I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again! I just can’t get enough of Fall Festival time in the mountains. There is a festival weekend for October Fest (with sausages and kraut), one for Wooley Worms (these furry insects race UP a tight rope!), one for pumpkin patches and corn mazes, one whole month dedicated to the Wizard of Oz and my personal favorite, a festival dedicated to apples!
The Valle Country Fair in Banner Elk is such a place. I visited on a cool, crisp autumn day where my breath blew out steam, and my hands were shoved into my pockets. I didn’t shiver long.
As soon as my gal pals and I walked into the fair, we beelined for the home made apple cider station and helped ourselves to a heaping cup of warm cider. It’s produced the old-fashioned way using a wooden press and aluminum wash bowls to collect the juice.
After that we wandered through the rows of craft booths spying everything from hand carved wooden bowls and cutting boards, to personalized nursery rhyme music CD’s, to gourds turned into Santa faces, to ceramic treasures like those of Triple C Pottery where I bought a set of the cutest bowls…
But, the absolute best, longest wait in line, and most expensive item at the fair is a fresh, warm jar of apple butter, lovingly prepared by the members of the church in huge, steaming pots over wood fires.
The cinnamon-gingery aroma lures you to the booth, where you queue up to spend $8 a jar. Along the way, you make new friends, exchange recipes and meet a guy with a chicken hat on his head (the legs move up and down!) You are only allowed several jars of the golden apple butter, and I usually max out the limit.
Apple butter is terrific on a warm biscuit, sensational on banana bread, exceptional as a condiment alongside roasted pork and delicioso in my apple butter cake that I dedicate to the hard-working church members and schoolteachers of Holy Cross Episcopal Church.
Apple Butter Cake
With Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves a crowd
60 Minute Cuisine
1 ½ cups pastry flour
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 2 sticks
1 cup brown sugar
¾ cup natural cane sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups apple butter
2 cup confectioners’ sugar
2 cups cream cheese, room temperature, 2 8-ounces packages
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature, 1 stick
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons milk (as needed to thin frosting)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 350°. Coat two 9 x 9-inch (you can certainly change the size of the pan if you choose) cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Place a layer of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and coat the paper.
Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a small bowl.
Use an electric mixer to combine 1 cup butter with both sugars until fluffy. Mix in the eggs. Pour in ⅓ of the flour mixture followed by ½ cup of the apple butter. Mix well and continue alternating ingredients until all the flour and apple butter are mixed into the batter. Spread the batter into the two pans. Bake until a tester inserted into the cake comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Carefully invert the cakes onto a rack. Remove the parchment paper and cool the cakes completely.
Use an electric mixer to combine confectioners’ sugar with the cream cheese, ½ cup butter and the vanilla until smooth and creamy. You can mix in a teaspoon or two of milk to get the consistency that you prefer for frosting. Place one cake onto your serving platter. Slather the cake with frosting. Top with the remaining cake. Cover the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Sprinkle the top of the cake with chopped walnuts.
*Recipe from Canvas and Cuisine, The Art of the Fresh Market by Jorj Morgan