Yeah, I think not.
Apple Cake Batter:
1 cup finely chopped pecans (see if your store sells "candy pieces" -- these are perfect)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup canola oil
3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups peeled and finely chopped Gala apples (about 3 apples worth)
Cream Cheese Filling:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick), softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
3 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
Pecan halves (for garnish)
Whew! Hang in there. I know that it is a lot of ingredients, but this cake is so worth it.
Start by preparing the pecans for the apple cake batter. Put them in a shallow pan and bake them at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, stirring at the halfway mark. These smell great when they are done! Let them cool while you prepare the cream cheese filling. Beat together the cream cheese, butter, and sugar. Add the egg, flour, and vanilla and beat it until it is just combined. See, that wasn't so bad!
Now peel, core, and chop the apples. You are going for little pieces here.
Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda for the cake batter. Add the sugar, brown sugar, and spices.
Stir in the eggs, canola oil, applesauce, and vanilla, just until moist. Too much stirring will lead to a dense cake, and believe me, that's not what you want here. Mix in the apples and pecans. The cake will be pretty chunky by this point.
Next, grease and flour a 14-cup Bundt pan. You probably got one for your wedding and just stuck it in a closet somewhere, so go dig for it. Sadly, this will not work with the pretty Bundt pan that looks like a flower or castle or whatever -- its simply too much cake. Go for the plain Jane pan.
Next, spoon 2/3 of the cake batter into the pan. Dump all of the cream cheese filling on top. Attempt to swirl it. I say "attempt" because the cake batter is pretty dense, as is the filling, and they just won't swirl well. Try not to worry about it. It's not the end of the world.
Top with the remaining 1/3 of cake batter. Into the oven it goes, baking at 350 degrees for 1 hour - 1 hour fifteen minutes. Mine was done at the one hour mark. You want to poke it with a toothpick to determine if the middle is done, but a toothpick is way too short. I ended up improvising and using a shish-ka-bob skewer. Once Mr. Cake is done baking, take him out of the oven but leave him in the pan for 15 minutes. Just put the pan up on a wire rack to let it cool a bit (about 15 minutes). Then you can remove him from the pan to finish cooling. It will take about 2 hours for this big boy to completely cool, so get out your patient pants.
When the cake is finally cool, you can make the frosting. First, put your cake onto its permanent home, which in my case is a cake stand. I like to put a strip of waxed paper under each side of the cake before frosting it. Then when you are done, you can gently pull the waxed paper out and your cake plate looks clean and pretty, like in a magazine.
Put the brown sugar, butter, and milk into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, whisking constantly. Boil it for 1 minute. This will boil off some of the water that is naturally in butter and milk and make your frosting thicker and creamier. Remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Gradually whisk in the powdered sugar until smooth.
Now I have to admit my mistake. Here you are supposed to stir it gently for 3-5 minutes, letting it cool and thicken, before pouring it over the cake. That gets the nice chunky brown frosting that you see in Southern Living's picture. But my toddler was whining, my husband was hungry, and I was trying to make dinner at the same time, and I completely missed this step. My frosting was thin and runny but still tasted fine. Forgive me!
Finally, sprinkle it with pecan halves for garnish.
I was really pleased by this cake. The spices were reminiscent of hot apple cider and the chopped apples gave it a really nice consistency. It made a large amount of dessert, perfect for a fall get-together, and lasted over a week without changing consistency. I will definitely make it again. It was a wonderful treat to welcome fall.