German Sunken Apple Cake (Versunkener Apfelkuchen)


A friend (who really knows the the way to this girl’s heart) gifted me with Luisa Weiss’s Classic German Baking for my birthday back in July. The summer was so full (and hot) that I rarely turned on the oven, but now that Fall is in full swing (and I’ve been watching The Great British Bake Off on Netflix), I was itching to get back to baking and trying some new recipes!

Having done our traditional apple picking trip a few weeks back, I’m up to my eyeballs in apples, even after having made two pies, but Classic German Baking was ready for me with three different Apfelkuchen recipes. I fully intend to try all three in the coming weeks, but based on what was in my pantry/fridge, I went with the Versunkener Apfelkuchen first, which also happens to be the simplest of the three. And since the recipe declared it “great for people baking with small children” I asked Little Miss Cleaver to help out. (The smiley face was all LMC’s idea and execution).

The high egg and butter content makes the cake-crumb similar to that of a pound cake and the batter is lightly flavored with lemon-zest, making it a bright alternative to the cinnamon and nutmeg-heavy desserts typical of fall and making it suitable as a spring and summer dessert too. The raw sugar sprinkled on the top before baking gives the top a pleasing crunch. I didn’t have any cream on hand to make whipped cream, but it would be nice finish to this simple, but pleasing dessert.

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German Sunken Apple Cake (Versunkener Apfelkuchen)

Easy enough to whip together on a weekday and fun to make with kids, this classic German cake combines apples and lemon zest under a raw sugar crust for a bright and delicious dessert.

  • 3 medium apples

  • 1 medium lemon, scrubbed

  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons (125g) granulated sugar

  • 9 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (130g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and at room temperature

  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 3 eggs, room temperature

  • 11/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 2 Tablespoons demerara (raw) sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9” round cake pan (or springform pan) with an oil-based spread (like Crisco or baking spray) and line the bottom of the pan with parchment.

Peel the apples, then core and slice into 8ths (I use a corer/slicer to make quick work of this).

Zest the lemon into a bowl with the butter and sugar. Cut the lemon in half and juice one half. Strain any seeds and set the juice aside.

Using a sturdy wooden spoon or mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add vanilla extract and one egg, mixing until fully combined. Add remaining eggs one at a time, fully combining each egg before adding the next.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the lemon juice and flour mixture to the wet ingredients, mixing until just combined.

Using a rubber spatula, scrape the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Arrange the apple slices with the core side down in a circle around the edge of the pan, pressing down slightly, so each slice is secured in place. Take the remaining apples and place in the center. Sprinkle the top of the cake generously with demerara sugar.

Place pan in the center of the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes, until the cake is golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing pan. The cake should be firm enough that it should be easy to move without disturbing the apples.

Enjoy at room temperature with some lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Adapted from Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss

German Sunken Apple Cake Versunkener Apfelkuchen

Serves 8 Ingredients: 3 medium apples 1 medium lemon 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons (125g) granulated sugar 9 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (130g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks and at room temperature 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 3 eggs, room temperature 1 1/2 cups (190g) all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 2 Tablespoons demerara (raw) sugar

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Fall Family Fun

While I spent a lot of time in October working hard to get the WOODLAND collection ready for release (and fighting a a few colds), I also made sure to I made time to enjoy my favorite season with my favorite people. So there were leaf piles, and ballet classes (I just die every time I see her in that uniform), pumpkin carving, painting and decorating. 

One of my favorite things to do at Halloween is make themed family costumes (see 20152016  and pre-LMC, 2011), which I will continue to do as long as LMC puts up with it. So about 10 days before Halloween when she decided to be a butterfly instead of an owl, I had to do a little creative thinking, but I think the garden costume I came up with worked out great. Mr. Cleaver was supposed to be a gardener originally, but since I was laid low with a sinus infection on Halloween night, I let him take the better costume out on the town, which he was a great sport about.  

Either way we gave out and received loads of candy and LMC went to bed wishing everyday could be Halloween. All-in-all, a pretty good October.

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Hot Buttered Apple Cider - Cocktail Recipe

Hot Buttered Apple Cider.png

One of my favorite things to do in the fall is relax with a good movie, a big bowl of popcorn, and some hot apple cider. This drink is a more grown-up version that takes its cues from Hot Buttered Rum. The Demera sugar on the rim adds an additional caramel flavor (and looks pretty to boot!)

Hot Buttered Apple Cider

(makes 1 drink)

  • 2 Tablespoons Spiced Butter (see recipe below)
  • 1 1/2 oz rum
  • 3/4 cup apple cider, heated to boil. 
  • Juice from orange
  • Demera (raw) sugar
  • Apple slice

Wet the rim of a heat proof glass and sugar with the raw sugar. Place slice of spiced butter in bottom of glass and top with rum and hot cider. Mix until butter is dissolved. Top with a generous squeeze of orange juice (about a Tablespoon). Garnish with apple slice or fan and serve hot. 

Spiced Butter

  • 4 oz (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • zest of one orange
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and mix with a wooden spoon until well combined. Transfer butter mixture to wax paper and roll into a log, approximately the size of a stick of butter (this will help to measure later). Wrap butter tightly in wax paper and plastic wrap and store in fridge, allowing to firm up. Can keep keep for up to two weeks. Also great on toast! 

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Hot Buttered Apple Cider

Hot Buttered Cider Cocktail Recipe

Makes 1 drink Ingredients: 2 Tablespoons Spiced Butter 1.5 oz rum 3/4 cup apple cider orange juice Demera (raw) sugar for rim apple for garnish
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Crisp Apple Tart (Tarte Fine aux Pommes) Recipe

Tarte Fine aux Pommes.png

Ever since my trip to Quebec, I have been obsessed with puff pastry. That, and all the seasons of the Great British Bake Off, I've been watching. 

Well, rough puff pastry. I'd like to give full-on puff pastry a try but a) time and b) the pounding sounds to flatten the butter would drive my dog nuts. So to avoid extended periods of dog barking, I've turned to an easier version that uses grated frozen butter to avoid all the pounding. 

But full, rough, or store bought, puff pastry (or pâte feuilletée if you're feeling French) makes an excellent bae for this deceptively elegant, yet simple traditional crisp tart (or tarte fine). I'd suggest making the puff pastry the day before, then assembling the tart takes only 15 minutes or so. I daresay, it's easier than pie.

"Rough" Puff Pastry

  • 260 grams salted butter (about 2 1/2 sticks), grated
  • 350 grams all-purpose flour (about 2 1/4 cups)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2-2/3 cup of cold water

Freeze butter and grate. This is easiest if you have a food processor or a rotary grater, but can be done by hand. Place grated butter and measured flour in freezer for at least an hour.

When butter and flour are sufficiently cold,  mix together flour, salt, and 60g of the butter together with your fingers. Add water until dough just holds together, but is not sticky or wet.  The dough will be firm. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough feels like it's holding together well, about 1 minute. Rest dough in fridge for about 5 minutes while you prepare for next step. If you work quickly, you can do the following in one go. If the dough and particularly the butter, starts to get too warm and easy to work stop and chill in the freezer for a few minutes before continuing. 

  1. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a long rectangle. Sprinkle half the remaining butter on 2/3rd of the dough. Fold the rectangle in thirds, starting with the un-buttered third. 
  2. Turn the dough 90 degrees ( so the open ends are facing the side) and repeat step 1. 
  3.  Turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat folds (without the butter) as in step 1. Repeat turn/roll/fold 2 more times.
  4. Cut dough in half, wrap each half secruly in plastic wrap and store in fridge overnight. If you're making tart in less than an hour, or are planning to not use the dough for more than a day, store in the freezer and thaw in the fridge prior to use. 

Crisp Apple Tart/Tarte Fine aux Pommes

Serves 6

  • 1/2 of rough puff pastry recipe (above), or 1 sheet frozen pre-made pastry, thawed.
  • 2 medium apples, with peels, sliced thin
  • 1 egg
  • 2 Tablespoons orange marmalade, apricot jelly, or apple jelly
  • 2 Tablespoons Demera (raw) sugar (can subsititute granulated sugar, if desired)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Freshly grated nutmeg
  • 2 Tablespoons salted butter, diced into cubes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a large rectangle, about 9 x 12 inches, cut edges to be neat, if needed.  Transfer to baking tray.

Using a sharp knife, score  a 1 inch border around the dough. Beat egg in a bowl, adding a splash of water to make an egg wash. Brush egg wash along the outside border of the tart only.  Mix jelly of your choice with a splash of water. Brush jelly mixture on center of tart.

Arrange apples in three rows on center of tart, overlapping slightly. Mix together sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a small bowl. Sprinkle sugar and spice mixture over entire tart. 

Bake for 30 minutes in the center of oven, until pastry is nicely browned.  Cut into 6 slices. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce.

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Crisp Apple Tart (Tarte Fine Aux Pommes)

            Serves 6     Ingredients:         1/2 puff pastry recipe or store bought frozen puff pastry, thawed 2 medium apples 1 egg 2 tablespoons orange marmalade 2 tablespoons demera sugar 1/4 tsp cinnamon Nutmeg 2 Tablespoons salted butter           
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This is Halloween

I love any excuse to dress up, so I've always loved Halloween. These days the challenge is to a) coordinate everyone's costume and b) find time to pull them all together. 

This year was a perfect mix of homemade + purchased items. Little Miss Cleaver wanted to be a dalmatian/firehouse dog and we were lucky to find the hooded vest at the consignment store. The spotted fleece she already had, so I only had to whip up some leggings and "paws". Mr. Cleaver got to be a fireman, and after little luck finding anything that looked like a firefighter coat for cheap, I bought some reflective tape at the fabric store and pinned it to one of his coats. The store-bought hat sells the look. 

As for me? Not being able to find a firefighter outfit for one, I shifted my plan from being a second firefighter to being a burning building. With some cheap felt, a dozen yards of tulle and some quality time with fabric paint and a sharpie, I ended up with the hottest costume in town. (Can't help myself.) 

LMC had a great time trick-or-treating and handing out candy. We have some very generous neighbors, so even though we only did both sides of one street, she is well stocked on sweets. I can't wait to see what she comes up with for next year! 

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Fall-Spiced Apple Hand Pies

Fall-Spiced Apple Hand Pies

Serves 8


  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup shortening or unsalted butter
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup cold water


  • 8 medium apples, I recommend a variety of firm apples. The photos above use Jonagolds and Macs.
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup flour or cornstarch
  • Caramel sauce (optional) (I like the one from the Joy of Cooking)


  • 1 egg whisked with a Tablespoon of water
  • Demerara/raw sugar

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F. 

Make crust. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or food processor, cut in shortening until mixture resembles damp sand. Add water, a little bit at a time, until dough sticks together. You will want it slightly more elastic than crust for a pan pie. Break dough into two evenly sized pieces, wrap in plastic wrap, and place in refrigerator up to a day in advance.

Prepare filling. Peel, core, and dice apples into small chunks. In a large mixing bowl, combine diced apples with lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, and flour. Mix well, until all apple pieces are coated. 

Line two rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Remove crust from refrigerator. Cut each ball of dough into four equal pieces. On a well-floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 7 to 8 inch square. Place dough on cookie sheet. Using a slotted spoon, scoop filling into the center of the square. If desired, drizzle caramel sauce generously over filling.

Fold dough over filling, so top portion of crust is about 1/4 inch shy of the edge of the bottom. Fold up bottom crust to meet top crust and pinch/crimp to seal. Repeat for remaining pies.

Whisk together 1 egg with 1 Tablespoon water. Brush egg wash generously over pies. Sprinkle the top of each pie with a small amount of demerara sugar. 

Place cookie sheets in oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until filling bubbles and crust is golden brown, rotating pans halfway through cooking time.

Cool pies on wire rack prior to storage. To store, wrap in tin foil and place in refrigerator for up to one week. Serve cool, or reheat for 10-15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven. 


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Pecan Oatmeal Apple Crisp (and Apple Abundance)

Pecan Apple Crisp
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Apple Cider Doughnuts
Pecan Oatmeal Apple Crisp

So we went a little overboard on the apple picking this year and picked a ton on our annual trip to Ricker Hill a few weeks back. (also we went on a weekday, so we had the full run of the bounce houses to ourselves and had to take advantage of that!) So even after two sizable pies, I still had about a bushel left and no gumption to make more pie, and so, enter crisp! This recipe is a mashup of three different ones, so it has a little bit of everything in it, which makes it totally delicious.And it's a big batch recipe (3 Qt baking pan), so it means that I'm down to only 2 dozen apples now!!


  • ~10 apples, peeled and chopped
  • 3 Tbl sugar
  • 1.5 Tbl cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbl orange juice


  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups flour (Up to 1/2 cup can be whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 Tbl white sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1.5 sticks salted butter, softened
  • 1 cup chopped pecans 

Preheat oven to 350 Degrees F

Place all filling ingredients into a 9x13 (3 QT) baking pan and mix together. Adding more apples as needed to fill pan.

In a separate bowl, mix all topping ingredients, except nuts, together until they make a consistency like wet sand. Mix in nuts as desired. Sprinkle topping loosely over apple mixture.

Bake for ~ 50 minutes until topping is browned and apples are soft.

Serve warm with ice cream 

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Happy Halloween (Hold Onto Your Hat) !

Alice in Wonderland Costumes
Alice in Wonderland Costumes
Alice in Wonderland Costumes
Alice in Wonderland Costumes
Alice in Wonderland Costumes
Happy Halloween

I'm a former theatre kid and I sew, so suffice it to say, I love Halloween. Socially acceptable excuse to spend way too much time on costumes? I'm in! (In another life, I'd totally be a cosplayer). 

This year, I wrangled the whole family into it (except Steinbeck, who holds no truck with costumes). One of LMC's favorite characters is Alice In Wonderland, thanks to some pop-up books and the Royal Ballet version. It doesn't hurt that I have a deep abiding love for all things Alice myself, and am happy to encourage it. So the theme was an easy choice. (Second option was superheroes - which might still happen for Free Comic Book Day). LMC got to be Alice (obviously), I had a red dress in my closet that made the Queen of Hearts a simple choice, and Mr. Cleaver decided he wanted to be the Mad Hatter. 

LMC's costume was the most detailed. It's McCalls 6187,  and there's not a piece on this thing that isn't gathered, lined or trimmed. But it is adorable. The apron is, somewhat oddly, part of the bodice and attached, and the apron strings are a bit long, but otherwise it was time-consuming, but a relatively simple sew.

The whole dress is Kona Cotton, so it can be thrown into the wash easily should she decide she wants to add it to regular wardrobe, which is what happened to last year's Olivia dress. The sizing is 3T/4T, so it was a wide on her, put the apron ties kept everything in place. I hemmed the skirt as narrow as possible so she can wear it for a while. Since it's Maine, we threw a long-sleeve tee under the whole thing and then added my Belacqua cardigan when it got chilly. 

Mom and Dad's costumes were much simpler. I bought a pair of striped tights, made a crown out of glittery craft foam and punched some holes in a old deck of cards for the collar. The collar was a bit tricky to wear, I had to pin it to my hair to keep it up, but it really pulled the whole thing together. 

For Mr. Cleaver, I sewed him a quick bow tie (and learned how to tie one!). The pants he had in his closet, the velvet blazer is mine, the hat was from Amazon and the shirt and socks we picked up for cheap at Goodwill. I also took the opportunity to purchase a pair of pink flamingos, which I have always always wanted, so we could reenact the croquet scene, which I think was LMC's favorite part (that and getting to use the fancy teacups). The hedgehog was the first thing I ever needle-felted

We took LMC to about 8 or so houses to trick-or-treat then spent the evening handing out candy. We got 105 trick-or-treaters before we shut it down, ate a Halloween cupcake and collapsed into bed early. 

As for holding onto your hats? If you've seen Curious George: A Halloween Boofest as many times as we have, you'll know what I mean. ;)

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Pumpkins at Smiling Hill Farm


We got a late start on our fall activities thanks to some serious colds, but we're getting there! We made it to the pumpkin patch on Sunday, and the apple orchard on Wednesday, so we're all set on Autumnal produce. 

We Cleavers are creatures of habit and tend to go to the same places every year - so this is LMC's third year at the Smiling Hill Farm pumpkin patch. It's always interesting to see what's different with each round - what is she most interested in? (Answer: rainbow ice cream), what isn't she digging? (Answer: that incident with the turkey has made her nervous about all barnyard fowl).

It's also fun to get the random recaps that she'll spout out days or even weeks later, when she sees something that reminds her of her little adventure. 

I'm hesitant about pulling out the carving knives just yet, so we painted our pumpkins again this year. I didn't put on any sealant first, so they're already peeling, but I think they're beautiful anyway.

We've hung our bat lights and have been watching Curious George A Boo Fest on repeat, which means she goes around wishing everyone "Happy Halloween, hold on to your hat!" We're thinking about making a No-Noggin scarecrow this weekend. I have to admit of all the children's programming, I like Curious George the best (which is good, because LMC loves him).

 I've also been prepping LMC for costume wearing in the hopes that she'll actually wear her costume I'm making (since the wear rate of things I make for her is dismally low). What are you going to be for Halloween? Alice! What's mommy going to be? The queen. What's daddy going to be? The hatter dance! (Close enough).

I love prepping for Halloween.

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Fair Times, Fun Times

Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
Cumberland County Fair
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I think I say this every year, but I love fair season so much.

This is a big turn around from my feelings on the county fair when I was a kid, and never got to go on any rides and had to represent my dance studio on hot awful concrete stages, or at it's least appealing, that one time in high school I volunteered to do an anti-drug puppet show from beneath a folding table. Then, the fair was always an obligation, but as a grown-up - it's way more fun, and as a parent? A blast!

A grand time was had by Cleavers young and old, but Little Miss Cleaver, who is tall enough now to ride the rides, had the best time of all I think. She particularly wanted to ride the Ferris Wheel, and had a blast going up and down and up down. The Carousel took second place in her affections, I think. 

Speaking of placing things, I knocked another item off my bucket list by winning a blue ribbon at the county fair. I entered in two categories - pie (other) and coffee cake (quick). My Blackberry Pie with Lemon Streusel got me the coveted blue ribbon and my Prize Coffee Cake netted my a third prize (knocked down by "Way too much cinnamon" and my inclusion of some wheat flour which made it "heavy"). My efforts also netted me a check for a cool $8. Not too bad for my first try. It appears that if you want the really  big ribbons you have to go in for the sponsored contests, so I may try my hand at one of those next year. 

 We petted all sorts of animals and marveled at giant pumpkins, ate junk food, got poop on our shoes, and braved ourselves against the chill. Another fantastic day at the fair. 

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