

  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Combine 2 cups granulated sugar, 1/3 cup corn syrup, and 1/3 cup water in a medium bowl. Mix until mixture achieves consistency of wet sand. Transfer mixture to a medium saucepan. Place over high heat; cover. When some sugar begins to turn brown, 6 to 8 minutes, uncover, stir with a wooden spoon, and reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the sugar becomes clear and golden caramel, 4 to 6 minutes more. Remove pan from heat.

  • Using a slotted spoon, dip the crab and lady apples into the caramel, coating the apples completely. Allow excess caramel to drip off; transfer apples to the lined baking sheets; allow caramel to harden. If caramel becomes too dark and stiff as you're working, make a second batch with another 2 cups sugar, 1/3 cup corn syrup, and 1/3 cup water.

  • Decorate the cake with the apple-tree branches and the dipped apples. Serve.

Cook's Notes

You will need to prepare 3 batches of batter to make the three 12-inch layers and the three 6-inch layers for this wedding cake; each batch makes one large and one small cake layer. You will also need 4 half-inch-diameter, 8-inch-long wooden dowels for assembling the cake.

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