Every October, there’s things you gotta do, places you gotta visit, and most definitely stuff you gotta eat! If you’ve got pumpkin fatigue, that’s good, because the autumnal dessert I’m all excited about, is an apple butter cake. This dish has a beautiful back story; it’s from one of my favorite fall festivals up in the North Carolina mountains.
The annual Valle Country Fair is held in October in a little town called Valle Crucis. Featured is their home churned apple butter – a jar of which you’ll see in this blog’s photos. You MUST arrive early, stand in line and ask politely for more than one jar per customer. Like my company name, WORTH IT, it’s definitely worth it to do so. The apple butter is sooooo good… the smell of spiced, simmering apples wafts for counties! I was indeed the early bird this year and managed to grab an extra jar before the crowds drifted in. This cake is my ode to apple butter.
Apple Butter Cake
With Cream Cheese Frosting
Serves a crowd
60 Minute Cuisine
For the cake pictured here:
3 cups 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 granulated sugar
3 large eggs
1 ½ cups apple butter
For the frosting you’ll be tempted to eat before it’s ready:
1 to 2 tablespoons milk (as need to thin frosting)
1 cup walnuts, chopped
When the frosting is all whipped up, it looks like this:
Here are the baking instructions – I hope there’s room on a counter top that looks like mine, in the delicious wake of making apple butter cake!
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 brown and granulated sugars until fluffy. Mix in the eggs. Pour in 1/3 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.
Farmers Market Tip
Mark your calendar for a fall excursion and plan to visit the Valle Country Fair. All the proceeds of the fair go to local charities. Check it out at http://www.vallecountryfair.org/ . Look for this jar of awesomeness:
If you are feeling like a “Top Chef Baker”, you can make this a four layer cake! The simplest way to separate each cake into two halves is to take a piece of thread and wrap it around the cake horizontally keeping the tread in the middle of each side of the cake. Now, simple pull each end of the thread toward you and you have split the cake in half. Now spread on that frosting and keep layering.
With the arrival of fall the time for soul-warming soups is here. Sunset Produce is the best choice for this recipe, but anytime you have grape tomatoes old or new, this is your go-to dish. The cheeses marry so well with the robust, tanginess of the tomatoes that you will want to make this soup once a week!
Serves: 2 to 4
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: about 10 minutes
In a stock pot or large skillet, sauté the tomatoes and onion in olive oil over high heat. Add the cheeses, thyme, salt and pepper, and cook until the tomatoes break open and the juices meld with the feta and cheddar, about 5 minutes.
Working in several batches, add tomato juice and tomato-cheese mixture to the blender and puree until smooth. For a more rustic finish pulse the blender a few times instead to leave seeds and tomato pieces, yum!
Heat the chicken stock on high in a stock pot, and then add the mixture from the blender. Stir in the basil, salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with a great big grilled cheese sandwich for dipping—after all, you have plenty of cheese left over right?
Not for the faint of heart this rich, sweet, savory dish of velvety-ness accompanies pork cutlets and sautéed green beans for a stunning fall supper.
Serving Size: serves 4
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
1 cup roasted butternut puree, made from 1 small butternut squash
8 ounces fettuccine pasta
1 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sherry
½ cup heavy cream
½ cup homemade chicken stock
2 large fresh sage leaves
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
To roast the butternut squash, preheat the oven to 375°. Slice the squash in half, from stem to bottom. Scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle a baking dish with olive oil and place the squash, cut side down into the dish. Roast until the flesh is fork tender, about 20 minutes. When the squash is cool enough to touch, remove the outer peel and place the flesh into the bowl of a food processor. Puree until smooth.
Cook the pasta in salted, boiling water until al dente, about 10 to 12 minutes for dry pasta.
While the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce by melting the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Whisk in the sherry until smooth. Add the heavy cream and chicken stock. Continue to stir until the sauce thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the sage leaves, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to the lowest setting for several minutes so that the sage infuses the sauce.
Remove the sage leaves from the sauce. Stir in the butternut squash puree and Parmesan cheese, season with salt and pepper. At this point if the sauce is thicker than you like you can add a few spoonfuls of the pasta water.
Drain the pasta and toss in the sauce. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley.
There is now a Spice & Tea Exchange in Blowing Rock, NC
Last time I was in North Carolina, in the Blue Ridge Mountain town of Blowing Rock, I had one of those “Sunday Best” excursions on Main Street. It was the kind of shopping trip that lit a fire in the oven as surely as it ignited my chef’s imagination. When I came home that day I baked cookies, and roasted chicken and fish; I could not wait to make these simple recipes because I had found exotic seasonings to spice them up: YUMM!! BUURRP!! It is your fault, Spice & Tea Exchange (TSTE)!
I was drawn in by their motto, “if you can’t find it here, it probably doesn’t exist!” Care to challenge that, Sunday Best Cooks??
I have to hand it to Andy and Gayle, pictured above: it is the perfect time of year to open a tea and spice shop. All the Fall enthusiasts—and I know I have got more than a few Fall fanatics on THE NANA NETWORK—are out there looking to revel in cinnamon, apple and pumpkin-y aromas. I know that I am looking forward to posting some new dessert recipes that call for TSTE’s salted caramel sugar.
But you know me….
I could not stop at sweet, so I had to go for savory, too. While at TSTE I picked up some Chardonnay Oak Smoked Salt, which I LOVE using to dress up my Sunday Best recipe for a beautiful Sunday Roast Chicken. Of course, I am not alone in my love of “Sunday Best” excursions. My future daughter-in-law, Colleen came to TSTE too, and was excited to use the store’s Peppermint Patty Sugar to rim martini glasses for her signature Chocolate Martinis.
Colleen’s chocolate martini is a 1:1:1:1 ratio of Starbucks liquor, Kahlua, vanilla vodka and half and half
Here is the recipe! We jotted it down ; )
So try and find your nearest tea and spice shop! TSTE used to be “Old Florida Spice Traders” until it expanded into what it is today. If you like the look of an old trading post that has chests of drawers, steamer trunks and big glass apothecary jars spilling over with over 170 spices and probably as many (or more?!) teas, then you will love it as much as I did!