Tuesday, September 7, 2010


by Sheila Connolly

Thank you, members of Mystery Lovers Kitchen, for inviting me to cook with you. I just love to talk about food.

It’s apple time again! I mean the apples that come from trees around here, not the apples that are flown in from New Zealand and Chile. Warning: Do not stand next to me in the fruit section of a supermarket—I start foaming at the mouth. I do not want to eat food that has flown halfway around the world. If there’s flying involved, I want to be the one doing it.

Think calm thoughts…rolling acres of trees, their boughs bent almost to breaking with the weight of gleaming red clusters of ripe fruit…oops, now I’m hungry. I’m giving you my go-to apple cake recipe, the one that I take to every pot-luck. The one that is impossible to mess up and doesn’t even require peeling any apples. But first I want to talk about my mania for collecting antique cookware. You’ll just have to wait.

Actually, some of the cookware was my mother’s and I’ve just kept on using it. Then I started noticing pieces just like them at flea markets and (gasp) antique shows. Wait a minute—that Pyrex bowl set? That red-handled potato ricer? You’re telling me they’re antiques?

But when I’m not beating myself up about using my treasured heirloom items, I collect bakeware. I don’t even recall how I got started—probably because I saw something odd, like a muffin tin that makes square muffins—and I had to have it, and besides, it cost only $3. Now I’ve got a wall full. I can make any size and shape muffin you might want.

But I also have a lot of cake pans (I’m sneaking back up toward the apple cake recipe). Older cake pans are wonderful to bake with because usually they’re heavy-gauge metal, so they distribute heat evenly and you don’t end up scorching parts of your cake while the rest is still gooey. Besides, they used to make such interesting shapes. Modern ones just aren’t the same. I’m particularly fond of my spiral one (which I think is a steamed pudding mold).

Now the apple cake recipe. My favorite pan for that is one I’ve had for years, and it’s just the right size for the recipe—it’s 8 cups (well, now and then the batter likes to try to escape over the sides, so put a baking sheet under it just in case). It makes a handsome cake. There’s only one problem: there are only three of us at home, and I can’t make a whole cake for the three of us to consume (although we try).

So I was thrilled when a couple of years ago, I found the baby version in an antique store—same shape, same vintage, but half the size. Now I can make a half-recipe of the cake, without guilt. (And I confess—just this weekend I bought a friend for it.)


1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups shredded apples (do not peel -- the skin adds texture to the cake; the shredding disk of a food processor works very well)
2 tsp vanilla extract


2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl brown sugar
2 Tbl granulated sugar
2 Tbl heavy cream
1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9- or 10-inch tube pan (8-cup capacity).

Combine oil and sugar in a bowl. Blend very well. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Sift these into the oil-egg mixture and combine thoroughly. Add the raw apples. Mix well with a spoon or spatula, then add the vanilla. Pour the batter into the pan.

Bake for 1 1/4 hours, or until the cake tests done (tester comes out clean). Remove from the oven and let rest while you prepare the glaze.

Glaze: Melt the butter, sugars, and heavy cream mixed with vanilla in a heavy pan. Boil for 1 minute without stirring, then remove from heat.

Let the cake cool for a few minutes before removing it from the pan. Spoon the glaze over the cake while it is still warm.

A word of warning about the glaze: it’s addictive. We usually double the recipe, and fight over who gets to lick the pan. My daughter pours it over ice cream, and she adds chopped nuts and coconut. And sometimes we just skip the cake and eat it with spoons right out of the pan. Yum!
This recipe appears in One Bad Apple, the first of the Orchard Mystery series. Of course I'm always looking for more apple recipes, so if you have a favorite, send it along!


  1. I was piling up books to pass on to a friend when I picked up "One Bad Apple" and realized that I hadn't copied out the recipe yet so the book went back into my own pile. Sorry, friend, no book until I've copied the recipe! It's apple season here in NW Indiana as well. There are several orchards within 3 miles of my house and I'm planning to take the grandkids next weekend. Let the eating commence

  2. Welcome, Sheila, to Mystery Lovers' Kitchen! I love the pictures of your bakeware--who knew they were such antiques, right? This apple cake sounds delish, and it's the perfect time of the year for it. We love going up to the mountains here in NC and getting fresh apples there. Thanks!

  3. I am an empty nester. Just my wife and I, so lots of the sweets I would like to make, I don't because of the waste (and waist) factor. Would love that half size pan... And your square muffin tin.

    Love the recipe, love the "buy local" sentiment. Why in America (Johnny Appleseed stories from my childhood (half a decade ago)) are we buying fruit from overseas? But, at least the government is subsidizing manufacturers and growers of high fructose corn syrup. So there is obviously a well thought out, consistent agricultural and health policy in place (where is that sarcasm font when you need it?).

    I guess I am the foaming ranting fool next to you at the produce stands.

    See you at the Farmer's Market


  4. Sounds and looks like a delicious recipe. I think it would be easy to start collecting old bakeware. It's so useful and neat and makes you wonder what stories it could tell if it could talk.

    Thoughts in Progress

  5. Now that school has started I'll be stocking up on apples for snacks and lunches. I guess I might as well make this cake too!

  6. Welcome, Sheila!!! It's great to have you here. I'm a huge fan of both your series and apples.
    Love the pics and I can't wait to try your recipe!

  7. Sheila and Dave, I'll stand right next to you and join the rant. Apples and seafood -- we have such wonderful products here that I cannot understand why it's cost effective to fly them in from so far away.

    I was thrilled to find fresh local apples at the farmers' market last week. So wonderfully crisp and fresh. This cake sounds fabulous. I can't blame your daughter for using the glaze on other things. Oh, yum!

    ~ Krista

  8. Your recipe is very similar to my favorite Dutch Apple Cake except yours has 1 1/2 cups of oil and mine calls for one stick softened margarine. Also mine says to peel and dice four apples, which takes awhile - next time I will try shredding them in the food processor.

  9. Thanks for sharing this great recipe, Sheila. I LOVE the bakeware collection.

  10. Welcome Sheila! What a fun post. I love, love, love the idea of collecting antique pans. (Grinning over your faves.) And your Apple Cake recipe looks delicious. To tell you the truth, I'll probably turn the batter into apple muffins. Can't wait to try the glaze, too, perfect for the coming fall.

    Have a great week,
    ~ Cleo Coffeehouse Mystery.com
    Cleo Coyle on Twitter

  11. Oh, Sheila, this looks so good! I usually peel and dice. Shredding it, peel and all, in the food processor sounds like a real time saver. And the brown sugar glaze is making my mouth water.

    I really love your pans and only wish I had the ones my grandmother had. I have no idea what happened to them.

    Cleo, I think this recipe would make wonderful muffins, too. And add just a touch of "portion control" to this.

  12. Oh my, that looks great! Saw this linked from Pat's blog. I have fresh apples from the CSA so I will make this.