Crockpot Apple Cake

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

I found it! A slow-cooked dessert! The cake is “baked” in the crockpot over diced apples creating a sort of pie meets cake creation that is incredibly moist and delicious. The cake itself can be made with either pumpkin or sweet potato and calls for just a little bit of applesauce to tie it all together. I used sweet potato for my cake, as did the blogger behind Finding Joy in My Kitchen, the cooking blog on which I found the recipe adapted here.

You’ll need:

1 3/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup whipping cream

2-3 Tbsp butter

4-5 medium apples, peeled & sliced

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp nutmeg

pinch of ginger

1 cup pumpkin or sweet potato puree

2 eggs

1/3 cup applesauce

Grease your crockpot with cooking spray and line the bottom with diced apples.

Melt butter, 1 cup of brown sugar and cream in a small saucepan, stirring until incorporated, and pour over apples.

Combine dry ingredients. Add puree, applesauce and eggs and mix until smooth. Pour over apples.

Cover and cook in crockpot for about 2 hours on low. Test readiness as you would any other cake using the toothpick/knife in the center trick.

Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.




The Last Carrot Cake Recipe You’ll Ever Need

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

Who doesn’t love carrot cake? Sure, it’s technically a dessert, but it has fruit, nuts and vegetables, so that makes it kind of healthy, right? This is the best carrot cake recipe you will ever come across. It’s adapted from the fabulous Dorie Greenspan.

for the cake:
2 c all purpose flour
2 t baking powder
2 t baking soda
2 t ground cinnamon
3/4 t salt
3 c grated carrots (about 9 carrots)
1 c coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
1 c shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweetened)
1/2 c moist, plump raisins or dried cranberries
2 c sugar
1 c canola oil
4 large eggs

Tweaks: I don’t use quite as much sugar and coconut as called for. I’d say I use about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1/2 to 3/4 cup of coconut – anything more is just too sweet for me, especially considering that this cake has frosting. Also, I always use walnuts and raisins, not pecans and cranberries. Though sometimes I use walnuts and raisins and cranberries, depending on what I have on hand.

Preheat oven to 325. Mix oil and sugar until smooth. Add eggs. Add flour and powders. Add chunkier dry ingredients last. The cake bakes for 40-50 min.

for the frosting:
8 oz cream cheese, at room temp
1 stick (8 T) unsalted butter, at room temp
1 lb (3 3/4 c) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 T fresh lemon juice or 1/2 t lemon extract
1/2 c shredded coconut

More tweaks: Again, I reduce the sugar – to anywhere from 2 to 3 cups – and completely omit the coconut from the frosting.

In a stand mixer with paddle attachment, cream the butter and cream cheese. Slowly add sugar and, if you’re using it, coconut and beat until smooth. Mix in lemon juice or extract last.

Frost your cake after it’s completely cool. Dorie frosts her carrot cake in layers, but I save it all for the top and sides.

This recipe makes a nice, big cake and I find we just can’t (or shouldn’t) eat it all unless we have friends to share it with, so I often adapt this recipe to make cupcakes instead. (Cupcakes are nice and portable and, I have found, tend to get eaten off a staff room table more readily than slices of cake). Simply pour your batter into greased muffin tins and bake at the same until cupcakes are firm and a knife, when stuck into the center, comes out clean.


Blueberry Crumb Cake

by Marykate Smith Despres, Salem Depot

I am very picky about crumb cake. First of all, I don’t like any cake – crumbed or not –  unless it’s exceptionally moist. For some reason, crumb cake tends to be one of those cakes that is often and easily too dry. Maybe this is why I won’t sit down to a piece of crumb cake unless I have a good mug of hot coffee or a tall glass of very cold milk. Most importantly, a good crumb cake must have a good crumb. (And, for the purpose of this week’s blueberry focus, it’s got to have blueberries!)

Every Sunday morning when I was a kid, my dad would go to Dixie Lee bakery to get us breakfast. It was the same bakery he had been going to since his family moved from the city to the suburbs when he was a kid. It was the same bakery we stopped at to pick up pastries before any family birthday or holiday party, any time of night or day. It must have been open close to 24 hours a day, because many a late night playing cards at my grandma’s, someone would suddenly get a craving for Dixie Lee and send my dad or one of the uncles on a bun run. And I’m not talking bread, I’m talking crumb buns. Perfect, moist squares of crumb cake that were at least half crumb, if not more. The perfect midnight snack or Sunday morning breakfast.

Growing up and moving away, I’ve learned not to try to replicate food memories as the replacement will always fall short. In searching for a crumb cake that is different enough from the crumb buns of my childhood, yet still sufficiently moist and crumby, I found Dorie Greenspan’s Blueberry Crumb Cake. The addition of blueberries to the cake and walnuts to the crumb make her cake seem to me like a slightly more grown-up version perfect for a slightly more grown-up me. The following recipe is adapted from Greenspan’s own, which you can find in her indispensable cookbook, Baking.


Crumb Ingredients:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temp

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup chopped walnuts


Cake Ingredients:

1 pint fresh blueberries

2 cups + 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

2/3 cup sugar

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon or 1/4 orange

3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temp

2 large eggs, at room temp

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/2 cup buttermilk


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease an 8-inch square cake pan.

For the crumbs, in a food processor, pulse all ingredients except the nuts until you get a clumpy, wet-sand-like crumb that stays together when pressed between your fingers. Press the crumb mix down into a bowl, cover, and refrigerate.

For the cake, use your 2 teaspoons of flour to dust the blueberries. In a separate bowl, combine the rest of the dry ingredients, except the sugar. Using your hands, mix the sugar and zest together until the sugar is well infused. Add butter and beat until light, about 3 minutes medium speed. Add eggs one at a time and vanilla extract. Turn down your mixer speed to low to avoid messes and over-mixing and slowly add your dry mix and buttermilk. Once the batter is fully combined, carefully fold in your blueberries.

Pour your batter into the greased pan, let settle, and sprinkle your crumb on top. (I should note here that I am an advocate of extra crumb, making and using 1.5 times the suggested amount. Any more than this may weight down the batter too much, but feel free to experiment and let me know.)

Bake until knife comes out clean and crumbs are cooked but not burnt, about 55 to 65 minutes. Cut and serve cake when it has cooled to warm or room temperature.


Cantaloupe And Peach Slushie

When I went to store this week’s bounty of fruit, I discovered that I’d failed to use up all of last week’s peaches. Since my son is a slushie fan, I searched the web for some recipes. They all seem to follow the same principle: puree lightly sweetened fruit, and freeze.

You don’t have to limit yourself to peaches and cantaloupe – most any fruit will do, singly or in combination.  (Remember to remove the seeds from watermelon!). You can play around with flavor additions, too – add a bit of freshly chopped mint or basil, or other herbs. Very ripe (or even overripe) fruit gives the best flavor. Frozen slush will keep for several weeks – a great way to extend fruit’s “shelf life.”

  • 2 large peaches (or 3 medium ones), peeled and sliced
  • 1 small cantaloupe,(cut into wedges and remove seeds and rind, then cut into chunks
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey, sugar, or maple syrup (note: do not use honey if making this for children younger than 1 year old)

1.  Place fruit, 1 tablespoon honey or sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor and puree until smooth. Taste and add additional sweetener, if desired (it should taste a little sweeter than you want the final product to be).

2.  Pour into a 9″x9″ glass dish and place in the freezer. Let freeze until mostly solid, about 2 hours. Use a fork to break up the slushie, scraping around the edges of the dish and mix well to break up big lumps.

3.  Cover the dish with plastic wrap and return to freezer. Let freeze until solid or overnight. Transfer to a covered plastic container and store in the freezer. Scrape again with a fork before serving.