Tag Archives: fall

Caramel Apple Spice Cake…Perfect for Fall!

Now that November has hit, I’m in full fall force! Halloween was great, filled with costumes, candy, and actual trick-or-treaters this year (in past years, we never had anyone).  The trees have been putting on a show for weeks, continually dropping lovely crunching leaves in the yard. And the weather, well, it hasn’t really cooperated for fall, but I’m hopeful it will get cold soon. So, thankfully, with fall comes fall food. My favorite, despite the overabundance of everything pumpkin, are the apples! A few weeks ago to celebrate some important family birthdays, I made a delicious caramel apple spice cake with brown sugar Swiss meringue buttercream, and yes, it was as good as it sounds!

This recipe was features in Martha Stewart Living many years ago, and as soon as I heard the title and saw the picture, I knew I had to have it. The cake is a dense spiced cake, perfect for fall, and the icing is amazing!

To start, heat 1/2 stick butter in a large saute pan over medium heat until lightly browned. Add to the butter 4 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and grated (about 2 lbs apples), 1/2 cup apple cider, and 1 cup sugar. Raise the heat to medium high and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook until liquid has evaporated, about 10 more minutes. Allow to cool.butterpeeled and coredgratedadd applescidersugargolden caramel applescoolingWhisk together 3 3/4 cups flour, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger. Set aside.flour and spicesmore spicesall combined

Beat 2 sticks butter that has been softened to room temperature. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar, and beat at medium high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Reduce speed and add 4 eggs, 1 at a time. Beat after each addition. Add 1/4 cup flour mixture to the cooled apple mixture. With the mixer on low, add the remaining flour mixture in 2 batches, alternating with 1/2 cup sour cream.  Fold in the apple mixture.more butterbeatingsugarbrown sugarcombinedeggsfloursour creammore flourapples

Divide the batter between 2 8×2 inch round cake pans that have been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees until golden and a toothpick comes out clean, about 55 minutes. Allow to cool completely before frosting.batterready for the ovenbakedTo make the buttercream, whisk 5 egg whites, 1 2/3 cups brown sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Heat and whisk the mixture for about 5 minutes until it reached 160 degrees. Remove from heat and beat the egg mixture on high speed until stiff peaks form, about 6 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium low and add 4 sticks room temperature butter (yes, I said 4 sticks), 2 tablespoons at a time. Beat for about 3-5 minutes after all butter has been added to make the frosting smooth. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes to harden then beat the frosting to a spreadable consistency.seperating eggsready for the double-boiler160ready to be whippedwhippedeven more butterall addedfrostingfirst layersecond layer

The cake is delicious and the frosting is absolutely amazing. I know it has a lot of butter, but it’s a great splurge dessert! Happy fall!done

Beautiful Fall Foliage

It’s amazing how quickly fall changes the landscape from beautiful shades of green to an autumn rainbow. The leaves have been changing here, and being in a new house, I’m amazed at all of the fall color we have. Every day seems like a new surprise, so I thought I’d take you on a virtual tour.rhododendrunIt’s hard to believe but some of the rhododendron are reblooming.dogwoodThe dogwood has great color.firewoodReady for some warm fires in the fireplace.tulip treeOur tulip tree is huge!beautiful skyBeautiful sky.pinecones everywherePine cones everywhere.pine treesPine trees showing some golden color.mapleThe maple tree is putting on a show!leavesLots of fallen leaves.flowersSome flowers are still blooming!

I hope you enjoy the fall color. It will be gone before you know it!

Celebrate Halloween with a Caramel Apple Cake!

applesI may have mentioned this before, but I love the fall.  I love the leaves and pumpkins, the cool weather, and the holidays.  While Thanksgiving may be my favorite, Halloween is still up there for me!  It’s that magical time when pumpkins come to life, witches stop by your doorstep, and sweets run a-plenty!  And boy do those sweets run a-plenty for me.  From candy corn to cookies, from candy bars to cake, I love the sweets! So, when I found a recipe for Caramel Apple Cake, it just seemed to combine everything into one amazing dessert, and I had to try it!

sugar and corn syrupEvery year, as fall approaches, I pull out my old magazines and read through the October and November editions for inspiration.  That’s right, I said I save my old magazines.  Kind of crazy, I know, but I really do refer back quite a bit.  My Martha Stewart Living goes back to February 1996…but I digress.  This year, as I was perusing the old issues, I found this recipe from 2010 in the Food Network Magazine.  I meant to try it but never did.  So this year, I wasn’t going to miss out again!  It’s a delicious, completely fall cake, with a rich, apple-caramel topping.  It’s sweet and sticky, and just perfect!

caramelTo start, you need to make a caramel.  Combine 3 cups sugar with 5 tablespoons light corn syrup in a large saute pan.  Heat over medium high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring, until it’s a dark amber color.  The sugar will all melt, and it will bubble.  Be careful, it’s hot!

Once it’s the right color, add 1 cup heavy cream and 4 tablespoons butter.  You want to do this off the heat, and it will still splatter and bubble up when the cold cream hits the hot sugar.  Just stir it and let it settle down before returning to the heat.  Cook over medium heat for about 3 minutes until it’s all combined and smooth.

caramel doneOnce the caramel looks good, pour 1 1/2 cup into a glass measuring cup.  The mixture is hot, so don’t use anything plastic.  Pour the rest into a buttered 9 inch cake pan that has 3 inch sides.  You need the sides because this is a high cake.  I didn’t have a cake pan that was that high, so I used a spring form pan that was the right dimensions.  Some of the caramel did leak in the oven, but I put it on a pan with parchment, so it really wasn’t bad.  Let the caramel cool for about 30 minutes while you prepare the batter.

In a small bowl, whisk together 3 cups flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon until combined.  In a different small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup sour cream, 1/3 cup orange juice, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract.  Set both of these aside, and take out your mixer.

batterBeat 1 cup butter, softened, with 1 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy.  This will take about 5 minutes.  Then add 3 eggs, one at a time, and beat after they are added until the mixture is smooth and pale yellow.  Probably another few minutes.  Next, add half the sour cream mixture and beat on low till combined.  Then add half the flour mixture and beat on low until combined.  Repeat both, and then use your spatula to scrape the sides and ensure everything is thoroughly mixed.

Now you can get your apples ready.  I didn’t want to do this too early, because I didn’t apples arrangedwant them to discolor.  Get 4 large Golden Delicious apples.  You don’t want to peel them.  Take 3 of them, and cut into quarters.  Cut in half first, then use a melon baller to remove the core, then cut in half again.  For the remaining apple, cut it in half crosswise so you end up with the top and bottom of the apple.  Use the melon baller again to remove the cores, and chop the bottom portion.

Arrange the apples over the caramel in a circular pattern, with the quarters going around the outside, and the top of the half going in the center, stem side down.  You may have tready for the ovenoo many quarters, don’t worry, just use what you can.  Next, pour the prepared batter over the apples, spread evenly, and top with the chopped apples.

Because I had a spring form pan, I wrapped it in foil, and I put it on a sheet pan, just in case it cooked over.  Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes.  You want the cake to be brown on top and spring back when pressed.

Let the cake cool in the pan, then fill a large skillet with 1 inch of water and heat until simmering.  Run a sharp knife around the edge of the cake, then set the pan inside the bakedskillet.  This will soften the caramel after a few minutes.  And, this works best if you have a cake pan, not my improvised spring form pan.  Remove the pan from the water, and make sure it’s dry. Place a plate on top of the cake and flip. Remove the pan, then soften the remaining caramel you saved in the microwave and drizzle over the cake.

This cake really is delicious, and trust me, you won’t be able to contain yourself.  It’s the perfect cake for fall, especially for Halloween!

Happy Halloween…I need to get my costume on!  What are you being for Halloween this year???

Stuffed Peppers-A Classic!

pepper cupsAs the days keep getting shorter and the temperature keeps dropping, I keep gravitating towards warm, comfort foods for dinner.  One that I’ve been craving for a while is stuffed peppers.  I didn’t really have a recipe for traditional stuffed peppers, with meat and rice, so I went looking.  I have to tell you, there are a ton of stuffed pepper recipes out there, but not a whole lot that are like the classics.  After reading tons of reviews and a bunch of recipes, I came up with this recipe.  It’s the classic combination of rice, ground meat, and tomato sauce stuffed in a pepper, and they are delicious!

chopping topsI was feeding a crowd so I made a double batch of these.  Since you probably don’t need 12 peppers, I’m posting the single version!

Start with your peppers.  Cut off the tops, but just the tops.  I found if you cut just where the sides start to curve, you can then just pop out the stem to discard.  Then you can chop the top pepper pieces to add to the stuffing.  Cut the tops off and clean 6 peppers.  Add them to a pot of boiling salted water, and boil for just 5 minutes, to start the cooking.  Don’t worry, they won’t look very cooked (and they shouldn’t), but this helps them to soften in the oven.  When you take them out of the water, put them in a bowl with cold water and ice to cool.  Set aside.cooked pepperscold peppersFor the stuffing, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saute pan.  When hot, add the chopped onions and pepperstops of the pepper, and cook for 5 minutes, until they start to soften.  Next, add 1 medium onion, chopped, and 3 cloves garlic, minced (or just use that garlic press).  Cook these for about 10 minutes until the onions start to brown and soften, and they start turning brown.  Pour the vegetables into a bowl, and return the pan to the stove.

Next for the saute pan, add 1 lb ground beef and 1/4 lb sausage meat (without the casing).  Stir to break apart the meat, and cook until the mixture is no longer pink, then add to the vegetables.  Add 1 cup cooked rice to the mixture, and 1 cup marinara sauce, 1/2 beef and sausagetablespoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon ground peppers, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.  Allow the mixture to cool a bit, then add 1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese and 1 egg.  Stir everything to combine.

Another tip here, if you’re tasting for salt and pepper (and you really should), be sure to taste before you add the egg.  Once you feel the seasoning is right, then add the egg. This way you get the seasoning right without having to worry about eating raw eggs.

rice mixtureall combinedstuffingNext, take a 13×9 casserole dish and start stuffing your peppers.  You want to stuff them pretty full, and line them up in the pan.  You should have more stuffing than you need, but just scatter it around the peppers in the pan.  Finally, top the peppers with another 1 cup marinara sauce, cover with foil, and cook at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until hot throughout.

These really are delicious, and I hope you enjoy them.  I also hope you’re getting some inspiration from the fall.  What are you making these crisp fall nights?ready for the oven

A Fall Garden Walk!

Yesterday was pretty much the perfect fall day!  The high was 69 degrees.  The sun was shining.  The skies were blue.  The wind was blowing.  And, because of the cold weather last week and the rain this week, the trees and the ground are covered in amazing shades of brown, gold, and crimson.  As I said, perfect!

After I came home from work, I decided to take a little stroll through the yard and see how things were coming along.  The garden is definitely nearing its end for producing new flowers and leaves, but it still has so much to offer.  I love keeping the dead blooms and shoots in the garden, especially as we near Halloween.  There’s just something perfectly autumnal about it!

So, join me for a little walk around the garden!

purple mumsYou can’t really talk about fall gardens without talking about mums.  Here is a shot of some purple ones that are probably over 25 years old but still doing great!front mumsA front view of the same purple mums.  I love the yellow centers.white mimsA different mum I have in the garden…this one is cream.black eyed susan stemsI love the way the dead stems look in the garden this time of year.  These are black-eyed susans.coneflowerThis coneflower I added this year is doing well and still blooming.asterAsters are perfect for fall color too, and I love the shade of purple for these.roseThis one rose doesn’t want to give up!crabappleThe crab apple looks great this time of year.rose of sharonI’m not sure these Rose of Sharon buds will ever open, but they look great against the backdrop of that tree.red treeA close up of that tree…I love the red leaves it gets in the fall.apple treeI seemed to have caught more sun than apples in the apple tree.pumpkinMy surprise pumpkin plant has a little pumpkin growing.  Not sure how big it will get, but still a nice surprise.  Be careful where you drop those seeds…this year’s trash could be next year’s pumpkins!maple leafAnd certainly the maple tree is getting into the action, putting on quite a show.

I hope the colors are just as inspiring wherever you are.  And I hope you’re enjoying the fall…it’s the best!

Perfect for Fall…Jewish Apple Cake!

ApplesThis time of year, it seems the overwhelming flavor that is out there is pumpkin. Pumpkin latte, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin soda even! Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that it is pumpkin season, but I quickly lose interest in the flavor. But one flavor that is perfect for fall, and I can’t seem to get enough of, is apple! I love apple crisp, apple pie, and definitely, this Jewish Apple Cake. It’s an easy recipe, just stirring the apples with cinnamon and sugar, mixing the batter in one bowl, and then layering the rich dessert in a tube pan.

Melon BallerI am not really sure where the name comes from, but it’s the name that my grandmother, and everyone else in the family for that matter, has always used to describe this cake. I’ve heard the name could come from the fact that there is no dairy in the cake, so you could eat it at a meal that has meat in it, not conflicting with Jewish law. Sounds like a good answer, but who really knows. I just know it’s delicious!

To start, peel, core, and slide 4 apples. I usually mix the apples for this, using a few sweet like Gala, and a few tart like Granny Smith, but honestly, any apple will do. And, a little tip here, try using a melon baller to scoop out the cores.  It goes really fast, and it save most of the apples.  Cinnamon ApplesPut the slices in a bowl and sprinkle with 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon and 5 tablespoons sugar. Stir and let sit while you prepare the batter. As the apples sit, their juices will start to run and you’ll have a lovely, syrupy pile!

In a large bowl, stir together 4 eggs with 2 cups sugar. Add 1 cup vegetable oil, 2 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, and 1/4 cup orange juice. Then add 3 cups flour and 4 teaspoons baking powder. The batter will be thick and sticky, but that’s it, your batter is ready!

LayeringGrease and flour a tube pan, then layer in the batter and apples. Start with a little bit of batter, then add a layer of apples, and continue till you’re at the top. End with the batter. And make sure you get all of the juice from the apples in there. Don’t worry if it looks like there is hardly any batter. It will puff up and surround the apples, and just be perfect!

Bake the cake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 10 minutes-1 hour 20 minutes. You want a toothpick to come out clean. The top will be crisp, and the inside will be dense and rich. Let it cool in the tube pan, then just run a knife around the edges to release.

This really is an easy recipe, and just perfect for these early fall days! I’ve been eating it all week…and it keeps getting better! How does that saying go…an apple a day…?Finished CakeSlices Missing

Party Favors for a Wedding…Gingerbread Cookies of Course!

CuttingI feel like I’ve been MIA recently.  I haven’t posted, haven’t commented, nothing for a few weeks.  It wasn’t because I wasn’t thinking of all of you…I was.  But I’ve been crazy busy.  On top of work and the normal craziness, I had the pleasure of making favors for a friend’s wedding.  And, since it was a fall theme, I had to incorporate gingerbread, cut into falling leaves, covered in orange royal icing!

BakingI got the call back in May.  A friend was getting married in September, and she needed help with her favors.  She wanted to give something people could eat, and wanted it to tie to fall.  And, to top it all off, red was her color.  We went back and forth on what to do, looking at different treats and snacks, settling on cookies, but looking at large cutters, small cutters, different shapes and sizes, you name it.  We finally settled on the gingerbread leaves, but adding a single sugar cookie heart with red royal icing.  I think they turned out pretty well, and she was very pleased.  Here’s how I made the leaves.

IngredientsI searched and searched for the gingerbread cookie recipe, and I had several tries with different recipes.  Ultimately, I turned to my master, Martha Stewart, and used her “Melissa’s Gingerbread Cookies” recipe from The Martha Stewart Cookbook. The cookbook came out in 1995, and I remember my mom getting it back then.  Thankfully, I found a copy at a library sale a few months ago for $2! 🙂  The recipe makes a great dough, very easy to roll.

To start, combine 1 cup molasses, 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 4 teaspoons ground ginger, and 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon in a bowl you can use as a double boiler.  I just use a metal bowl and set it over a saucepan of simmering water.  Heat this mixture until the sugar melts.  Because of the amount of sugar, I was never able to get it completely melted, but I kept it on the heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, until it was dark and smooth. Baking Soda Then, while still on the heat, add 3/4 tablespoon baking soda.  Stir, and the mixture will bubble up and lighten in color.  Remove from the heat, and add it to a large bowl with 2 sticks butter, at room temperature.  Give this a good stir, combining and melting the butter with the sugar mixture, then let it sit to cool to 90 degrees (or warm to the touch).  Once it’s cooled a bit, add 2 eggs, lightly beaten, and mix well.  I used the mixer for this.

DoughOnce the eggs are mixed in, start to add the flour.  Add 6 cups all-purpose flour, one cup at a time.  You’ll want to let the mixer run before you add more.  As Martha says, you don’t need to use a mixer, but it does make it easier.  I did it by hand for the first batch I made, and the mixer was easier, but by hand really wasn’t bad.

Once the flour is incorporated, turn the dough onto a floured surface.  Shape into a rectangle, and start rolling.  I divided it into 4 before rolling, but you could do the whole thing if you want.  You’ll need a good bit of flour to be sure it doesn’t stick at first.  Roll to 1/4 inch thickness, then start cutting out shapes.  I used 2 different leaf shapes, one maple and one oak.  And keep rolling up your scraps and reusing.  Bake the cookies at 325 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until firm to the touch.  Mine took about 18 minutes.

IcingOnce cooled, I iced with royal icing.  I used Alton Brown’s recipe.  Just whip 3 oz egg whites until frothy, then add 4 cups powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Whip this for about 7 minutes until thick and white.  Then, just add your coloring.  I used Wilton’s orange gel coloring.  I used a piping bag with a small round tip, and I piped the outline, then swirled the icing around the center to cover.  As it dried, it because smooth and hard.

For my cookie project, I needed 110 bags, so I needed 550 leaves.  I made 6 batches, with each batch making just under 100.  I’m sure one batch will be enough for you! 🙂CookiesAll Done