Apple Spice Bundt Cake with Bourbon Glaze and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

It’s not peak season, but the leaves are changing. The yellows are overtaking previously verdant branches, and maples everywhere have the audacity to already be shouting in bright red hues. Outside of windows you can catch glimpses of autumn, and you can almost breathe the crisp air you know is surrounding the building in which you’re settled, begrudgingly, for the next 8 hours. There is truly nothing more joyful than an afternoon walk, especially when flanked by two peculiar and curious dachshunds, while leaves fall around you as the wind persistently brings in cooler and cooler air. Mornings are darker and definitely chilled, and the afternoons gather sunshine and tempt their way towards 70 degrees. It is, without a doubt, perfect. I don’t mind rain in autumn. I don’t mind wind. I don’t mind darker evenings. I don’t mind fallen leaves. Fall is the perfect sort of melancholy that contributes a wholeness unachievable by other seasons. Sure, summer may have happier moments, drenched in sunshine and warm water. But autumn understands you, fills you up, and makes you calm again. It’s the energy you’ve needed after four long busy months, and it cools you off just pleasantly enough that even winter starts to sound acceptable. I may not be ready for Christmas (even though Target is), but I’ll take the holiday changes if it means the leaves transition also.

So, to celebrate, I offer to you hear a cake synonymous with the fall transition: apple, cinnamon, spice, and… bourbon. This cake was made for my mom on her 51st birthday (in September, actually), and it floored me. Bundt cakes can be dry, crumbly, and under-flavored. But this cake is moist, dense, aptly-spiced, and wonderfully coordinated with glazes and frostings. I know that almost every one is apple picking these past and next few weekends (I wish I will join), so this cake should certainly be added to your list. I may even prefer to it apple pie (and would really hate to offend America).

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Ahh, zucchini and tomatoes: vestiges from the passing summer

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Apple Spice Bundt Cake with Bourbon Glaze and Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Serves 16-20

Apple Spice Bundt Cake

3 sticks of butter, softened

1 cup of white granulated sugar

1 cup of brown sugar

3 eggs

1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3 cups and 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

1/4 tsp. ground rosemary

1/8 tsp. garam masala

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced into 1/4 inch pieces

Bourbon Glaze

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

4 tsp. bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)

1-2 tbsp. water

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 tbsp. butter, softened

4 oz. cream cheese, softened (half a block)

2 cups powdered sugar

1 tbsp. vanilla extract

1 tsp. cinnamon

 

To prepare the cake:

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. In a stand mixer (or using a large bowl and hand mixer), cream the butter and sugars until lightened, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs individually, mixing for about 30 seconds after each addition. Add the vanilla extract and mix until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk or sift together the all-purpose flour, baking soda, and spices. Add 1/3 of the flour mixture to the stand mixer and mix together on low until just starting to combine. Add the next 1/3, and repeat with the next 1/3, until there is just trace evidence of dry flour. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Add the diced apples and fold into the batter. The batter will be quite thick.

Butter and flour a bundt pan and pour the cake batter into the pan. Spread it evenly, knocking the pan against the counter to evenly distribute the batter. Bake at 325 for 65-75 minutes, or until the cake is pulling away from the pan and a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake. Remove the pan from the oven once finished and place on a cooling rack. Cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove the cake and cool on the cooling rack for at least 30 minutes longer.

Prepare the bourbon glaze by adding bourbon to the powdered sugar and whisking. Add 1-2 tbsp. water as needed to thin to the appropriate consistency (slightly looser than crepe batter). Pour the glaze over the cooled cake evenly.

Prepare the cream cheese cinnamon frosting by creaming in a stand mixture the butter and cream cheese. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and mix until combined. Add the powdered sugar about 1/2 cup at a time, mixing between intervals, until achieving the appropriate consistency. Use the frosting to decorate the cake as you wish- I piped small spirals along the bottom, but, admittedly, this used only about half of this delicious frosting.

Store the cake, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If longer storage is needed, wrap tightly, seal in a container, and freeze.

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Birthday Pancakes

I’m 26 today! It may be windy and cold in Chicago, but the sun is out, and I’m feeling the love from family and friends here in the city and far away on the East coast. Time to celebrate and start the day the best way I know how: with a mountain of fluffy pancakes.

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Birthday Pancakes (Chocolate Chip and Pecan)

Serves 1-2

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tbsp. sugar

3/4 cup milk

1 tbsp. butter, melted

1/2 whisked egg (sorry that’s inconvenient; double the recipe to make it “normal”

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. dark chocolate chunks

1 tbsp. pecans, chopped finely

Sift together the dry ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, melt the butter. Add half of a whisked egg, 3/4 cup milk, and vanilla. Whisk together the wet ingredients and pour over the dry. Using a whisk or a fork, lightly mix the batter until just combined. A few lumps here and there are fine. Set the batter aside to rest for 5-10 minutes. It’s relatively thick batter; it makes them extra fluffy.

Heat a griddle to 350 degrees. Have canola oil, grapeseed oil, or butter available to lightly grease the pan.

Chop the chocolate and pecans and mix in a small bowl. Set aside.

Pour about a teaspoon of oil or butter onto the griddle and spread with thinly.

Use a 1/4 cup measuring cup to pour the pancake batter onto the griddle. Use the bottom of the measuring cup to swirl the batter into a circle (the batter will be thick). I was able to make 4 5-inch pancakes. Sprinkle the chocolate and pecans onto each pancake, and press them lightly into the batter.

Allow the pancakes to cook for about 3 minutes, until the batter is just bubbling (since it’s so thick, it won’t be as obvious as usual, especially with the pecans and chocolate covering the top). Once the underside is done, flip the pancakes and cook another 3 minutes, until golden brown and cooked all the way through.

Top with a pat of butter, some sifted powdered sugar, and, of course, maple syrup. This was incredibly filling, but oh-so-fluffy and delicious. An indulgent breakfast for a newly 26-year-old, starting this year RIGHT.

Dinner for Dito

Ok, so actually this should be titled “Dessert for Oscar,” but I thought a dog-on-blog pun would be more appropriate. Dito is Brian’s dog: a Welsh Corgi with some serious attitude and spunk. Dito is always first, always in the way, and always a little bit on edge. He’s endearing, yet you’d be hard-pressed to isolate global “charms,” as his most memorable qualities include breathing heavily and insisting on jumping in the river every few minutes of his walk. But I find myself missing Dito, purely for his energetic confidence and irrefutable love for his family. Dito can most days be found upstairs with Brian, listening to music (he seems to share Brian’s alternative and classical taste) and happily napping or licking his feet. Oscar and Dito have a tumultuous relationship, as alpha dogs often do, but as Oscar is (probably unhappily) far away with me in Chicago, we have to remember our dog family with pleasant nostalgia.

Today Oscar celebrated his 8th birthday, with birthday go-ers including my roommate’s dog Lola and a wily boxer puppy named Bobbo. Now before this gets weird, yes, I do celebrate my dog’s birthday. No, I don’t think I’m crazy. And yes, he wears sweaters (it gets too cold in Chicago!). I’ve never before made Oscar a cake, or really acknowledged his birthday outside of insisting on a nice visit to the park, but as we’re stuck inside from the freezing Chicago wind, I decided a cake eating contest would be a hilarious Friday-night birthday activity. I searched the internet for a few dog-friendly cake recipes, eyeing several that seemed similar and inclusive of ingredients I already know Oscar enjoys: carrots, peanut butter, etc. I didn’t want to give him anything that seemed to be an ingredient purely for “human” tastes, as he doesn’t care about sweetener or vanilla flavor, I’m sure. I also didn’t want this cake to be the reason I have to get up at 3am, if you know what I mean. So I switched up the recipe a bit, and, no surprise, it was a huge hit for dogs all around. Oscar tenderly and steadily made through his miniature cake, licking the frosting then taking nibbling bites from the edges. He made through about 3/4 before deciding he couldn’t eat anymore. Lola, however, gobbled her entire cake in seconds, and she eagerly finished off Oscar’s plate when he signed defeat.

Oscar may not have been the winner, but if you’re looking to treat your pet (and not feel ashamed for doing so), I really recommend this simple cake, best served contest-style.

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Oscar’s Perfect-for-Pups Birthday Cake

Serves 6 hungry dogs

1 egg

1/4 cup peanut butter, preferably just peanuts and salt

3 tbsp. water

1/4 cup pumpkin puree (or sweet potato)

1 cup shredded carrots (about 3-4 medium carrots)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Frosting:

  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together egg, peanut butter, and water until a smooth and even consistency is achieved. Add pumpkin puree and whisk to combine. In a food processor, pulse carrots until evenly shredded. Mix shredded carrots with the puree mixture. Add whole wheat flour and baking soda to the bowl and fold into the batter, mixing evenly, until almost no flour is visible (no need to over-mix).

Pour the batter into the loaf pan. The bonus of making this cake from scratch- the batter actually tastes pretty good. Kind of like an unsweetened carrot cake, with a more notable peanut butter flavor. The cake rises slightly in the oven, but is pretty dense.

Bake the cake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until cooked through. Rest the cake in the loaf pan on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes.

In order to make a bone-shaped cake, slice a 3 inch slice of cake out of the pan. I threw the piece in the freezer for a few minutes since I was inpatient with waiting for it to cool. Using a paring knife, cut out an equilateral triangle at both ends of the rectangle. Then, cut a shallow half-moon shape out of the long rectangular sides.

Frost the cake with about 1-2 tbsp. of  frosting. Maybe your dog is 8 years old and you want to make an 8 out of a peeled slice of carrot. I won’t stop you.

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Oscar beginning to dive in. He flipped the cake over immediately with his voracious first bite. 

 

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Slowing down; he takes little bites and addresses the frosting.

The other family dogs have birthdays in the next few months, and this was really easy… just mentioning.