Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Canada, in cake form

Although I am a fan of Canada, I never really equate delicious cuisine with our nondescript brothers to the north. That is, of course, except for that sweet nectar of the lumberjack gods: maple syrup. I mean, who can't love a food product that is brought to your stack of pancakes via a spigot shoved into the side of a tree? It's ingenuity at its finest.

On a recent trip to Quebec, David and I quickly discovered that maple was their claim to culinary fame, and it made the menu rounds. I still vividly remember the melting maple candy I savored at one of many candy shops that received our patronage during our 2-day stay. That thing alone was worth the 14-hour round trip drive.

So the accidental cake I made this evening was a surprising throwback. Remember that maple applesauce I told you about recently? It's still sitting in the fridge. I know people like to sub out applesauce for butter in their baking sometimes, so I decided to join the party. I used a spice cake recipe from BH&G, and decided to also follow their recommendation to top it with browned butter frosting. Holy crap, people. The woodsy flavor of the browned butter plus the mapley sweetness of the spice cake??? Wrap me in flannel and ship me across the border, eh?

Maple-Applesauce Cake with Browned Butter Frosting
(makes 5 x 5 -- or equivalent -- size cake)
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/3 tsp baking powder
pinch baking soda
1/8 tsp each ginger and cloves
1-2 shakes of nutmeg
2 Tbsp butter, soft
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk, preferably room temp (or 2 Tbsp substitute)
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup maple applesauce

For the cake: preheat oven to 350ยบ. Combine all dry ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

With an electric mixer, beat butter until creamy, 20 seconds. Add sugar and beat until well combined and fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add yolk and vanilla, beating until incorporated. Alternately add flour and applesauce until it's all in.

Pour into a greased and floured 5 x 5 (or other very small) baking receptacle. Bake about 20 minutes, checking the last 5 to make sure you don't overdo it. Cool on a rack.

Browned Butter Frosting
3 Tbsp butter
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp milk

Place butter in a small pan over low heat. Slowly cook until butter turns a "delicate brown". It will foam and you will smell it. Keep the heat low and your eye on it--I can't really give you a time on this one. It will take a couple of minutes.

In a bowl, combine powdered sugar, vanilla and milk. Pour in browned butter and beat (electric mixers again) until a spreadable consistency that you like. If it seems dry, add milk 1 tsp at a time. If it seems wet, add powdered sugar 2 Tbsp at a time.

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