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Applesauce Wedding Cake

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.

  • Servings: 60

Source: Martha Stewart Weddings, Winter 1999

Ingredients

For the cake layers (one batch)

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups superfine sugar, plus more for pans
  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 1/2 cups chunky applesauce
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons Calvados (a French apple-flavored brandy) or brandy
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and very thinly sliced

For assembling

  • Cream-Cheese Filling
  • Confectioners' sugar
  • 2 to 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/3 to 2/3 cup corn syrup
  • 30 mixed crab and lady apples, washed and dried
  • Unsprayed, nontoxic apple-tree branches

Directions

To bake the cake layers

  1. 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.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. Set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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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