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Ginger Applesauce Cake

Ginger Applesauce Cake

Like many of my recipes, this came together from ingredients that happened to be on hand at the time and my vague idea of a desired flavor. I was making a simple, and oddly summery, lunch (a huge salad, prawns in sage butter, and fresh focaccia) for guests and wanted something a bit more appropriately seasonal to go with the snow that still lingers outside.

My other requirement for this dessert was simplicity. One bowl and one pan was just about right. If it did not require a trip to the store, so much the better. At this point, I was leaning towards brownies...again. I've made so many batches of brownies lately that I am sort of tired of chocolate. (as if) In any case, brownies clearly wasn't it.

Back to winter flavors. In Washington state, winter means apples. In my house last week, apples meant applesauce. Not a bad start. Applesauce cake fit the bill. Right season, ingredients on hand, one bowl, and one pan. One problem. Somewhat lacking in magic. You know: Not. Very. Exciting.

Unwilling to abandon the almost perfect solution, I rummaged through shelves of food for something to make it a bit more lively. The first thing that came to hand was candied ginger. Hmmm. We nibbled on candied ginger during Thump, Thump, Giggle, Giggle '06 and it was very tasty stuff. Goes with apples too. Cinnamon is an obvious pairing for apples, but using freshly ground cinnamon makes ordinary into extraordinary. Since I had the microplane out, I grated some nutmeg too. Chopped walnuts added a seriously needed bit of crunchy texture and finished off the additions.

By the time I was done, the everyday "applesauce loaf" I started with had been transformed into a lovely, yet simple, cake. Perfect for this lunch, it has been just as yummy a day or two later with tea in the evening. My guess is that you could do anything to this recipe: a larger pan would make bar cookies; double the recipe and make a 3-layer cake with cream cheese frosting; add in dried fruit (craisins or currants sound like yummy additions); and the original recipe freezes and ships beautifully (when I was a kid we sent it to my brothers who were overseas in the military).

may I be tangential for a moment? (like you can stop me) If you have friends or family who are away from home in the military, but still in the continental US, send them care packages too! I said we sent this stuff to my brothers who were overseas, which we did. But a bit later, I was in the military stateside and one thing that drive me crazy was that WE never got the good stuff! Apparently someone decided that if you could drive to a fast food place you would never miss the taste of home that a box of homemade goodies delivered. They were wrong. Utterly and completely wrong. So while you are making cookies for your niece in Iraq (and I wish her a speedy and healthy trip home), make some for your cousin in Idaho too!

(we now return to our recipe, already in progress...)

kitchenMage's Ginger Applesauce Cake

This cake started life as a rather plain Applesauce cake recipe from the Better Homes & Garden Dessert Book. Candied ginger and freshly ground cinnamon (try a Microplane-style grater) add spice to kick up the flavor while walnuts add needed crunch. While this was served plain, I think a scoop of vanilla ice cream would give a creamy balance to the spice of the ginger.

butter, 1/2 cup
sugar, 1/4 cup
eggs, 2 large
maple syrup, 1/2 cup
applesauce, 1  cup (I use unsweetened)
all-purpose flour, 1  cup
rolled oats, 3/4 cup
baking powder, 1 teaspoon
baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon
salt, 1 teaspoon
ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon
ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon
walnuts, 3/4 cup – coarsely chopped
candied ginger, 1 tablespoon – finely chopped
powdered sugar – for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9" square pan. 

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and mix at low speed to combine, then beat on high for 3-4 minutes. The mixture should be about doubled in volume. With mixer on medium, slowly pour in maple syrup.   

Combine dry ingredients (except nuts and candied ginger). By hand, gently mix in applesauce, alternating with dry ingredients. When the mixture is just starting to come together, add nuts and ginger and stir a few more strokes.

Pour into prepared pan and smooth surface a bit. Bake for 30 minutes, until tester in center comes out dry. Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Nutritional data (based on 16 generous servings):
183 Calories; 10g Fat (47.8% calories from fat); 4g Protein; 21g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 39mg Cholesterol; 270mg Sodium.
Exchanges: 1/2 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 0 Fruit; 2 Fat; 1/2 Other Carbohydrates.

(question for someone who gets Exchanges better than I do: how is this 0 fruit but 1/2 meat?)

note: I'm going to call ginger an herb, I think it fits Kalyn's definition, and thus this is my Weekend Herb Blogging entry for this week. To catch all the herbal goodness, go to Coffee & Cornbread where the event is being hosted this week.

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