Cake recipe is the apple of my eye

Saturday found me at the farmers market, and amid the vendors displaying vegetables, flowers and baked goods it was the truckload of fresh Jonathan apples that beckoned me.

They are an early variety that appears in September and they are the best — crisp, juicy, with a perfect blend of tart and sweet flavors.

Eyeing the small boxes of Jonathans, I began to have visions of what I could do with them. Perched on a stick and dipped first in caramel and then in chopped nuts, Jonathans make ideal caramel apples that kids of all ages enjoy.

When it comes to cooking with apples, Jonathans are at the top of my list. Thinly sliced and nestled in a tender, flaky pastry, they make the most flavorful apple pie ever.

Finely chopped or grated, folded into a cake batter along with a hint of spices, they meld into a rich, moist cake that is unbelievably delicious. Sliced and sauteed in melted butter with a bit of sugar, they become a golden side dish for pork or chicken.

Jonathans must be enjoyed now because their season is relatively short when compared to other apples. Considering that, I just knew that the small container of apples would not be enough. I found myself driving home with a whole bushel!

My first apple project would be a cake, I decided. Soon the entire kitchen was perfumed with the aroma of baked apples and spices. Here's my recipe; I hope you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Fresh Apple-Walnut Cake

This cake is moist, with a sauce poured over it while still warm. Makes a wonderful fall dessert; also lovely served with coffee or tea.

Cake:1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups sugar

3 eggs

2 teaspoon vanilla

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon apple pie spice (or cinnamon)

1 teaspoon baking soda1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped

4 cups peeled and shredded Jonathan apples

1/2cup raisins, optional

Caramel sauce:

1/4 cup cream

3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch salt

Spray a 10-cup tube pan with nonstick baking spray.

Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla together in a large mixing bowl until well blended. Sift flour, apple pie spice, soda and salt together. With mixer running, slowly add dry ingredients; mix until blended. Fold in walnuts, apples and raisins. Mixture will be very thick.

Pour into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour or until cake tests done. Cool on baking rack.

While cake is baking, make the sauce: Place butter and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat until mixture is hot and butter melts. Stir in brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and gently boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and salt. Cool slightly, and pour over warm cake while cake is still in the pan. Let cake cool completely before removing from pan.