Caramel Apple Chunk Cake

Some recipes carry memories better than others. From the taste and smell to all the little steps and directions, this Caramel Apple Chunk Cake recipe reminds me of time spent in the kitchen with my mother — and learning how to make caramel roses.

As I scooted around in my own kitchen this Easter, listening to music and hoping my cake would turn out, I could see the story of this recipe making another loop. This time, it was just me cutting the apples and sifting the flour. I worked alone but confidently through the directions, with no second guessing or uncertainty.

Even so, as I softened the caramels and rolled them out into petals I could see my mother’s hands, beautiful and strong, showing me how to do it that very first time. I felt connected to her and grateful that she had taken the time to make those memories with me, because the most wonderful gift you can give to your children is your time.

I will always have that day and carry that piece of her with me. And it makes my heart so happy to think that in 10 years or so the story will come full circle, and I will be teaching my own daughter (or son) how to make caramel roses.

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ShinyHappyPeebles

Caramel Apple Chunk Cake

Let me begin by saying that this is a decadent and rich cake — a destroyer of diets! However, in my own curvy opinion, it doesn’t hurt to indulge in some homemade goodness once in a while. 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 2 and ½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 and ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • 3 tart apples
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup whipping cream

1) Preheat oven to 350º and make sure the rack is in the center of the oven.

2) Peel and cut the apples into ½ inch chunks. You should get about 3 and ½ cups of apples.

3) Generously grease a 12 cup sponge cake pan. Coat with flour, tapping out any excess. I like to use a Bundt pan that I inherited from my grandmother. I love the shape and the weight of it!

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Just think of all the cakes this baby has seen!

4) In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices.

5) In a separate large bowl, combine the vegetable oil, granulated sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Beat until thick and smooth — about 3 minutes.

6) Add orange juice to the large bowl, followed by the sifted dry ingredients. Mix completely.

7) Toss the apples and chopped pecans in 1 tablespoon of flour, then add into the batter.

The batter will be very thick.

The batter will be very thick.

8) Transfer the cake batter to your pan and smooth out the top. Cook about 1 hour. Let cool 5 minutes before glazing.

9) To make the glaze, mix the butter, brown sugar, and whipping cream in a small saucepan and bring to a boil – about three minutes. This is honestly the best part of the whole, darn cake!

You could put this stuff on Wonderbread and it would taste like heaven!

You could put this on cardboard and it would taste like heaven!

10) Drizzle the glaze onto cake after it cools, reapplying as it drips down. Best served warm!

Caramel Apple Chunk Cake

Caramel Apple Chunk Cake

The caramel roses are just a garnish, so if you don’t have the time or the patience, the cake will still taste fabulous without them!

Caramel Roses:

I use the individually wrapped Kraft Caramels, the same kind I use to make Caramel Apples at Halloween.

1) Unwrap one caramel and knead it between your fingers and palms until it gets soft. Roll the softened caramel into a small ball.

2) Coat the ball lightly in granulated sugar and use a rolling pin to shape it into a petal. Press the petal in the sugar and set aside. It usually takes 4-5 caramels to make enough petals to create a rose.

3) Jelly roll one petal into a spiral to create the center of your rose. Wrap the other petals around the center, pinching at the bottom to secure them. Adjust and open the petals as needed.

4) Use a knife to cut off the excess at the bottom and create a flat surface for placing the flowers on and/or around the cake.

5) Chill them before adding to the cake — and make sure to add them at the last minute or they will literally wilt!

Caramel Roses

Caramel Roses

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Birds’ Nests

Happy Easter! To celebrate, here’s another Pinterest Challenge I’ve been saving: Birds’ Nests. Check out the original recipe by The Curvy Carrot here. Her version makes 12 servings, so I just doubled the recipe since I have several family functions to attend!

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces (1/2 bag) of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 6 ounces (1/2 bag) of butterscotch chips
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 6 ounces (1/2 of a large bag) of chow mein noodles
  • 36 mini Cadbury eggs

1) Grease the wells of a muffin pan with butter or shortening.

2) In a large pot, melt the peanut butter and the chocolate and butterscotch chips. The original recipe says to microwave, but I’m always wary of burning chocolate. Stir on low heat until smooth and completely combined.

It's like the opening scene to Willy Wonka!

It’s like the opening scene to Willy Wonka!

3) Add the chow mein noodles, stirring carefully until completely coated.

4) Using a large spoon, fill the wells of your muffin tin, indenting the tops slightly with the back of the spoon. Press in three cadbury eggs on each nest. The original recipe says to add the eggs at the very end once the nests are chilled, but I prefer them to be slightly secured to the chocolate coating.

5) Chill the nests for 1 hour, or until hardened.

Relatively easy instructions, but I will say this is definitely a messy recipe — though I didn’t really mind having to lick chocolate or peanut butter off my fingers!

TheCurvyCarrot's Birds' Nests

TheCurvyCarrot’s Birds’ Nests

After tasting them, I think these are more appropriately catergorized as a candy versus a cookie.

ShinyHappyPeebles's Birds' Nests

ShinyHappyPeebles’s Birds’ Nests

ShinyHappyPeebles' Birds' Nests

ShinyHappyPeebles’ Birds’ Nests

Now, halfway through making these I realized I only have one muffin tin … so the last half of the batch looks more like nests for baby pterodactyls.

It's the Easter pterodactyl!

It’s the Easter pterodactyl!

It's the Easter Pterodactyl!

Actually, these look even more like real nests.

Pinterest WIN on this one, for sure! I think this is the closest I’ve come to making something that actually looks like the beautiful picture with the original recipe. An Easter miracle, indeed!

Pretzel Jello Salad

Happy Valentine’s Day! As a present to my sweetie for an awesome day, I made one of his favorite desserts: Pretzel Jello Salad!

Now, the family recipe I have is for Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad, but I have created my own version, Peach Pretzel Jello Salad. That’s the wonderful thing about this recipe, though; you can really do any variation of fruit and Jello!

First, get the cream cheese out and put it in a mixing bowl to soften. I always forget to do this! Don’t forget to do this, unless you really enjoy softening the cream cheese by creaming it for five minutes. Hand cramp, anyone?

For the crust, you’ll need:

  • 2 cups crushed pretzel twists
  • 1 and 1/2 sticks butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Crush the pretzels into small pieces, add in the sugar, and then pour in the melted butter. Stir until the pretzel pieces are well-coated in sugary goodness.

Sugary Goodness

Sugary Goodness

Pour the mixture into a 9X13 baking dish (I usually spray it lightly with Pam) and then use the back of a wooden spoon to pat the pretzels down into an even layer. It should look like this:

Pretzel Crust

Pretzel Crust

Cook at 350° for 10 minutes. Let it cool completely (no refrigeration) before putting on the next layer. Let me just say, this crust is to die for. If this came in candy bar form, I’d be in trouble!

For the middle layer, you’ll need:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 9 oz Kool Whip (French Vanilla is the best!)

Combine the sugar and cream cheese first. Once they are well-mixed, fold in the Kool Whip.

Don't over mix!

Don’t over mix!

When the pretzel crust is cool, spread the cream cheese mixture over it. Make sure to seal the edges of the dish; this prevents the jello from seeping through the layers.

For the Jello layer, you’ll need:

  • 6 oz flavored Jello (in this case, Peach)
  • 2 cups pineapple juice
  • 20 – 30 oz frozen or canned fruit (in this case, sliced peaches)

To make Strawberry Pretzel Jello Salad, use 20 oz of frozen strawberries from the freezer section and Strawberry flavored Jello. For my Peach version, use two 15 oz cans of sliced peaches in lite syrup and Peach flavored Jello. Drain all the liquid from the peaches and cut them into bite size pieces. Then, let them sit in the freezer while you prepare the rest of the Jello layer.

Microwave the pineapple juice for about 3-4 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine the hot juice and Jello. Stir until dissolved. Then add the chilled peaches (or fruit of your choosing). Depending on how the Jello sets, you may need to pop the bowl in the refrigerator for 5 minutes. When the Jello starts to thicken, pour over the top of the cream cheese layer. And make sure the fruit pieces are evenly distributed across the top.

Jello Layer

Jello Layer

After that, it’s the waiting game! Let the dessert set in the refrigerator for a few hours. Cutting the slices is a bit of a wrestle because of the caramelized pretzel crust, but it is soooooo worth it! And it may not come out pretty, but your taste buds won’t care!

Peach Pretzel Jello Salad

Peach Pretzel Jello Salad