With the onset of cooler temperatures and autumn just around the corner, my thoughts turn to the fruit of the bountiful harvest season--apples! This particular recipe is not only a contest winner, but has garnered rave reviews, including "awesome," "new family-favorite" and "best apple cake EVER." The cream cheese and carrots are welcome additions that add to the cake's moistness, and the caramel icing only enhances the apple flavor. If nuts aren't your ingredient of choice, omit the pecans and try sprinkling coconut over the cake before the icing sets. Either way, one melt-in-your-mouth bite later, you'll understand why fall is known as the season of abundance.
In small bowl, beat cream cheese and 1/4 cup sugar until smooth. Beat in 1 egg; set aside.
In large bowl, beat oil with remaining sugar and eggs until well blended. Combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and baking soda; gradually beat into oil mixture until blended. Stir in apples, carrots and pecans, if desired.
Transfer half of apple batter to greased and floured 10" fluted tube pan; layer with cream cheese mixture and remaining apple batter.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan to wire rack to cool completely.
In large saucepan, bring brown sugar, butter and milk to boil. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Remove from heat; whisk in confectioner's sugar and vanilla until smooth. Immediately drizzle over cake. Sprinkle with pecans and/or coconut, if desired, before icing sets up.