Have a few more holiday parties in your future? Us too, which is why we reached out to The Barking Frog at Willows Lodge in Woodinville, Washington, to see if their crew could whip up something sweet and seasonal. Chef Matt Kelley stepped up with this scratch-made recipe for apple brown butter cake with apple brandy-laced whip cream.

“I love exploring ways to create desserts that give a hat tip to traditional flavors in untraditional form,” Kelley says. “During the dark days of winter, this dish is the ultimate comfort food. Apples are a staple ingredient that work in dishes year-round. I love how it tastes like traditional apple pie in modern form.”

In the restaurant, Kelley says he uses Calvados — the apple brandy of Normandy, France — but says, locally speaking, San Juan Island Distillery‘s apple brandy works well for the home cook, noting how the climate in the islands is similar to that of Normandy.

Take this recipe next level and pair it with the Barking Frog’s house Wassail recipe. Mix 1 part dark rum with 4 parts apple juice and add winter spices — like cinnamon, cloves, whole all spice, juniper, nutmeg, whole star anise and orange peel — then allow the mix to soak for at least 24 hours before serving.

Apple Brown Butter Cake with Apple Brandy Whip Cream

Makes 1 cake

¾ cup plus 1 ¾ cups heavy cream, separated
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1¼ cups white chocolate, finely chopped
2 tablespoons apple brandy

Combine ¾ cup heavy cream and corn syrup in a pot and bring to a boil, pour over the chocolate in a mixing bowl and thoroughly blend. Add in the remaining amount of heavy cream and the brandy, then refrigerate overnight until ready to serve.

10 egg whites
½ cup almond flour
½ cup flour
11 ounces powdered sugar
1¼ cups brown butter*

Whisk the egg whites until foamy. Fold in the dry ingredients in two stages, then fold in the room temperature brown butter in two stages. Refrigerate 2-3 hours.

*To make the brown butter, boil 1½ pounds butter in a heavy-bottom pot until it starts to turn brown and smell nutty, about 5 minutes. Pour into a heat-proof container to cool.

8 apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped
1 cup sugar
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground clove
15 strokes nutmeg over a micro-plane
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup lemon juice

Place all ingredients in a pot and cook down until apples are tender, liquids are cooked off and it starts to get a darker color, about 10-15 minutes. Be sure to stir occasionally toward the end.

Prepare a pan of muffin tins with cooking spray. Scoop some batter in to about 2/3 full and make a small well in the batter, adding about 1 tablespoon of apple filling and covering with more batter to fill. Bake at 350° F for 15 minutes or until golden brown, allowing to cool before popping out.

Whip the cream to medium peaks for about 5 minutes, then spoon onto the cakes when ready to serve.