Apple Spiced Cake Topped With Meringue

For the Meringue:

2 large egg whites
1 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons water

For the Cake:

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves (optional)
2 large, meaty apples, cored and grated on the large holes of a box grater
1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
2 cups spooned and leveled all-purpose flour

Position a rack in the middle level of oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9"x9" baking pan or casserole dish. To make the meringue, place the egg whites, brown sugar and water in the top of a double boiler. Put enough water in the bottom of the double boiler to touch the bottom of the top pot. Over high heat, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until peaks form, 3-5 minutes. Set aside. For the cake, beat together butter and brown sugar until fluffy; add egg yolks and blend well. By hand, stir in baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, grated apples, walnuts and raisins. Fold in the flour, blending well but being careful to not overmix. Spoon batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Spread meringue evenly over the batter. Bake until top is crisp, about 45 minutes. If you serve it while warm, the meringue will crack when you cut it, but that's a good thing. If you want nice, neat uniform slices, serve the cake the next day.