Thursday, April 30, 2020

Sheila Connolly's Parting Gift--Apple Cake!

LUCY BURDETTE: As you heard on Monday, we lost our dear friend Sheila Connolly last week. Krista was searching our archives to look for photos and came across this amazing gift--a post from Sheila that had never been published. And so although we will mourn her for a long time to come, we are delighted to share one last post from our friend...

Apple Cake 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! 

Thank you, Sheila, for being a part of our kitchen! We will carry you forward always in our hearts...and our recipe boxes...


  1. Has anyone seen her obituary? How did she pass? Thanks for sharing such a good recipe.

    1. Sheila had been ill for some time. She did not die of the corona virus.

  2. Such a lovely post - I've enjoyed reading about her bakeware collection in her Mystery Lovers' Kitchen posts. I'm so sad that Sheila is no longer with us and will think about her when I make this recipe (especially the glaze -- it sounds amazing!) ~

  3. I love everything about this post. The apples (no travelling!), the bakeware, the delicious recipe and Sheila's vibrant personality shining through. She will be remembered for her brains, humor and verve. Thanks for finding this recipe. Hugs to all MLKers.

    1. I was stunned when I found this. I think that first sentence was a goodbye to all of us.

  4. What a wonderful gift from Sheila! I’m saving this recipe. It sounds wonderful!

    1. A lot of us will be trying this recipe and thinking of her!

  5. What a wonderful gift from Sheila! I am truly going to miss her and her wonderful characters!

  6. The recipe sounds like a hug in cake form. Definitely is a parting gift to be cherished.

    1. That's so sweet. What a charming way to put it!

  7. What a delightful and unexpected treat. A voice from beyond. Wouldn't she love that?
    Must try this recipe. I've been hankering for an apple pie for some time now.
    Maybe I was waiting for this one.

    1. Libby, I think she would love that we found her last post and posted it.

    2. Yes, I was.
      I'm making it today!
      I might add a dram of Irish Whisky (is the Irish version with or without the "e"?) to the glaze in her honor.

  8. Sharon GuagliardoApril 30, 2020 at 4:35 PM

    Sheila Connolly definitely will be missed. Thank you for one last treat.

  9. Sheila Connolly will be missed she had a beautiful smile.

  10. I love her series so much. She was such an amazing writer. So happy to see one more item to read from her. Thank you so much. She is going to be sorely missed.

  11. Lovely recipe.

  12. Bless Sheila. She was such a lovely, funny, welcoming person, with great talents. This essay showcases those traits perfectly.

    Thank you for this gift. I will most definitely add this to my own repertoire of desserts.

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this. What a wonderful gift, indeed. RIP, Sheila. I know that whenever apple season rolls around, I'll be thinking of you.

  14. How delightful to find this post! I love apple cakes so I'll definitely have to give this one a try. Thanks Sheila for one last post. ❤

  15. What a nice tribute to Sheila. Thank You!

  16. Thank you for posting Sheila's recipe. I'm going to share with with all the bakers in my family.. 2 Daughters' 1 DIL and 2 Granddaughters'