You know, I'm having trouble calling these the "cake" (singular) of the month any more... it seems as if Martha couldn't really limit herself to just 12, so she found ways to squeeze in extra recipes here and there! Like the September Bake Sale cupcakes, November also has a theme: turning traditional, fall pie recipes into cakes. For November, the recipes were the Apple Pie Cake and the Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake. Neither recipe looked terribly intimidating, and I was especially looking forward to the Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake - we are lovers of cheesecake, all things pumpkin, and especially the 2 together! I already have a favorite Pumpkin Cheesecake recipe, so I was interested in comparing it to Martha's recipe.
The Apple Pie Cake was very simple to put together. The recipe called for a 12" diameter deep dish pizza pan, but I didn't want to buy yet another baking pan. So, I did the math and found that the area of a 9"x13" rectangular pan is very close to the 12" diameter - a rectangular cake would surely taste as good, right?!? The apple brandy was a bit tough to find, and terribly expensive once we did. Luckily, our fancy liquor store also had apple brandy in the tiny, airplane-size bottles, so we went with one of those (for a whopping $6!!!).
The cake is baked with a bottom brown sugar/brandy/butter layer and the apple slices are pressed into this layer. Then, the cake batter is spread on top. Once the whole thing is baked, it's turned out with the pretty apples on top. I'm lucky to have a mandoline (Christmas gift from several years back!), which helped to make perfectly even slices (Jerry did all the mandoline work - thanks!). I found the cake batter to be a bit gooey (I may have over-mixed...), and I had some trouble spreading it over the apples. But, it the end it got in the oven and baked nicely, with a bit of caramelizing to the apples and brown sugar.
How did it taste? The apples and brown sugar were really yummy - juicy, crunchy, and nicely sweet. But, I wasn't really all that impressed with the cake portion. The texture and consistency were fine, but it didn't really have much flavor. I think it might need more cinnamon, and maybe some other spices as well: nutmeg, ginger, cloves? I would prefer more of a spice cake to better complement the baked apples. Here is the finished cake (in rectangular format!):
Although I've heard some folks talk about how challenging a cheesecake is, I've never had any trouble. In fact, it's our dessert of choice. I don't make them as often as I'd like to eat them, but we've tried all sorts of varieties: New York, ricotta, no-bake, key lime, egg nog, pumpkin, etc. This Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake recipe involved making a plain cheesecake, and then swirling a smaller amount of pumpkin cheesecake batter into it.
With all the madness of our Thanksgiving plans swirling about, I opted to use regular pumpkin rather than the suggested butternut squash. The crust went together very easily, and it was the first time I've used a pastry-type crust for a cheesecake, rather than a cookie crumb or nut crust. The cheesecake mixture was also quite simple (thanks Kitchen Aid!), and I was ready to assemble and bake. I poured the "plain" cheesecake batter into my spring-form, and found it to be pretty full. I still had 3 cups of the pumpkin cheesecake batter to "swirl"! I carefully dropped spoons of the pumpkin batter and started to swirl. I quickly saw that the pumpkin batter would completely cover the top of the cake - with no swirling effect - if I continued this way. So, I started to drop spoons of pumpkin batter in and push them under. "Burying" most of the pumpkin batter like this was the only was I was able to achieve the swirling effect.
I put the cheesecake in the oven and worried a bit about overflowing. Luckily it baked up just fine, and after the allotted bake time, I followed Martha's directions: turned the oven off and left the cheesecake in the oven with the door ajar for 1 hour. I think I'll add this step to my regular cheesecake baking, because the slow cooling of the cake seems to have kept it from cracking! The cheesecake came out perfectly smooth and firm. I'm going to post a picture below, but keep in mind that this cheesecake took a 6 hour car ride in a cooler and covered in plastic wrap - it's not as pretty in the picture as it was when I pulled it from the oven!
The pumpkin cheesecake was wonderful! I definitely liked it better than the Apple Pie Cake. This was not a particularly sweet cheesecake, so those who like them sweet should probably add more sugar to the recipe. These 2 cakes, together with my mom's famous pecan pie, gave us quite the dessert selection at our Thanksgiving dinner. I was thrilled to finally have some other people around to help us eat the cakes!