MAKES: 1 rectangular cake (12 to 16 servings)

TIME: About 1 hour

This toffee-style soaked cake is gooey, fruity, and relatively familiar, whether you finish it with the bourbon or vanilla cake soak. (If you’d prefer a more traditional approach, simply substitute Not-Too-Sweet Buttercream Frosting.) The recipe makes a large cake, perfect for entertaining. And as we know from carrot cake, you can get excellent results using vegetables in cakes, so be sure to check out the nontraditional variations.

12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) butter, softened, plus some for greasing the pan

2 medium apples (about 8 ounces), peeled, cored, and quartered

11/2 cups sugar

21/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

Double recipe Boozy Cake Soak or Vanilla Cake Soak

Preheat the oven to 350В°F. Grease a 9 — 13-inch rectangular pan with a little butter. Put the apples in a blender or food processor with 1/2 cup of the sugar and pulse a few times to pure. You should have about 1 cup. (Save any extra for another use, like to flavor yogurt.)

Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the 11/2 sticks of butter and the remaining 1 cup sugar until creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until light and smooth. Beat in the apple pure. Mix in about a third of the flour mixture, followed by about half of the milk; add another third of the flour, followed by the rest of the milk, then finally the last of the flour. Stir gently until the batter just evens out.

Turn the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the middle is set (your fingers should leave only a small indentation when gently press the cake), 45 to 50 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the cake soak. Leave the cake in the pan. Cool for about 10 minutes, then pour the cake soak all over the top; let it sit for at least an hour before serving. Store at room temperature, covered with wax paper, for up to 2 days; use plastic wrap and it will keep for an extra day or so.

Variations

Beet Cake with Orange Glaze. Substitute 2 medium raw beets for the apples (peel and quarter them before pureing). Instead of the cake soak, prepare 1 recipe Orange Glaze. Proceed with the recipe, except instead of finishing with the soak, let the cake cool completely, then glaze.

Parsnip or Carrot Cake with Not-Too-Sweet Buttercream Frosting. Another sweet vegetable that should get more play in desserts: Substitute parsnips (or carrots) for the apples and add 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg to the dry ingredients if you like. Prepare 1 recipe Not-Too-Sweet Buttercream Frosting. Proceed with the recipe, except instead of finishing with the soak, let the cake cool completely, then glaze.

Fennel Cake with Grapefruit Glaze. With a subtle anise flavor: Substitute finely chopped fennel for the apples, grapefruit zest for the lemon zest, and prepare 1 recipe Grapefruit Glaze instead of the cake soak. Proceed with the Beet Cake variation above.