One of my biggest kitchen-related dilemmas is trying to decide whether using a cake mix is a bad thing (preservatives! slothitude!) or a good thing (quick! easy! cheap!). Yes, I clearly lead a tortured existence.
After my success with the almond joy cake (made with boxed cake mix and pudding mix) and having perused the latest book from the Cake Mix Doctor, I was inspired to break out the mix once again. The cake that caught my eye in the aforementioned cookbook by Anne Byrn was a layered spice cake with a filling consisting of tart 'n tangy apple butter goo and coated with a rich caramel frosting. Just try and tell me that doesn't sound amazing.
I made a few alterations here and there. First and foremost, carrot cake mix was what I found in the cabinet, so carrot cake mix was what I used. Secondly, in continuing with my maple kick, I added a bit of maple flavoring to both the cake and the frosting. Oh, the smells coming out of my kitchen--they were enough to buckle your knees.
In case you missed it, today is Mother's Day. I have a mother; you might recall some of my pet names for her--Mammy, Mamster, Mamburger, and the like. She's a pretty great lady, and since she's keen on caramel frosting, I applied it to the cake even though I had a hunch it'd give me trouble. Not surprisingly, it was a pain in the patootie, dripping down the sides of the cake before it set, but it worked out all right. Yeah, it looks a bit sad and saggy, but it's worth the hassle since it tastes like heaven in goopy form. Plus, it's for my Mama-lama-ding-dong.
Happy Mother's Day, ladies!
Maple Carrot Cake with Apple Butter Filling and Caramel Frosting (in other words, Bliss)
adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor Returns by Anne Byrn
1 box carrot cake mix
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup sour cream
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 cups apple butter
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup walnuts, chopped
8 tablespoons butter
1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1/4 cup milk
2-3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
1/2 teaspoon salt
Make the cake:
Preheat oven to 350F and thoroughly spray three 9-inch round cake pans.
Combine cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat until well-incorporated. Divide among the three prepared pans and bake for 16-18 minutes, or until the toothpick test is passed. Let the layers cool for 10 minutes in the pans and then carefully remove them onto cooling racks until they become completely cooled.
Make the filling:
Beat the egg in a small bowl until it becomes lemon-colored. Add the buttermilk and blend well. In a separate bowl, heat the apple butter in the microwave or over medium heat until it becomes bubbly. Temper in the egg mixture and then heat the filling another 3 to 4 minutes until it thickens. Add in the butter and stir until it melts. Stir in the walnuts and let cool.
Transfer one layer to a plate or cake stand and spread half of the filling on top. Repeat with second layer and the rest of the filling. Top with the third layer and set cake aside.
Heat the butter and brown sugar over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil, about 2 minutes. Add the milk, stir, and bring the mixture back to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat. Let the mixture cool a bit and whisk in the powdered sugar until thickened and smooth, lightened in color, and beginning to lose its sheen. Stir in the flavoring at the last minute and stir to combine. Pour the frosting onto the top of the cake quickly before it hardens, smoothing as you go. It's tricky to get the sides just right, but do what you can! Let the frosting harden before attempting to slice the beast.