Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Autumn Equinox and Harvest.

On or near September 21st, the autumn equinox, or Mabon, is a celebration of equal day and night; as with its spring counterpart, March 21st, or Lammas.  This will be the last harvest of fruits and vegetables before winter blankets the landscape with frosty whiteness.  Or, as the southwestern states hope for, tons of snow upon the mountains to swell up the creeks, rivers and lakes come springtime.

Celebrating the autumn harvest is centuries old and spans many cultures worldwide.  In ancient Greece, Oschophoria was a festival held to celebrate the harvesting of grapes for wine, and in honor of Dionysus, the god of the vine.  Oktoberfest, a 16 day beer festival (September to October) originated in Munich, Germany, 1810, to honor the marriage of Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.  What better way to celebration the harvest of hops and grains?  Originally, the American Thanksgiving holiday was celebrated on October 3rd to celebrate the end of the fall harvest.

With the fall and winter holiday season fast approaching, many cooks and bakers are thinking about what creations will come from their bountiful harvest.  Apples, pumpkins and other types of squash will take center stage; while the last of the fruits and vegetables will be canned or frozen.

Apples; even though they are available all year long, there is just something special about the fall apple.  Maybe it’s all in the mind; the clear, crisp fall breeze upon the skin, as one bites into a juicy apple and a scent of spice suddenly wisps by.  The most delicious apple I have ever eaten was from an orchard on Mount Penn in Reading, Pennsylvania.  The “Mutsu” was a specialty apple with the most delightful taste of spice in every bite.  I have tried to find a similar type of apple, but nothing has even come close.  That is probably because what the orchard growers called “Mutsu” was a name used by other orchards as “Crispin”, “Pipkin” or “Liberty” apples; yet they were still not the same.  Well I might not find that apple ever again, but I sure do have very fond memories of it.

Now I’m going to ask all those wonderful made-from-scratch bakers to forgive me for the recipe I’m about to write out.  I came up with this semi-homemade recipe when, during a past holiday season, I had surgery on one of my hands.  The hand was immobilized for 6 weeks, so I was very, very limited to what I could do with one free hand.  So please feel free to use your own cake batter recipe and freshly spiced up apple slices instead of the packaged goods I mention.  I used a Super Moist Yellow Cake mix; yellow cake mix can also be bland, so I umpped up the flavor intensity by adding apple pie spice mix and a bit of ground ginger.  You could also think of this as a type of "upside down" cake where the toppings are baking in the pan underneath the cake layer, but when you flip the finished cake out, you see all the lovely apples and caramel.  I will consider myself redeemed by that little feature of the semi-homemade cake. 

Caramel Apple Cake


For the Caramel Layer:

8 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups brown sugar
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

For the Apple Layer:

1 (21 oz.) can apple pie filling

For the Cake Layer:

1 box Super Moist Yellow cake mix
1 tsp apple pie filling
Pinch of ground ginger


Preheat oven to 350F; spray two 9 inch cake pans with nonstick baking spray.  Cut out two circles from parchment paper to line bottom of cake pans; spray the paper with the nonstick baking spray.

In a medium bowl, mix together the ingredients for the caramel layer until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Divide the mixture up between the two pans pressing to the edges and 1/4 inch up the sides.
Divide the pie filling between the two pans, spreading it out up to one inch from the edges.

Prepare the cake mix according to packages directions, but add in the apple pie spice and ground ginger.  Divide the batter up between the two pans and use a spatula to smooth it out.

Bake for 35-40 minutes; cake will be golden browned and you might see some of the caramel oozing up the sides of the cakes.  Remove pans to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes.

When cooled, use a hot knife around the edges to make sure the caramel will not stick to the sides of the pan.  Carefully flip the cakes onto a serving plate and peel off the parchment paper.  Cut into 8 wedges and serve with a scoop of ice cream.

Makes 2 cakes, 8 servings each.

Mary Cokenour

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