Black walnuts are a native American nut with shells harder than those of English walnuts and with a more astringent, tannic taste. If you prefer the English variety, by all means substitute them.
Because this is a very boozy cake, we're recommending that you substitute apple cider for half of the apple brandy if you're not a liquor fan. Some of our tasters liked the full amount of brandy, but many found it overpowering.
Make Ahead: Two days before serving, the raisins need to soak in the apple brandy overnight. The cake needs to be baked the day before it is served and refrigerated overnight.
- For the cake
- 1 pound golden raisins
- 1 1/2 cups apple brandy (may substitute apple cider for half of the brandy)
- 2 to 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 3/4 cup black walnuts, coarsely chopped (may substitute English walnuts; see headnote)
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- For the mascarpone cream
- 8 ounces mascarpone
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup brandy
- 1 cup heavy cream
For the cake: Two days before serving, combine the raisins and apple brandy in a medium bowl. Cover the bowl and let the raisins macerate at room temperature overnight.
One day before serving, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the apples into eighths and arrange them in a single layer in a small baking dish. Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake until soft, about 30 minutes.
Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees. Generously spray a 9-to-12-cup Bundt pan with nonstick cooking oil spray.
Transfer the apples to the jar of a blender, remove the center knob from the blender lid and cover the opening with a clean kitchen towel to contain any splashups. Process to form a puree. Transfer 1 cup of the puree to a large bowl. (Reserve any remaining puree for another use.) Add the sugar, vegetable oil and vanilla to the puree, and stir until well incorporated.
Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, cloves, cinnamon and ginger, and stir the mixture into the apple mixture.
Add the walnuts and half-and-half to the raisin-brandy mixture and stir to combine, then stir that mixture into the flour-apple mixture. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the cake is firm on top, 40 to 50 minutes. (The cake will be sticky in the center.) Transfer the pan to a rack to cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
For the mascarpone cream: Whisk together the mascarpone, brown sugar and brandy until smooth. Add the cream and whisk until slightly thickened. The yield is about 3 cups.
To serve, use a blunt knife to carefully loosen the sides and inner ring area of the chilled cake. Place the Bundt pan in several inches of hot water for 5 minutes, then dry the outside of the pan. Invert a serving plate over the top of the pan, and hold plate and pan together securely while inverting them so that the cake falls onto the plate. (You might have to give it a little shake.) Serve a small amount of mascarpone cream with each slice of cake.
Adapted from a recipe by Huw Griffiths, pastry chef at the Tabard Inn in Northwest Washington.
Tested by Becky Krystal.
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