I want to start by talking about this here cake — it’s dark, sauced-up, spiked, fabulous.

Yummy for breakfast, wrapped up in a piece of parchment, eaten on the way to…wherever.

It’s even better for dessert, drizzled over in brandy caramel, next to a scoop of soft French vanilla, at home, watching “Game of Thrones” or “Justified” or just reading a cookbook on the couch next to Chris.

I’ve been away for too long I think. Almost a month. Feels like forever.

It’s time to bake. Seriously bake.

And I don’t care that it’s summertime, 101 degrees, tan lines and all that.

Brandy, apples, dark brown sugar, caramel — they’re eternal. Seasonless.

I dried my own apples for this baby (see the brownish but chewy-good apples above).

Julia is my official taste-tester.

She’s into bugs, princesses and my camera. She also makes a mean “raw meat soup” out of dirt and “princess smoothies” from bathwater.

Jack…he’s mainly just into dirt. Dirt and Spiderman.

And deconstruction. Especially deconstruction.

We’re trying to harness it.

But it’s hard.

He’s just…so…cute.

This cake and its caramel sauce come from Regan Daley, baker of one of my favorite crunchy cookies — the butter-toffee crunch shortbread cookies.

My pictures of the cake really don’t do it justice.

It’s no pageant-winner.

But it’s dark and delicious and moist and chunky, with the perfect crust.

I’ll take delicious over some visual aesthetic any day.

Sticky Spiked Double-Apple Cake with Brown Sugar-Brandy Sauce

adapted from “In the Sweet Kitchen,” by Regan Daley

For the cake:

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup brandy
  • 1 cup dried apple slices
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups tightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten and at room temperature
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted and chopped
  • 2 medium-sized tart apples, one peeled, one unpeeled, both cored and cut into 1/2 inch pieces

In small container, combine raisins and brandy an allow to soak at least 45 minutes. Add dried apples and soak for another 15 minutes. Do not drain brandy.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter or spray a 9X13 pan with vegetable spray. To make removing cake easier, line pan with parchment, allowing paper to hang over edges, and lightly grease parchment paper.

In small bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.

In large bowl, beat both sugars together. Add the eggs and beat on medium speed until pale and smooth, about 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the cool melted butter until blended. Gently fold in flour mixture until just mixed together (a few streaks of white are good — DO NOT OVERMIX). Add dried apples, raisins and brandy, fresh apple pieces and nuts, and stir just to combine.

 Pour mixture into prepare pan and spread out evenly. Bake for between 55 minutes and 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and cake is started to pull away from sides of pan.  Allow to cool on wire rack in pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pan and place on wire rack to cool completely.

Serve warm, topped with brown sugar-brandy caramel sauce and serve with vanilla ice cream. Or, for breakfast, warm in microwave, wrap it up and take it go as is — a sweet, chunky, applicious snack cake.

After completely cooled, cover and keep at room temperature for up to 5 days.

For brown sugar-brandy sauce:

  •  1/3 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons brandy (see note)

In a small pot, combine butter, both sugars and cream. Stir together over low heat until sugar dissolves. Stirring constantly, increase heat to medium and bring mixture to a low boil. Allow to boil on medium for about 5 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in brandy.

Serve warm or cool to room temperature and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Caramel will keep for up to 3 days.

Note: Daley says other liqueurs can be substituted to change the flavor of the sauce. For topping other cakes and ice cream, suggested liqueurs include Kahlua, Scotch and Grand Marnier.