Apple Walnut Cake with Caramel Cream Cheese Icing
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
3 cups (3 large) Golden Delicious apples, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3 tablespoons apple-flavored brandy
1 pound (2 eight-ounce packages) cream cheese, softened slightly, cut into pieces
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened slightly, cut into pieces
1 cup cold caramel
Coarsely chopped or whole walnuts
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease and lightly flour two 9 x 2-inch round cake pans.
To make the cake: In a large bowl, sift together the flours, the cinnamon, the baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the oil with the sugar until smooth, about three minutes. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until light, about 1 or 2 minutes. Add the dry ingredients in thirds, beating after each addition until smooth. The batter will be extremely thick and doughlike. With a spoon, stir in the apples, the walnuts, and the brandy until just blended. Divide the batter between the prepared pans and bake for 45-55 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into center of cake comes out clean. Let cakes cool in pans for 10 minutes. Remove from pans and cool completly on a wire rack.
To make the icing: In a medium-size bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter until smooth, about three minutes. Gradually add the caramel and beat until well incorporated. When cake has cooled, ice between the layers, then ice top and sides of cake. Garnish with walnuts as desired.