Apple Pie and Booze-y Cake and Hot Wings, oh my . . .

Hubby had a birthday recently, and we gave our traditional combo Super Bowl/birthday party for him, complete with a crowd in our apartment that involved the purchase of some folding chairs.  Now, when he and I give a party, we don’t mess around.  We both come from a long line of enthusiastic hosts who serve so much food they are inevitable stuck in the kitchen most of the party–good thing our kitchen is partially open to the living room so we can join in the fun!

Football parties in particular always involve homemade wings, which involves getting out the basket deep fryer.  It was the only thing that Hubs requested (*demanded) as part of the wedding registry.  The man has been a hot wing connoisseur from way back, and it is certainly more efficient than the old pan fry method.  Well, once the deep fryer is out, other things inevitably seem to find their way in.  This time, in addition to homemade tortilla chips (YUM) for our traditional homemade salsa and guacamole, we did our first ever batch of homemade potato chips (labor intensive, but YUM).  It’s a good thing that the fryer barely fits on our counter and is a bit of a pain in the butt to set up and clean up, or we might be frying things waaaayyyyy too often.  As it is, we only get it out a couple times a year, and it’s super dangerous.  Also dangerous is the level of “hot” at which we like to eat our hot wings, but that’s for another post…

In addition to wings, he loves a good ol’ fashioned kiddie birthday cake (complete with sprinkles in the batter and the icing), but this year I was hoping to do something a little more out of the box.  I offered him a list of options, knowing we’d need at least two desserts for this group–he chose apple pie and margarita cake.  What’s margarita cake, you ask?  Well, I had seen a few cake recipes floating around involving lime and tequila, and considering that we love margaritas and I love citrus-y cakes, this seemed like a natural fit.  I also hadn’t made an apple pie in quite awhile and wanted to try to find a special recipe for that as well.  They both turned out so well that I felt I had to share the wealth….so without further ado, I give you Brown-Butter Apple Pie and Margarita Cake:

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The Brown Butter Apple Pie was based on this prize-winning recipe from Leigh Loper.  I bought a gorgeous array of apples from the Union Square Greenmarket, and did almost exactly as she instructed–except that I added quite a bit of ginger to the spice mix and, as I always do with homemade pies, I substituted my Grandma’s pie crust recipe.  I doubled the crust recipe and did the top crust with overlapped star cookie cutter cut-outs–that’s a new one for me, and it was so cute and easy that I will definitely do it again.  Much more forgiving than a lattice crust!  The pie baked beautifully and the filling was incredible–I find some apple pies a bit bland and gummy, but this had a lovely balanced spice, an incredible richness from the browned butter in the sauce, and the level of thickening was just right for my taste.  It will absolutely be my go to apple pie recipe from now on.

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The margarita cake did not get much photo documentation, as it was made in the thick of party prep time.  For that, I relied on this recipe from Stacy’s Wicked Good Kitchen to help me modify my favorite 1-2-3-4 cake.  (I did NOT attempt, as genius Stacy did, a cheesecake layer in between two cake layers, although I salute her baking bad-ass-ness and plan to try that someday.  Probably when I’m not making 42 other things at the same time.)  I added the juice of 2 limes and 1 lemon to the cake batter along with the vanilla, and then went to town after the layers were baked.  They were brushed with the following, adapted from Stacy’s recipe with the liquor we had on hand:

Margarita Simple Syrup

½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons water
1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon fine-quality tequila
1½ teaspoons fine-quality orange liqueur, such as Cointreau®  (I used Blue Curacao.  In spite of its blue raspberry Jolly Rancher hue, it actually has an orange flavor.)
1½ teaspoons Grand Marnier® Orange Cognac  (I subbed Limoncello, continuing the citrus theme)

Prepare the Margarita Simple Syrup: In a small saucepan, combine sugar, water and citrus juices. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves completely and mixture comes to a boil. Remove pan from heat; stir in tequila and liqueurs. Allow to cool to room temperature–do this while the cake is baking, because you want the cake layers to be slightly warm still in order to best absorb the liquid.

*Spoiler alert: Holy crap, this simple syrup is DELICIOUS.  It may need to be modified into a homemade margarita mix of sorts in the future.  The bit of blue curaçao combined with the citrus juices gave it a faint minty-green hue.  Quite pretty!

Then, I iced the cake with Stacy’s cream cheese frosting, adding some lime and lemon juice and more tequila and blue curaçao to her original recipe.  The additional liquid made the frosting a bit runny, so I added extra powdered sugar and it thickened it up pretty well.  It had a lovely citrus-y flavor with a faint hint of booze, but next time, I might be even more daring with the tequila in the simple syrup and frosting.  A bit of lime zest on top and a swirl of green decorative icing, and she was ready for company.  This cake may have to come out for Cinco de Mayo!

Hubby's birthday party came off beautifully–and thank goodness we had enough guests to not leave too many delicious fried leftovers for me to nosh on for the rest of the week.  That said, I may have had apple pie for breakfast the next day.

Believe me, if it was in your fridge, you would have too . . .

Casey Clark