For the first time in twelve years I’m not hosting a big Thanksgiving dinner this year. Truth be told, I’m a little sad about it, but the reason is a really good one and worth the change in plans.
Instead, I’m taking the long weekend to cook up a harvest dinner for a slightly smaller group of loved ones. Our October holiday meal is usually a potluck, but this year I’m taking the lead and providing all of the food so it can be documented for the book Julie and I are writing. We’ve touched on this project briefly before, but to be honest, I’m a little shy about overly promoting it (or myself), and am working on getting better about both.
So here goes: I’m writing a book! With Julie! What will essentially be a printed extension of this series, Gatherings is a collection of recipes, ideas and how-tos designed to inspire and encourage a return to simple home entertaining. The book is divided into 20 different occasions; each packed with menus, recipes, drink ideas, easy serving, décor and presentation possibilities, and games and activities (when needed).
Our hope is that will appeal to those who are interested in socializing and hosting more casual home parties, but aren’t sure where to start. And it will benefit those who can’t cook, have a small space, don’t know how to mix drinks, or are easily intimidated by all of the organizing that a good party requires. Sounds fun, right? It's scheduled to publish in the fall of 2014, and our manuscript is due in a little less than four months - yikes.
While this old-fashioned apple spice cake recipe isn’t destined for the book, it’s the kind of thing you might expect to find within the pages. It’s easy – SO easy – and can be made the day before your dinner, an essential to effortless entertaining in my opinion. The rich maple sauce can be cooked a few days in advance and will keep in the fridge until needed, meaning no messy pots and pans to clean while you’re waiting for your friends to arrive.
As you can see, this dish is far from fussy. Heck, my plates don’t even match, and to be honest I really don’t care. In fact, I kind of like it that way. Life’s too short for perfection, and not nearly long enough for all of the meals that could - and should - be shared with those we like and love.
Old-Fashioned Apple Spice Cake
Inspired by Food52
The beauty of this recipe is that it is so easy to make you don’t even need to bust out the heavy duty baking equipment. A bowl, spatula, and hand-held mixer are all you need to pull this together.
- ½ cup butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
- 2 large apples, cored and grated
- ½ cup walnuts (optional)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8” x 8” baking pan.
In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
Stir in the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and apples; fold in the flour taking care not to overmix the batter.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre of the cake is coated with just a few crumbs.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Makes approx. 2 cups
- ½ cup butter
- ½ cup whipping cream
- 1 cup pure maple syrup
- ½ teaspoon salt
Combine the butter, whipping cream, maple syurp, and salt in a pot set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Boil for 90 seconds without stirring. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Pour over cake just before serving.