Tips before you begin:
9-10 ounce Cosmic Crisp® apples are best suited for this recipe
Use the smallest apple for the center
When arranging in the cake pan, the apples may touch the edge of the pan–that’s okay
The skin of the apples lose some of their color when fully baked
Wash Cosmic Crisp® apples. Leave skin on. Using a fork, pierce the bottoms of the Cosmic Crisp® apples in a cross pattern, about ¾” deep.
Reserve ¼ cup sparkling wine. Then combine the poaching liquid.
Stir together the wine, water and sugar in a large pot or 4-quart Dutch Oven. Drop in the vanilla bean, star anise and rosemary; bring to a boil.
Place apples in poaching liquid. Reduce heat down to medium low. Cover. Poach apples for 10 minutes or until just barely tender. Using a large slotted spoon, turn apples twice during poaching time. Carefully remove apples to a plate; cool slightly. Discard the vanilla bean, anise and rosemary. Return heat to high. Bring poaching liquid to boiling. Boil, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until liquid reduces to 1/2 cup and has a syrup-like consistency and turns light amber in color. Remove from heat; let cool. Syrup will continue to thicken as it cools.
Meanwhile, place rack in the center of the oven; preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare cake batter.
Lightly butter the bottom of a 10″ springform pan. Line with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper and the sides of the pan. Set aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle, beat 1 minute more. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating 1 minute after each. Add the sparkling wine; beat 30 seconds more. (The mixture will look shaggy). Slowly add the dry mixture, beating on low speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of bowl and the paddle; beat 30 seconds more.
Transfer batter to the prepared pan. Smooth batter using a rubber scraper. Gently put the apples into the batter, making sure they do not touch the bottom of the pan. Place one apple in the center, and the other four above, below and on each side of the center apple. Evenly sprinkle the 2 teaspoons sugar on top.
Bake for 1 hour 10 to 1 hour 20 minutes (depending on your oven) or until a toothpick comes out clean from the cake near the center apple. Loosely cover with parchment or foil if the cake starts to brown too much.
Transfer cake from oven; place on a wire rack. Cool completely, at least 2 hours.
Using a table knife, gently loosen cake edges from sides of pan. Remove sides of springform pan. Using a very wide spatula, transfer cake from bottom of springform pan to 12″ stand or plate.
Gently brush wine reduction on top of cake, using a pastry brush. Sprinkle with granulated or glittery sugar. Stand the rosemary sprigs top side down on the cake to form the trees.
Using a serrated knife, cut cake into 8 to 10 slices, being extra careful when cutting through the apples. Serve cake slices with a dollop of whipped cream, if desired.
TO MAKE THE COSMIC CRISP® ORNAMENT CAKE EVEN MORE FESTIVE:
- Add a touch of fresh ginger to the poaching liquid or the batter
- Cinnamon, cardamom or nutmeg bring a warm, cozy flavor
- Dust with red glittery sugar for extra gleam
For poaching apples
- 5 Cosmic Crisp® apples
- 750 ml sparkling wine
- 2 cups water
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1-2 star anise
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1½ sticks unsalted butter, softened + more for greasing pan
- 1 cup granulated sugar + 2 teaspoons, divided
- 3 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- ¼ cup sparkling wine
- 1-2 teaspoons glittery sugar, if desired
- 3-4 fresh rosemary sprigs, varied in length 2-4 inches