Crisp fall weekends bring on hearty appetites, and this single-layer cake, which owes much of its moist sweetness to applesauce, is a sure way to satisfy. A quartet of baking spices and vanilla extract give it a distinctive flavor -- and provide lots of opportunity for budding bakers to measure and mix. It's a special treat to come home to after a game of soccer or an afternoon walk in the woods.
Butter a 9-inch cake pan (we used a springform pan) and set it aside. Place the raisins or dried cranberries in a small bowl and add enough hot tap water to cover them. Set them aside to soften. Heat the oven to 350º F.
Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices into a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with an electric mixer until it's soft and fluffy. Beat in the sugars 1/4 cup at a time, then beat in the egg and yolk, and lastly, the vanilla extract.
Using a wooden spoon, stir a third of the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture until it's smooth. Add half of the applesauce, another third of the dry ingredients, the remaining applesauce, and the final third of the dry ingredients, stirring well after each addition.
Thoroughly strain the water from the raisins or cranberries. Then stir them and the pecans into the batter until they are evenly distributed.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spoon. Bake the cake on the center rack until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 30 to 35 minutes.
Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool for 1 hour. Then run a knife around the edge of the pan and remove the cake (or the sides of the pan, if using a springform pan). Let the cake cool for another hour or so. Finally, to enhance the flavor of the cake and to allow it to become moist and dense throughout, cover it snugly with plastic wrap and let it sit for another 2 hours.
Before serving the cake, generously dust the top with confectioners' sugar. Makes 10 to 12 servings.