Hearty yet tender, these flavorful muffins are bursting with fresh cranberries, pears, and oatmeal. They get a zing of flavor from orange zest, and are topped with crunchy cinnamon streusel. I gilded the lily and drizzled a little orange glaze over the top. It makes them so pretty!
To be honest with you, I didn’t really expect to like these. In fact, I was kind of counting on that. (Stupid diet.) I’ve never been very fond of pears, and was worried that the cranberries would be too tart. Nope. Sweet, slightly tangy, and delightful. Nom nom.
What a sweet little breakfast these would be for Thanksgiving or Christmas morning.
The recipe makes 18 muffins. If you have extras, wrap them well and freeze them.
I admit this recipe will appeal to a very limited audience, but I happen to adore black licorice. I always chose licorice ice cream when we were taken to the ice cream parlor as a child, and remember fondly the bowls of orange and black jelly beans that were put out for our Halloween parties.
I couldn’t resist running with that theme!
Which means I made this a little harder than it needs to be, because I wanted to actually use jelly beans to flavor my cheesecake. I also hoped that the pectin (or whatever is used to make them gummy) would help thicken my cheesecake, because there’s nothing worse than a no-bake cheesecake that doesn’t set properly.
My hope of covering all the bases (flavor, color, texture) with jelly beans may have been slightly optimistic. I ended up adding a little additional color, and found that unless you prefer subtle flavoring (I don’t), you’ll probably need to boost that too. I added orange zest to the orange layer and mashed licorice sticks to the licorice. (Easy to do . . . you’ll see.)
And . . . licorice has a way of turning green. And purple. You’ll need some serious black food coloring for this job! A final deep gray color was acceptable.
I used vodka for soaking the beans, assuming it would dissolve them more quickly than water. I’m not a lush, honest! It’s just that there are such fun flavors available in the liquor store. Pernod would be great for the licorice layer, and Grand Marnier for the orange. Sadly, I had neither, so if you go that route, please let me know how it tasted.
For an alcohol-free version, substitute orange juice for the booze when you soak the orange jelly beans, and Stash Licorice Spice tea (or just plain water) for the black jelly beans.
And, of course, you can always skip the jelly beans altogether (though DO use some to decorate your cheesecake) and simply use anise flavoring and black food color for the licorice layer, and orange flavoring and orange food color for the orange layer.
Separate orange and black jelly beans into two small cups. Add 3 tablespoons vodka (or liquid of choice) to each. Cover lightly and set aside for at least 2 hours.
Chop up licorice twists and place in a small cup. Add water. Cover lightly and set aside for at least 2 hours.
Combine all ingredients for the crust in a medium bowl, mixing well. Press evenly into an 8-inch springform pan. Make sure you press it very firmly. Use a flat-bottomed measuring cup for best results. Place in the refrigerator.
Drain the orange jelly beans, reserving the liquid and discarding any remaining jelly bean carcasses. Do the same with the black jelly beans. Set aside.Carefully drain the chopped licorice, but this time KEEP THE LICORICE and throw away the liquid. Mash licorice gently with a spoon and set aside. .
In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add sour cream and powdered sugar, and beat for 2 minutes.
Add lemon juice and mix well.
Remove 1⅓ cups of the batter and place in a separate medium bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon of orange liquid to one of the bowls, and the orange zest. If you want to add orange coloring or flavoring, do so now. Stir well. Set aside.
Add 1 tablespoon of black liquid to the other bowl, and the mashed licorice twists.
Mix well, then add black coloring until it is the desired shade. NOTE: Don't throw away the remaining orange and black liquid. It will be used to make a drizzle for the top of the cheesecake.
In a medium bowl, beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Divide between both bowls and fold in gently.
Remove springform pan from the refrigerator and carefully spread the licorice mixture into the pan, smoothing all the way to the edges.(Using an offset spatula helps.) Add the orange mixture to the top of the licorice layer and smooth evenly.
(Optional) In a small sauce pan, combine the remaining orange liquid and 1 tablespoon of sugar. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it thickens (about 1 minute). Hold the pan high over the cheesecake and drizzle the syrup over the top. Repeat with the licorice liquid.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 10 hours. (It can be made a day ahead.) Carefully run a sharp knife between the crust and the side of the pan.before releasing the outer ring. Decorate with whipped cream and jelly beans (maybe sprinkles, too?) right before serving.
This is delicious frozen, too. If you want to freeze it, wait until it is completely set, then wrap it well.
Surprisingly light, pleasantly spicy, and easy to make, this two-layer cake deserves a place on your table from now through Christmas. Brown sugar buttercream frosting complements it perfectly without overwhelming; it allows the flavor of the cake to shine through.
Oh . . . you may have noticed that I decorated this one for Halloween. A little gross, with a tipped over wheelbarrow that spilled its pumpkins on the ground, next to a trowel and straw hat that have been abandoned because the unlucky gardener—who had obviously gotten on the bad side of a huge garden spider—has been wrapped tightly in the spider’s silk. A lot of webs, a little blood . . . good times! You may not want to decorate your cake like this for Thanksgiving, but it’s a slam-dunk winner for a Halloween party.
This blog is about the cake and frosting, but I’ll also tell you what I used for Halloween decorations at the bottom of the post, in case you want to creep out your family and friends.
Makes two 9-inch round layers or 36-38 cupcakes (bake for approximately 18 minutes)
2½ cups cake flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon allspice
2 cups sugar
1¼ cups cooking oil
1 cup solid pack pumpkin
½ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups butter - room temperature
½ cup shortening
¾ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
6-7 cups powdered sugar
Cream or milk (if needed)
CAKE: Heat oven to 350 F. Place rounds of parchment in two 9-inch round cake pans. Spray sides and parchment lightly with baking spray (like Baker's Joy). Or grease and flour the pans and place a parchment round in the bottom of each.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar, oil, and pumpkin well.
Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly and scraping the side of the bowl with each addition.
Combine buttermilk and vanilla.
Add half of the flour mixture to the bowl and mix until incorporated. Add half of the buttermilk mixture and mix until incorporated. Scrape the sides of the bowl and repeat. Mix just until the batter is smooth.
Divide evenly between prepared pans. Bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly when inserted in the middle of one cake. Don't overbake or cake will be dry.
Cool for a few minutes on rack, then turn out of pans to cool completely.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and shortening together until smooth. Add brown sugar and vanilla and beat for 2 minutes.
Slowly add powdered sugar until desired consistency, scraping the sides of the bowl often. Beat 2-3 minutes. To achieve a good spreading consistency, add a little cream or milk if too thick, or if mixture is too soft, add a little more powdered sugar. This frosting needs to be soft and easy to spread, because the cake is very light.
Place one cake on serving plate and cover the top with a generous amount of frosting. Place second cake on top (flattest side up) and press gently to level it. Cover entire cake with remaining frosting.
Decorate if desired with finely chopped nuts, sprinkles, or holiday candies.
Beat sugar, oil, and pumpkin (yes, it was colorful, but maybe not THIS red . . . ) then add eggs – one at a time. Seriously, take your time and beat well after each egg.
Add flour and liquids alternately.
Divide batter between two prepared 9-inch pans and bake.
Bake just until toothpick comes out clean . . . about 25 minutes.
This frosting is so good. Add liquid if necessary so it will spread easily. The cake is very light, and you don’t want to mash it!
There should be plenty of frosting for piping around the bottom. I left it plain because I was adding candy pumpkins. If you’re making this for an occasion other than Halloween, decorate the top with chopped nuts, candy, edible leaves . . . whatever you like.
So, stop here if you are making this cake for Thanksgiving or Christmas (or any other festive occasion). If you want to know how I made my Halloween decorations, read on.
The toppings on my cake were a mishmash of ideas.
When I frosted my cake I pressed “dirt” onto the top. (Chocolate and regular graham crackers, finely crushed and blended.)
The wheelbarrow was made from red fondant, with long cinnamon stick handles. The wheel was two candy melt discs stuck flat side together (heat one side briefly on a warm saucepan, then press together). wrapped in a strip of licorice to look like a tire. Use a little melted Isomalt (more about this stuff later) or melted candy melt as glue.If using Isomalt, be careful, and use gloves!A thin piece of cinnamon stick was pushed through the center of the candy melts to act as an axle, then both sides were stuck to the long handles. A little black licorice was also used as a trowel, with a handle made from a Kraft caramel.
I made a small batch of simple shortbread for the fence in the background. I have a fence cookie cutter, but you could just make posts. I also used the cookie dough to create the straw hat.
The poor gardener was made by wrapping cotton candy around a head, two arms, and two feet made from white chocolate. I added a little pink, orange, and brown to get a flesh color, but it could have used a bit more. I poured it into molds. What, doesn’t everyone have body part molds??? If not, you could use candy clay, fondant, or gum paste to create your own. Or just use cotton candy and let everyone imagine there is a person in it. (Oh, and I painted some hair and two eyes on the head with food coloring.)
I only ended up making one person on the cake, but had plenty of body parts to choose from 😀
They all looked a little too jolly to be victims, so I wrapped the cotton candy up over their mouths. Silenced!
There was some trial and error (and possibly some foul language) when it came to that spiderweb. I played with spun sugar with very limited success, and finally broke down and used Isomalt. If you’ve never used Isomalt, it’s similar to sugar but stays clear when heated, instead of amber, and is a little more forgiving. It’s hot hot HOT, so if you play with it, please be careful. I like to use it for windows in my gingerbread houses, so had some on hand. (I order the crystals through Amazon.) There are some wonderful videos online, but basically I just heated it until it melted, cooled it briefly, and when it thickened slightly I used a fork to drizzle/whisk it over the entire garden scene (not too much, just a hint of webbing) and then on a large piece of parchment. First I aimed at making “spokes”, then went in circles around and around. Dip, whisk. Once it cooled, I trimmed it to size carefully with scissors and placed it over my garden scene.
I used black fondant to shape the spider. (Hint: stick those legs on with a little water. They tend to drop off at inopportune times, otherwise.)
I bought the candy pumpkins. (I do have limits to my patience!) For the blood oozing out of the man’s mouth and down the side of the cake, I remelted the remaining isomalt and added a little red food coloring. Powdered food coloring is best, but I didn’t have any, so used paste. It thickens really quickly when you do that, so I had to work fast. Drizzle! (Or just buy a tube of red cake gel.)
Tender shortbread cookies filled with sweet apple pie filling may be a new fall tradition at your house. I’ve added these to my shortbread pie cookie collection, and I think this is (take a step back,“Chocolate Pie Shortbread Cookies”) now my very favorite variety.
Imagine biting into one of these and sinking your teeth into warm apple filling. It’s heavenly! Promise me you’ll try one before it’s cooled off entirely. Don’t get me wrong—they’re great the next day—but warm off the rack? Delightful.
Proper shortbread uses a lot of butter, so this is not an inexpensive or low- cal recipe, but when the cookie melts in your mouth you will forget cost, time, and calories. The cookies are that good. Oh, and speaking of time . . . these aren’t hard, but weaving the lattice tops takes a little patience. Plan on a few hours of baking bliss, or find a helper to make it go faster. Believe me, rushing through it just makes more work for you; the little strips of dough will sense your impatience and be less cooperative. Enjoy the process!
Hint: If you plan to make these for a special occasion like Thanksgiving, when you’ll be running around doing lots of last-minute things, make the cookies the week before and freeze them, assembled but unbaked. So easy that way, and if you’re serving right after the meal, they can go in when the rolls come out of the oven. (Make sure you set the timer; you know how crazy things get. Or is that just me?) They’ll still be warm when everyone is ready for dessert.
My husband, having a constant stream of goodies presented to him, has become a little hard to impress. His comment after eating one of these warm cookies? “This is somuch more than a cookie!” We won’t discuss how many he ate.
I know this recipe looks daunting, but that’s because it’s hard to explain how to make the lattice tops. It’s just wordy. I’m sure you could figure it out (I’m embarrassed to tell you how long it took me to find the fastest method) but it’s all down in black and white for you!
Apples vary in juiciness, which is why I have you strain them so the amount of thickener is consistent. If you have leftover cooked juice, it’s wonderful in tea (or wine).
NOTE: Recipe was edited to change the size of the cookie cutters. (I need to learn to read a ruler correctly.) The large cutter was about 3 1/2 inches, and the small one was 3 inches. Even so, those are BIG cookies. Feel free to downsize.
FILLING: In a medium pan on medium heat, combine chopped apples, ¼ cup cider, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally, then cook at a low boil (reduce heat if necessary) for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Strain apples, reserving the liquid.
In a small bowl or cup, combine 3 tablespoons cider with 3 tablespoons cornstarch. Stir well and set aside.
Return apples to the pan, along with 1 cup of the reserved liquid. (add apple cider to reach 1 cup of liquid, if necessary.)
Bring apple mixture back to a boil and stir in the cornstarch mixture. Cook and stir until thick - about 1 minute. Cool thoroughly.
DOUGH: In a large bowl (this is a heavy dough, so a sturdy mixer and dough hook is recommended) combine softened butter and powdered sugar. Beat well.
Add apple cider and egg yolks and beat until incorporated. (Reserve egg whites in small bowl.)
Add flour, salt, and nutmeg. Beat just until combined. Add cornstarch and beat until thoroughly combined. Dough will be stiff.
Heat oven to 350 F.
Working with half of the dough at a time, roll out to ¼-inch thickness. (A little thinner is fine, but don't go thicker.) For best results, roll between lightly floured sheets of parchment. Choose two round cutters, one slightly smaller than the other. My large cutter was 3½ inches and my small one was 3 inches.Cut dough into strips the width of your big cutter, and then from the short side, cut those strips into smaller strips a little less than ½-inch thick. (Each small strip would be 4½-inches by about ½-inch.)
Weave 6 pieces into lattice, leaving a little space between strips. (Lay one piece vertically, one horizontally, making a plus sign. Place two more vertical pieces, one on each side of vertical piece. Lift the top of the center piece and slide a strip under it horizontally, laying over the other two vertical pieces. Lift the bottom of the center piece and slide a strip under it horizontally, over the other two vertical pieces.)
Press lattice firmly with the palm of your hand. Center the small cutter over the lattice and cut out a round. Hold it down firmly with one hand while you remove the scraps and place them in a pile. SCRAPS WILL BE USED TO MAKE THE COOKIE BOTTOMS LATER.
With a thin spatula, move the cookie top to a piece of parchment or cutting board. Repeat until you have 24 lattice tops, using as much of the remaining dough in the bowl as necessary.
Whisk together the reserved egg whites and 1 tablespoon water. Brush lightly over lattice tops and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.
Gather all of the scraps and any remaining dough and roll out to a little less than ¼-inch thickness. Cut rounds with large cutter. Press around the edge of each with your finger to thin and enlarge the rounds slightly. Brush with egg white wash.
Heap 1 level tablespoon of apple mixture in the center of each round (a small scoop works well) and cover with one lattice top. Press the edge of the lattice top down firmly, then use your finger to flute the edge of the bottom round up, pressing firmly into the lattice layer. Place 1 inch apart on parchment covered baking sheet.
Bake 12-14 minutes, or until edges are beginning to brown. Move to a rack to cool.
Tomato soup with a crisp, buttery grilled cheese sandwich has always been one of my favorite lunch combinations. True comfort food; a staple of the 60s. As strange as this may sound, I rolled the two flavors into one light, fluffy, killer loaf of bread. It’s tasty eaten plain, incredible toasted, and absolutely over the top when it’s grilled, with even more cheese. (After all, fall is here and big sweaters are back. Eat the cheese and pull the sweater down a little more. No one will notice, and I won’t tell.)
The tomato flavor is distinct, yet subtle. I experimented, using tomato soup (reconstituted from condensed) in one batch and spicy tomato vegetable juice in the other. The vegetable juice won the taste test hands down. I didn’t detect any heat from the spicy juice, but surprisingly it had more tomato tang than the soup.
Butter and sharp cheddar cheese add another layer of flavor. I used lots of grated cheese in this bread, but it was even better when I added some chopped chunks to the dough to create little gooey pockets. (Optional, of course.)
It’s so simple to make, it really is! And apparently the acid in the tomato juice gives it that fluffy, even texture—something that’s important in a sandwich bread. Wow, it slices up nicely.
1 cup tomato vegetable juice (I used the spicy variety)
¼ cup butter
¼ cup very warm water
½ teaspoon sugar
1 package active-dry yeast
3¼ - 3½ cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon dried basil (or to taste)
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
Additional chopped cheese, up to ½ cup (optional)
Lightly grease (or use baking spray) a large bread pan. This makes a tall loaf of bread, so if your pan is on the small side, you may want to make a turn ¼ of the dough into a small personal-size round loaf or a couple of rolls. Form them on a small baking sheet. (Baking time will be shorter.)
Heat tomato juice and butter together on low heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool to lukewarm.
In a small bowl combine warm water , sugar, and yeast. Let it sit until bubbly - about 5 minutes.
Put lukewarm tomato mixture into a large bowl. (A stand mixer with dough hook is recommended.)
Add yeast mixture, 3 cups bread flour, salt, and basil. Beat for 1 minute. Slowly add enough of the remaining flour to make dough come cleanly away from the side of the bowl. Dough will be soft and slightly tacky, but should not be sticky. Knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand on a lightly floured board for 7 minutes.
Knead in the cheese. Form a ball with the dough and place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover and allow to rise until double - about 1 hour.
Once risen, form into a loaf and place in prepared bread pan. Cover and let rise until doubled - about 45 minutes.
Heat oven to 375 F. Bake bread in center of oven for approximately 45 minutes. Top will feel very firm and bread will sound hollow when turned out of pan and thumped on the bottom. Allow bread to cool before cutting.
Soft pumpkin cookies filled with rum-soaked raisins, pecans, white chocolate morsels, and Buttershots-spiked cream cheese will keep you warm and cozy this fall. They’re even brushed with a thin boozy glaze hot out of the oven, and then again once the cookies have cooled. It’s hard to get enough alcohol in cookie dough without compromising the texture, so it took a variety of approaches to pull it off.
Buy the kids some Oreos; these babies are for you!
4 tablespoons alcohol (I used a mixture of rum and Buttershots)
1 cup powdered sugar
Place raisins and ½ cup rum in a small pan. Bring to a simmer over med-low heat. Cover, reduce to low, and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let raisins sit for at least 30 minutes, or until lukewarm. They should be plump and rum should be reduced.
Heat oven to 350 F. Cover baking sheets with parchment.
COOKIE DOUGH: In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and egg yolk. Beat well.
Add raisins (with the reduced rum), pumpkin, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, salt, pecans, and white chips. Mix until incorporated.
CREAM CHEESE SWIRL: In a small bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar, egg white, butterscotch liqueur, flour, and baking powder until smooth.
Add the cream cheese mixture to the dough and fold it in just 6-7 times, leaving big white streaks. Then pull your cookie scoop or spoon through, aiming for a mixture with more dough than swirl. I like to gather a little cream cheese first, then scoop through dough, which puts the pretty swirl on top of the cookie as it bakes.
Bake for approximately 12 minutes, or until the top springs back when pressed. While cookies are baking, make glaze:
GLAZE: Whisk together the alcohol and powdered sugar until smooth. Brush it over hot cookies, then give them another light glaze once they've cooled.
Making this bread dough is a snap; it just doesn’t get any easier than this. If you are efficient, the dough can be ready to rise in 15 minutes flat. And with a few swipes of garlic butter, a sprinkle of cheese, and a couple of cuts and twists, you can make 16 incredible cheesy garlic knots that will make you very popular. (Disclaimer: I used a lot of garlic in this recipe. If you want to maintain that popularity, don’t breathe on anybody after eating one. Or maybe swish first with a lovely red wine . . .)
I made these three ways. The easiest—Cheesy Garlic Knots—is also my husband’s favorite, so that’s the recipe I’ll give you. Instructions for the other two variations (Saucy Salami, and Olive and Fig) will be at the bottom of the post . . . worth scrolling for!
Makes 16 knots. Use whatever kind of cheese you enjoy. I like to use cheddar and jack, with a little Parmesan and Asiago for a flavorful kick.
1½ cups very warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 package active-dry yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic salt
3½ cups bread flour
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups grated cheese, lightly packed
In a large bowl (a stand mixer is recommended) combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow mixture to sit until slightly bubbly - about 5 minutes.
Add olive oil, salt, garlic salt, and bread flour. Mix well using a dough hook (or if mixing by hand, use a sturdy spoon) then knead by machine for 5 minutes, or by hand for 7 minutes. Form dough into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled - about 1 hour.
FILLING: Combine softened butter, olive oil, pressed garlic, and salt. Mix well. Set aside 1 tablespoon for brushing over knots.
Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Working with one at a time, roll into a 12-inch by 7-inch rectangle. Spread ¼ of the garlic butter mixture over the dough. Cover with ¼ of the cheese. Beginning at long side, roll snugly. Cut the roll in half, creating two 6-inch pieces. Cut each of these in half LENGTHWISE, exposing the layers.
Stretch each piece gently while twisting until dough is approximately 9-10 inches long. Tie in a knot and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all of the dough, yielding 16 knots. Cover lightly with a towel and let the knots rise for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 400 F. Bake knots 12 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and brush with reserved garlic butter mixture. Serve slightly warm.
Once yeast is bubbly, add oil, salt, and flour. Knead well and let rise until doubled.
Combine butter, oil, and garlic. (Make sure you save a little for brushing on hot knots.)
Spread one piece of dough with garlic butter and cover with a generous amount of grated cheese.
Roll snugly and cut in half.
Cut the halves in half, but LENGTHWISE this time to expose the layers. Twist and stretch, then tie in a knot
Cheesy Garlic Knots, ready to rise and bake.
Wait ’til you smell these! And if you think these are good, try one of the other variations below. Hint: don’t be too generous with the sauce or fig spread; it’ll make a big mess when you try to twist and knot!
Saucy Salami version: spread spaghetti sauce over garlic butter. Salami is added on top of the cheese. (Ignore the size; this was taken before I got smart and rolled the dough in smaller pieces.)
Saucy Salami: In addition to the Cheesy Garlic Knot recipe above, you’ll need 1/2 cup spaghetti (or pizza) sauce, and 1/2 cup finely chopped Italian dry salami.
Make knots as described in the recipe above, except after spreading the garlic butter, cover with a thin layer (about 2 tablespoons per each piece of dough) spaghetti sauce. (Pizza sauce would be good, too.) Don’t use too much or the dough will be much harder to twist and knot. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of finely chopped Italian dry salami over cheese. Roll, cut, and bake as described in the Cheesy Garlic Knot recipe.
Olive and Fig version: Add store bought kalamata/fig spread. So good! (Yes, you can make your own olive/fig tapenade if you’d like. There are lots of lovely recipes for that on Google.)
Olive and Fig: You’ll need a jar of olive fig spread. I bought this jar of spread at the grocery store, but they have a lot of brands online.
Make knots as described in the recipe above, except after spreading the garlic butter, cover with a thin layer (about 1 tablespoon per each piece of dough) olive fig spread before adding the cheese. The kalamata olives are so flavorful, and figs add a touch of sweetness. Delightful!
These are dangerous – at least around here. I can’t stop at one, and I swear they’re even more flavorful the next day if they’re stored in an airtight container. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
This is over the top, even for me! Two moist layers of apple cake are baked with a graham cracker crust, sandwiched with spicy apple filling, and covered with cinnamon-cream cheese frosting. Because I love mixing textures, this cake also sports a crunchy streusel topping. I guess you could consider this part pie, part cake . . . and the essence of fall.
My first attempt at this recipe yielded a lovely cake that was so sweet I could barely eat a small piece. And you must not underestimate my tolerance for sweet things. The flavor was just what I had hoped for, but . . . wow. Really, really sweet.
So I went back and reduced sugar in the crust and the filling, and switched the buttercream frosting with cream cheese frosting. Now it’s just right!
Most homemade cakes involve a cake, filling, and frosting. But I’ve added two additional steps: the graham cracker crust and the streusel. In for a penny, in for a pound, as far as I’m concerned, but if you’re strapped for time, feel free to:
Eliminate the streusel. Place the top layer so the graham crust is at the top, then just pipe around the edge.Still pretty!
Skip the graham crust. No one will know. (My daughter would be aghast at this suggestion. We both love this crust on cakes.)
Two 8-inch layers of apple cake, apple pie filling, graham cracker crust, and streusel topping create a fall classic.
2 cups (about 15 whole) crushed graham crackers
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup butter, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
½ cup white sugar
⅓ cup oil
3 large eggs
⅓ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups coarsely grated apple (peeled and cored)
2 cups chopped apples (peeled and cored)
½ cup sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons water
¼ cup white sugar
3 tablespoons flour
½ teaspoon cinnamon (more for a darker color)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup butter, softened (if using unsalted butter, add ⅛ teaspoon salt)
8 ounces full-fat cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon cinnamon (more to taste)
1 pound powdered sugar (about 4½ cups)
CAKE: Heat oven to 350 F. Lightly spray two 8-inch (2 inch deep) round pans with baking spray (or grease and flour them). Place a round of parchment in the bottom of each pan.
Combine the graham cracker crumbs, ¼ cup brown sugar, and ½ cup melted butter. Divide between the two pans and press evenly, using a straight-edged measuring cup to pack the mixture very firmly. Set aside.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Set aside.
In a large bowl, beat the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar for 1 minute. Scrape sides of bowl. Continue to beat as you drizzle in the oil. Beat for 3 minutes, scraping occasionally.
Add eggs, one at a time, beating well between additions.
Stirring by hand (or on low speed) add half the flour mixture and mix just until combined.
Add half of the buttermilk and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix just until combined.
Stir in remaining flour, then remaining buttermilk. Do not overmix.
Gently fold in grated apples. Divide batter between the two pans and spread evenly.
Bake for approximately 40 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when touched lightly. If in doubt, give it a few more minutes; an underbaked cake will sink in the middle.
Move cakes to cooling racks. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then turn out to cool completely.
FILLING:In a medium pan over low heat, combine chopped apples, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Stir often until apples begin to release liquid, then turn heat up to medium low and bring to a low boil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Whisk together cornstarch, lemon juice, and water. Add to boiling mixture. Stir and cook until mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Apples vary in juiciness and you may need to add a little more water or a little more cornstarch slurry to achieve a spreadable filling. Allow filling to cool completely..
STREUSEL: heat oven to 375 F. Combine white sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter. Crumble onto a small parchment-covered baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven when streusel begins to brown. Allow to cool on baking sheet.
ICING:Beat butter and cream cheese together well, scraping bowl often. Add vanilla and cinnamon and beat until combined. Add powdered sugar 1 cup at a time. Beat well after each addition. For easy handling, chill for 30 minutes before using.
ASSEMBLY:Place one cake layer, graham crust side down, on serving plate. Pipe a line of icing around the top, near the edge, creating a dam. Fill with apple filling and top with second layer, crust side down. Ice the sides of the cake, and lightly ice the top, then cover top with streusel, pressing firmly into icing. Pipe around top and bottom if desired.
Press graham cracker mixture firmly into pans. Really pack it down!
Spread the cake batter over the graham cracker crust, as evenly as possible.
Hot and fragrant from the oven.
Filling should hold its shape. If it’s too thick, add a little water. If it’s too thin, you may need to make a little more cornstarch mixture. (Some apples are juicier than others.)
Stir the streusel once or twice during bake time. It will feel soft, but trust me – it hardens once it cools! Don’t let it get too dark.
Spread the filling right up to the frosting dam on the first layer. If you have extra, it’s great on vanilla ice cream!
Frost it, decorate it, and fill the top with crumbled streusel. SERVE!
And because I really love this next photo I’m going to leave it right here. I had it at the top of the page but took it down because several people on a cooking website said it looked like taco meat on top. And now all I can see is taco meat, when I know it is just a lot of cinnamon (and perhaps a minute or two too long in the oven). Taco meat. Pffft. Hey! Love me, love my streusel!
If you made it to the bottom of this post, I salute you! And I promise something easy for next time.
If you’re willing to part with two cups of precious huckleberries, I have a recipe for you! I know how hard these little berries are to come by, and I usually use them sparingly, but my youngest son (who shall now be known as my favorite son) just gave me eight pounds of them, and I’m feeling a little reckless.
If you don’t have huckleberries (frozen are fine, by the way) you can substitute wild Maine blueberries, available in the freezer section of most grocery stores.
I added a pie crust bottom, just for fun, and lots of marshmallows. The texture of this candy is more marshmallow-like than that of chocolate fudge. If you prefer a more traditional texture, you can cut the amount of marshmallows in half.
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (save the zest for the fudge)
2 tablespoons milk
2 cups fresh or frozen huckleberries (wild Maine blueberries are good, too)
1¾ cups sugar
1 small can (5 oz.) evaporated milk
½ cup butter
1½ cups white chocolate morsels
4 cups miniature marshmallows
zest from one large lemon
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional) or more to taste
Heat oven to 375 F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with a piece of parchment, extending over two sides. This will serve as a "handle" to lift your fudge out when it's firm.
In a small bowl, combine flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in the shortening and butter with a pastry blender or your fingers until you have no lumps of butter bigger than a pea.
Add lemon juice and milk. Toss with a fork until combined.
Press firmly into the prepared baking pan and poke holes into the dough with a fork, covering entire pastry evenly. Press all the way to the bottom of the pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until the crust begins to turn brown around the edges. Move to a cooling rack. While pan is still warm, brush a little butter on the two sides of the pan without parchment, to keep the fudge from sticking.
In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, combine huckleberries, sugar, evaporated milk, and butter. Stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally with a heat-proof silicone spatula, until the mixture thickens and reaches a temperature between 235-240 F. (If you are high-altitude, don't forget to adjust for this by subtracting 1 degree for each 500 feet above sea level.)
Remove from heat and stir gently a few times, allowing bubbles to settle down. Add the white chocolate, marshmallows, and lemon zest. Stir until incorporated and pour over baked crust.
Allow fudge to cool, then refrigerate several hours. Slide a thin knife along the two buttered sides, then lift the fudge onto a cutting board and cut into squares.
Lemon juice goes in the crust, lemon zest is saved for the fudge.
Press the dough firmly into the pan. Stab repeatedly with a fork. (Bwa haha)
Combine hot berry mixture with marshmallows, white chips, and lemon zest.
Pour hot mixture over cooked crust.
Cool and chill, then lift fudge onto cutting board and cut into squares.
I have so many uses for these berries (margaritas) that I never seem to have enough. But this year, I think I’m covered (margaritas). I may be pulling out the huckleberry recipes at Christmas! Hot buttered margaritas?
These scrumptious blueberry rhubarb muffins were served to my friend and me at a charming bed and breakfast recently, and I begged for the recipe—only to find out that the batter was made using a boxed mix. How easy is that? (For the record, I have nothing whatsoever against boxed mixes; I usually just like the challenge of creating my own recipes.)
Our hostess added a few more blueberries, a little chopped rhubarb, and a simple crunchy topping, and I assure you we gobbled those muffins up with enthusiasm.
Vicki Broeckel is the heart and soul behind The Parsonage, a lovely old home surrounded by an oasis of trees in the middle of the rolling hills of the Washington Palouse.
The Parsonage, seen from the Highway.
When you make a reservation at The Parsonage, you get the house to yourself. The whole house. (And it’s big!) Vicki lives down the road, but comes in each morning with a huge hamper of food to make a hearty breakfast for her guests. She is a fabulous artist (some of her paintings adorn the walls of The Parsonage) and her creativity also extends to the colorful food she serves
All big blue eyes and energy, Vicki seems to magically produce a meal in seconds, then whisks the dishes into the dishwasher, chats for a moment, and disappears. We coaxed her to stay and visit as long as possible, because she’s so much fun.
And that food!
Her blueberry rhubarb muffins are in the background of this photo. Oh, so good. She told me how she made them, but I didn’t get exact measurements, so my recipe may be a little different, but it’s close to what we enjoyed at that kitchen table.
I lived in Seattle for fifty years, so I’m a little bit “local loyal” when it comes to ingredients. I don’t get paid to promote products . . . I just trust Darigold and Krusteaz. I used local eggs, huckleberries from our nearby mountains, and fresh rhubarb from The Parsonage. Good ingredients make a difference!
Hint: Don’t be stingy with that topping. Cover the batter with a liberal hand. On this batch I used half brown sugar and half white for a lighter color.
I thought I didn’t like rhubarb, but I was wrong. I only added a little to these muffins, but I think they’d be better with twice as much. The tart/sweet combination is delightful, and now I regret having destroyed our rhubarb plant. Thank goodness for farmers markets!
If you have a chance to visit southeastern Washington, I hope you’ll spend a night or two at The Parsonage. Here I am, fixated on the food, when there are so many other wonderful things to see and do. Visit the Pataha Flour Mill for dinner (donation only), a journey to see the Palouse Falls, or spend a quiet afternoon of bird watching on the front porch swing (I got photos of two owls). All are sure to bring you joy.