Showing posts with label fall deserts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fall deserts. Show all posts

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Welcome Guest Author Kathleen Ernst with Danish Apple Cake

Author Kathleen Ernst joins us in the Kitchen today with an intriguing historical recipe and a generous gesture. 

Leave a comment and you are entered to win one of her wonderfully enjoyable Chloe Ellefson mysteries. More details below, but first, please welcome Kathleen!  

~ Cleo

Author Kathleen Ernst
Learn more about
y fascination with ethnic domestic history has shaped my own kitchen traditions.  I write the Chloe Ellefson mysteries, each set at an historic site.  Chloe, a curator, loves discovering stories about everyday women from the past.  (She also discovers dead bodies along the way, but that’s another story.)

The latest book, The Light Keeper’s Legacy, is set on an island off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County, in Lake Michigan.  Chloe has been hired to help restore an old lighthouse.  While living and working in this isolated spot, she becomes fascinated with the women who once lived on the island.  A few worked in the lighthouse.  Many more settled in a fishing village that briefly flourished in the 1800s.  Chloe soon learns that past crimes are affecting modern murder.

I created a fictional Danish immigrant, Ragna Anderson, as a main character in the historical timeline that twines with Chloe’s.  When I asked food historians and Danish-Americans what dish might be appropriate for Ragna’s kitchen, the answer was almost always the same:  Aeblekage—Danish Apple Cake.

The recipes I’ve collected come from treasured family traditions, old community cookbooks, and more modern ethnic collections.  In most versions the cake is not baked, but served trifle-style.

It’s easy to see how this simple dish evolved.  The earliest versions call for only apples, bread crumbs, a little butter and sugar.  I can imagine rural Danish women saucing windfall apples and crushing stale bits of bread to create a treat for their families.

Those who immigrated brought the tradition with them.  My friend RuthAnn, who shared her grandmother’s recipe, recalled:  “I grew up watching Mother make this, as it was Daddy’s favorite dessert.  I started making it myself when I was about 10 years old.  We had our own apple trees, and we always had a jar of dried breadcrumbs from leftover bread.”  Although the recipe had been in her family for generations, RuthAnn had to write it down for me since it had never before been captured on paper.

In its most basic form, Danish Apple Cake —just applesauce and sweetened crumbs layered in a dish—is a quick and tasty dessert. 

Danish Apple Cake

2 cups of applesauce
2 cups breadcrumbs
¼ c. butter
½ c. brown sugar

Melt the butter and brown sugar in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the crumbs to that mixture and toast gently, stirring constantly, for several minutes.

In a clear glass dish, layer 1 cup of applesauce, 1 cup of the breadcrumb mixture, 1 cup of applesauce, and 1 cup of the crumbs.

Note:  You can use purchased ingredients or start from scratch.  In Ragna’s honor I chose to make my own sauce and crumbs.

For the applesauce:  

core 4-6 apples (mine were on the small side, so I needed 6 apples to make 2 cups of sauce).  Peeling is optional.  Cut the apples into chunks and place in a saucepan with enough water or fruit juice to cover the bottom.  Simmer over medium heat until fruit is soft and easy to mash with a spoon—about 20 minutes—stirring frequently.  

Add sugar to taste as needed (I don’t add any).  If there is a lot of liquid in the pan, simmer for a few more minutes.

For the bread crumbs:  

layer 8 slices of bread on a cookie sheet and toast in a 200 degree oven until thoroughly dry, about 20 minutes. 

I buzzed mine through a blender to make crumbs.  You can also pulverize with a potato masher or run the bread through a grinder.

You can also embellish the cake as you wish.  Almost all of the recipes I’ve seen call for a layer of whipped cream to cover the top layer of crumbs.  A recipe from 1948 calls for adding half a cup of milk to the crumbs, layering the applesauce and crumb mixture in an angel food pan, and baking “in a moderate oven” until the cake shrinks from the pan.

A recipe handed down in my friend Sally’s family specifies a mixture of graham cracker crumbs and Holland Rusks or Zwieback, and the addition of cinnamon.  Half a pint of whipping cream is beaten with 2 t. powdered sugar and 1 tsp. vanilla extract for the top layer.  Once the whipped cream is spread on the cake, it is decorated with dollops of crabapple or currant jelly.  Other more modern recipes include oats, nuts, or cookie crumbs.

If any Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen readers have their own memories of (or recipes for) Danish Apple Cake, I’d love to hear how they compare!  And if you enjoy food history too, you might enjoy my earlier posts: 


A final note from Kathleen....

I’m grateful to Cleo and friends for allowing me to be a guest here. And I’m grateful to readers! I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you. Leave a comment, and your name will go into a drawing; the winner may choose any of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries:  Old World Murder, The Heirloom Murders, or The Light Keeper’s Legacy.  For more information see my website,, or my blog, .


To learn more about Kathleen's
Chloe Ellefson Mystery series,
click here.


The Light Keeper’s Legacy is Kathleen Ernst’s twenty-fourth published book.  In addition to the Chloe Ellefson series, she has written many books for American Girl, including the six-book series about the newest historical character, Caroline Abbott.  Several of her mysteries for young readers have been finalists for Edgar or Agatha awards.  

Leave a comment on this post
and you will be entered 
to win
your choice of Kathleen's mysteries!
Contest ends Wednesday evening 9/19 

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cleo Coyle's Colonial Cranberries

This post was named a #1 Foodbuzz Top 9 Pick. Thank you Foodbuzz!
~Cleo Coyle

Cleo Coyle’s
Colonial Cranberries

When I found out our secret ingredient this week was cranberries, I had wanted to do a “Mock Cherry” pie for you. This very old American dish, in which a cook substitutes cranberries for cherries, has been around for years. I will be doing a mock cherry pie in the near future, but this week I simply did not have the time. Then I realized who does have the time?! So I changed up the idea and decided to do something unique but extremely simple, something you can create in a flash.

I have enjoyed making this cranberry dish almost every holiday season, whenever those scarlet berries are available fresh in our local grocery. The inspiration for my “Colonial Cranberries” actually came from Jeff Smith, whose research dug up a note in John Adams’ 18th century journals in which he spoke about enjoying a dinner that included wild goose on a spit and cranberries in a cast iron skillet baked in a “slack” oven.

Cleo's Colonial

My version uses a much handier casserole dish. My sugar choice is light brown for added depth of flavor. Oranges were not so easy to come by in 18th century Massachusetts, but I think adding orange zest brings a lively bright note to this dish. Orange and cranberry is a fairly common combo in recipes , but I especially like it because professionals in the coffee trade have taught me to look for citrus notes in some of the very best coffees of the world (Ethiopian Yirgacheffee and La Esmeralda Especial for instance), and I think it works in this dish, too.

Cleo's Colonial Cranberries

We’ve enjoyed this sweet-tart sauce warm over ice cream, pound cake a la mode (as you see pictured below), on pancakes in place of syrup, on French toast, as a kind of loose jam on raisin bread (one of my favorite ways to eat it), and as a chutney with spicy Indian meat dishes. The flavor may not be for everyone, but if you’re a fan of raspberry flavor and tart berry jams and jellies, this just might be up your foodie alley… We know Mr. Adams certainly enjoyed it!

Cleo's Colonial Cranberries
Serving suggestion:
ver pound cake a la mode...

To download this recipe in a PDF format that you can print, save, or share, click here.

Cleo Coyle's
Colonial Cranberries Recipe

Recipe: Place in a medium casserole dish 2 cups cranberries (sliced in two), 1 cup light brown sugar (lightly packed), ½ teaspoon orange zest (grated rind of an orange, no white pith).
Stir together well. Cover. Bake 1 hour in an oven pre-heated to 250° Fahrenheit. After baking, remove from oven, add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract. You’ll notice some of the sugar will have collected on the bottom. A good stir will fix this and nicely incorporate the final vanilla flavoring. Eat with joy.

Serving ideas: Pour over ice cream, pound cake, French toast, pancakes, apple pie a la mode. Use like a loose jam on a slice of raisin bread, croissants, or slices of toasted French or Italian bread. Serve as a sweet chutney with spicy Indian meat dishes.

Flavoring options: Replace the vanilla with 2 teaspoons almond extract OR 1-2 tablespoons of Amaretto or 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite brandy.

CLEO'S TIPS: On the casserole dish: I spray mine lightly with nonstick cooking spray to prevent the sugar from sticking. On the cranberries: Be sure to slice the cranberries in two. This may take a few minutes, but you need to do this to expose more of the berry to the sugar and the process of carmelization. On the cooking: Don’t try to rush the process. Keep the oven temp low and do the full hour of baking to give the flavors time to develop.

Eat with joy!
~ Cleo Coyle
author of the Coffeehouse Mysteries

"Where coffee and crime are always brewing..."

National Hardcover
Mystery Bestseller

National Bestseller

Now in paperback.

or on book covers to learn more about Cleo's culinary mysteries.

"Holiday Grind by Cleo Coyle, a new addition to the coffeehouse mystery series…adds in jolts of souped-up coffee, sweet cooking…and super sleuthing to deliver a fun and gripping fa-la-la-la latte surprise."

~ The Huffington Post

Let's look at that
one more time...


Text and photos in this post are copyright (c) 2009 by Alice Alfonsi who writes The Coffeehouse Mysteries as Cleo Coyle with her husband, Marc Cerasini

Eat with joy!

~ Cleo Coyle, author of 

To get more of my recipes,
enter to win free coffee, or
learn about my books,
including my bestselling
Haunted Bookshop series,
visit my online coffeehouse:

The Coffeehouse Mysteries are national bestselling
culinary mysteries set in a landmark Greenwich Village 
coffeehouse, and each of the ten titles includes the 
added bonus of recipes. 


The Ghost and
Mrs. McClure

Book #1 of 

The Haunted Bookshop
, which Cleo writes
under the name Alice Kimberly
To learn more, click here.