Simple Frugal Apple Caramel Cake

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Simple Apple Cake. You just can’t get better then this for a fast simple dessert that will make you smile!

This cake is one of my oldest cake recipes I have. This is super simple, frugal and can be made into a healthy cake. I honestly don’t know where the recipe comes from, I found it in a recipe box from a yard sale 20 years ago. It’s been a sturdy recipe!

The thing I love is the ingredients are simple, it makes a small cake and you can have it in the oven within ten minutes. I often bake it while we are having dinner, so its still warm when it comes out!

First, chop your apples. I usually cut the “cheeks” off, then dice up. I have done this when the apples were chopped fine and when chopped larger. It really is personal preference. I have also made this with pears. Any harder fruit would work I am sure.

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You need two cups of apples, this is often just 2-3 apples, depending on what size and variety they are.

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In a mixing bowl, cream your butter until fluffy. Add the egg and mix well. In separate bowl mix your flour, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon. Combine your creamed butter and flour mixture. Mix well but don’t beat this hard. Then hand stir in your apples. You could also add another half a cup of dried fruit. Cranberries are especially nice! So is lemon zest! You could add a 1/2 cup of nuts if you wish. This is a very forgiving recipe!

Pour this all into an 8 inch square baking dish (or a round one, or a rectangle or whatever you have!

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This will rise up and be quite moist. It bakes for approximately 35 minutes at 350 degrees. It should spring back when you press down in middle (notice the thumb print? Don’t ask a ten year old boy to test it. . . )

For the caramel sauce, its rather simple.

combine your brown sugar and cornstarch together in a small saucepan. When well combined, stir in your heavy cream, butter, and salt. Simmer on low, stirring until thick. Usually this is done within 5-6 minutes.

Cut your cake, then pour the caramel sauce right over the top. If you really want to indulge, have some ice cream too! Delicious!

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Recipe:

*** Note that this is a forgiving recipe. If you want to use whole wheat, then you can (we do) it will be denser but if you eat this way you already know the texture! You can use white sugar, brown sugar, sucanat, honey (though you may want to throw in another tablespoon or two of flour to even the texture out.

*** Note that you can add other fruits, dry fruits, nuts etc. to this. I have made all sorts of combinations with this over the years. It is very basic recipe so adapt to your own like!

 

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup sugar/brown sugar/honey/sucanat/turbadino/whatever sweetener you like!

1 egg

1 cup flour (we use whole wheat, use what you wish)

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1 tsp cinnamon

2 cups chopped peeled apples (whatever variety you have… or pears, firm peaches, bananas?)

*nuts, dry cranberries, coconut, raisins etc. if you choose

Sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp. cornstarch (please buy GMO free if at all possible!)

1/4 cup cream (half and half, heavy cream or even evaporated milk if it is what you have)

1/4 cup butter

1/4 tsp salt

 

For Cake:

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg. In separate bowl combine flour, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add to your creamed mixture. Stir in apples and any other ingredients you may use. Pour into 8 inch baking dish. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

For Sauce:

Combine sugar and cornstarch. Mix well. Add other ingredients and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until thickened. Pour over cake and enjoy!

 

Amazing Apple – Pear Butter

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Need I say more?

It’s that time of year that everybody is searching for apple butter recipes or what to do with the 6 pears or 8 apples or when you are just exhausted with applesauce and don’t know what else to make. The thought of peeling one more apple makes you want to cry and call your mommy. I know…. I have been there!

On our Facebook Group Page (have you joined? Our Happy Preserving Facebook Page!) I see many questions regarding fruit butters, sugar amounts, options, and what to do with the leftover apples. Here is my solution!

I should preface to say there is no hard and fast recipe here. This depends on your fruit, choices of sweeteners, what you have available to you! Food preservation should be safe, but it should also be practical. If you have brown sugar, use it! If you like white sugar, use it! Not enough cinnamon? It’s ok! This is about frugal living, filling bellies with healthy foods and enjoying the process.

First, this batch I used half apples and half pears. You can use ANY fruit combo here! If you have peaches, throw them in! No pears, its fine, just do apples! Half a bag of cranberries? Sure! Throw it in! The difference will be adjusting the sugar volume to match the taste you seek.

Now, to be fair, you can get a basic apple butter recipe anywhere. I have found that people get worried about the volume of sugar, and this is understandable! Ball calls for 3 cups of sugar to 6 pounds of apples! WOW! People who are following canning rules (AS they SHOULD be!) Also worry if they have 3 pounds apples or six pounds because it strays from the recipe. This however is one area that it is ok to stray from that.

So, moving forward… This “recipe” takes whatever amount of fruit you have and is cooked for a low time in your crock pot. If you don’t have a crock pot you can use your oven, however watch closely for burning. You can use whatever combination of sugars you like to have. I used brown sugar, turbadino sugar and honey to season this batch. Finally, you can use whichever spices that appeal to you.

So maybe this isn’t really a recipe. It’s a process. (Can you tell I am a therapist? It’s a process….it takes time…)

First gather your fruit. Wash it up, core the fruit, then quarter or chunk it up. You do NOT have to peel your fruit. In fact I think that fruit butter benefits from skins on. It adds a richness to the end result. So chop it all up and fill up your crock pot!

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Once your crock pot (or roaster if using the oven) is full. I fill this about one third of the way full with apple juice that I canned from the applesauce I made. (Remember this post Hello Autumn! Hello Apples!). You can also use apple cider or any other fruit juice. You could use water as well, but it may not be quite as rich.

Now, just turn on low and let it good several hours. This will vary depending on your crock pot, fruit etc. I typically will let this go overnight. It smells amazing when you wake up! Then, it will look something like this!

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If you have a hand held immersion blender, just use it at this time to puree all of your apples and pears together. If you don’t, you can use a blender, a food processor or even a potato masher. Your apples will be super soft and should mash right up with little effort.

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At this point, you can add your sweeteners. This is so variable! We like our apple butter sweet but not jelly sweet! For us, it typically ends up being approximately one cup of sweetener to each crock pot full. Taste your sauce at this point. Is it sour? Add a bit more, pretty sweet? Maybe be conservative. Remember that your apple butter is going to condense and flavor will intensify!

We added 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup turbadino (a natural sugar that has a bit of a molasses flavor) and 1/3 cup honey)

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Add in your seasonings! We go heavy with this! I used 3 tbsp. cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg and a dash of cloves. Mix it all in. Then, you need to fill your crockpot once again. I use the applesauce I already made to do this. You could add more fresh fruit and cook it down as well. Either way, you want to refill the crock pot so that you have a full pot again. Note that this can be skipped! You don’t HAVE to do this, I just like to start with a full pot! I had one quart that didn’t seal and a pint that was leftover. That filled the pot!

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 Now, you want to let this cook down. I put a wooden spoon across the crock pot, then lay the lid over this. It allows the moisture to escape so that your apple-pear-fruit butter can reduce down. I turn it on low and let it go another 6-8 hours. Again this depends on your own crockpot. You will know it is done when its thick, spreadable and delicious!

Like THIS! Notice how much it has reduced? (that looks really quite unattractive doesn’t it! The sides will dry up as it reduces. Well… the blog is real! I’m no fancy photographer!)

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To preserve your apple butter, it needs to be brought back up to a high temperature. I replace the lid on the crockpot and turn onto high. My crockpot typically will have the apple butter simmering by the time my canner is hot. You could also heat it in a pan on the stove. Either way make sure your apple butter is HOT when you place into jars.

Next, just ladle your thick butter into the hot prepared jars. You can use pints or half pints. Fill jars to 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Cap and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath.

 

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In general, my crockpot will use about 12 – 15 pounds of fruit, and will result in 12 half pints of butter.

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 Then, enjoy a slather of butter on a piece of warm homemade bread. YUM!

So, to sum it up.

Use whatever fruit combination you have on hand. I like to fill my crockpot, and this often takes 12-15 pounds of fruit. It is best to use at least half apples or fruit high in pectin but not necessary. I have done this with peaches, cranberries, plums as well. The big difference is cooking time with fruits that may have a higher water content.

Add liquid (juice, water, cider) approximately 1/3 of the way of your fruit

Cook several hours (butters need several hours!) then puree

Add more sauce if you want, or season to taste. We use 1 – 1/2 cup sweetener per crock pot (honey, sugar, sucanot, turbadine etc)

Add spices as you wish. Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves are good additions. We go heavy on cinnamon, light on nutmeg and cloves

Leave in crockpot several more hours until reduced, thick and spreadable!

Bring to a simmer. Ladle into pints or half pint jars with 1/4 inch headspace. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath!

ENJOY!

 

 

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WHY do you make all that JELLY???

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There is a problem with home preserving. It is an insidious disease that takes over your life and before you know it you have 99 bottles of jelly and you realize that you can’t ever possibly eat that much toast.

What do you do?

Well, here is the glory of jelly and the reason I think its absolutely one of the most frugal ways to stretch your budget. First, jelly is made from in season and easy on the budget fruits. Strawberries in June, blueberries in July, Blackberries in August, add in the citrus marmalades in the winter, apple jellys in autumn. Did we even touch on the savory jellies like jalapeno and garlic jellies?

Here are ten frugal and delicious ways to use your jelly you may not have thought about.

1) When your jelly doesn’t set, it becomes syrup. We all know this right? However you can use any jelly to make a fruit syrup for pancakes or waffles! Strawberry jelly warmed in a pan is delightful over pancakes and waffles! Marmalades can be amazing on blueberry pancakes! If it is too thick, then add a few tablespoons of water to thin, if too thin, then simmer in saucepan until thick! End of the month and the budget is tight? Pancakes with peach jelly over the top is a delight for kids! Or… French toast with Cherry preserves!

 

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2) Layer your cakes with a jar of jam! Put cherry preserves between dark chocolate, Raspberry between layers of a lemon cake or apple butter between layers of a spice cake.

3) Apricot, grape, apple and berry jellies can be turned into a great basting sauce for pork loin, chicken or even fish. Mix your jam with barbecue sauce and pour over a loin, then roast into a crockpot on low for several hours. Mix with barbecue sauce and pour over meatballs then simmer in a crockpot. It provides a sweet and savory sauce!

4) Make a batch of whole wheat muffins, but place a teaspoon of jam into each muffin before baking. Fill your muffin cup halfway, place a spoonful of jelly on the batter, cover with another spoonful of batter then bake as normal. Make sure you let these cool before you remove from the pan!

5) Bake a sheet cake but turn it into a “spoon cake”. When you remove from the oven poke holes in your cake with the end of a wooden spoon handle. Heat your jelly until thin and pour over the cake as a glaze! This will soak in and provide you with a rich and moist cake! You may be surprised how many combinations you can come up with! Spice cake with pineapple preserves, white cake with strawberry jelly, chocolate cake with lemon marmalade!

 

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6) Mix your jelly into plain yogurt for a healthier and sweet flavoring! Add a drizzle of honey or some granola and fresh fruit to make this into a full meal!

7) Mix raspberry, blueberry or lemon preserves with vinegar and olive oil for a sweet salad dressing. This is delicious over fruit or spinach salad! I find that equal combinations of jelly/vinegar/oil is good, but you can experiment with what works for you!

8) Make sugar cookies that are small, then use your jam to “cement” them together! These make beautiful gifts during the holidays to give out. Who else is giving unique cookies with lime blueberry filling??

9) Use as a sauce for ice cream Sunday’s or banana splits! Turn that 2.00 carton of vanilla ice cream into something special when your scoop has raspberry sauce poured over the top!

10) Mix into your hot cereal! Your oatmeal or ten grain mix will get an extra wow with lemon marmalade or apricot tucked into it! Add dried fruit for a nutrition boost!

11) Look! A Bonus! Make your cinnamon rolls like you would regularly but spread marmalade inside instead of cinnamon, apple butter would be divine, maybe even a berry jam! Flavor your glaze to match your rolls! Delicious!

If you have tried all of those and your still drowning in jelly, remember that these make great gifts! if your crafty sew small bags and tuck a jar inside, lace with a ribbon and add the above list! Or add a bag of organic pancake mix! Your friends and family will love having something that you are less then excited over when you realize 25 jars of strawberry jelly just may have been a wee bit much!

What ideas do YOU have for jelly and jam?

Hello Autumn! Hello Apples!!!

I have not kept this blog updated as we were busy moving from the hot humid south to our home in Oregon. We arrived just in time for the beauty of fall, my favorite season! The bounty of harvest, pumpkins, squash and apples! We could never have enough apples to preserve, my family will go through every jar of applesauce well before the season ends. It happens every year!

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Why so many apples you ask? Well for a myriad of reasons! First, unsweetened smooth applesauce is a wonderful replacement for oil in recipes! Use it to replace all or part of the oil in your favorite cake or bread recipe. This will make it a bit more dense and more moist so beware of that, however we love the texture even more. This is especially good in carrot or spice cakes and muffins! Then we always do some chunky applesauce mixed with cinnamon for eating with meals. This is great with breakfast, alongside a pork roast or baked chicken! I don’t add sugar or sweetener to applesauce but some people do. Feel free to add honey, sucanat, rapadura, brown sugar or granulated. You get to decide! Isn’t that fun! Finally we do several jars of apple slices in sugar and cinnamon. I used to do these with clear jel and you can do that that too! I personally didn’t enjoy the texture as much so we stopped mixing them with a thickener. Also, we like these for layering into cakes, putting into pancakes or waffles or mixing into muffins so we don’t always want them thick.

There is much discussion on what apples are the best for eating, cooking, saucing and preserving. You can easily google that and get more information then you will ever need. Here is the “mom in me” version. The best apples are free or cheap apples. For the last twenty years I have gleaned apples from abandoned orchards, bruised or “seconds” from markets or neighbors trees. I haven’t always asked what kind they are because I have discovered that as long as you use a good variety of apples, the end result is pretty darn good. If it is sour, add a sweetener, or cinnamon, or nutmeg… or whatever you like! Now, if that is absolutely not an option for you, then go ahead and do some research on the best kinds for saucing/canning. I do suggest you still get a variety to balance flavors.

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For our project, we met an eccentric farmer who shared multiple kinds of apples he grows organically. I told him we were new to area and wanted to obtain some in bulk form. He delivered! We ended up with 128 pounds of apples for 40.00!

For making applesauce, the process is either very simple, or more complicated, but still simple (just more elbow grease!). I have an attachment that turns my handy dandy kitchenaide into a strainer. This means I do not have to peel or core my apples, it does that work for me. For chunky applesauce, I use the minnions children and put them to work!

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We do have a apple peeler/corer thingy. Here is my view after using three of them over the years. I don’t like them. However the kids LOVE them, so we break it out, it’s a big deal, everybody takes turns and about the time the juice is dripping everywhere, it’s sliding around the counter and the apples that aren’t perfect shaped are falling off, we give up. Then we move back to our handy veggie peelers and paring knives. However they do make for interesting looking apples!

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 If you have a strainer, then its simple. Wash your apples up. Quarter them and drop them into the biggest pot you have. I have a pot almost as large as my waterbath canner. When its full, add 2-3 quarts of water (less if its a small pot), pop the top off and cook them until mushy! It may get a bit frothy on top, I just keep pushing the apples on top to the bottom until its good and soft everywhere!

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If you do not have a strainer, then you should peel and quarter your apples, then drop them into the biggest pot you have, add 2-3 quarts of water (less if its a small pot) and cook until they get bubbly and mushy!

If your using the strainer… it will look something like this! The one complaint I have about the kitchenaide strainer is the height of it, which can make pouring the apples in difficult. We place it on the bench to compensate for that. Apples go into the top, sauce comes out one side, and the bowl next to the sauce holds the skins and seeds!

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If not, then you have two options! For smooth applesauce you can use a blender or a food processor. This is HOT so be careful and protect yourself! Either way, in the end you will have something that looks like this!  For chunky applesauce, begin mashing with a potato masher until the texture you desire. I actually do one pot of pureed to one pot of chunky for a smooth chunky sauce (did that make sense? no…. )

So now you have sauced all the apples! You need to get all your sauce back into the pan and bring this to a boil. This is when you would add seasoning or sugar, honey, syrup or other sweetener of your choice. When your applesauce comes to a boil, pour this into your hot jars, slip a plastic spoon handle into sides of sauce to make sure bubbles are out. Wipe the rims, add the caps then process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (pints) or 20 minutes (quarts)

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While that is bubbling away, you can work on your apple slices! I have perfected the way to make this easy (Ok, I didn’t really invent it but it makes sense to me!) Peel your apples using the apple peeler, or a veggie peeler… knife… whatever works for your home. Drop the apples into a bucket of water with some lemon juice or fruit fresh to keep your color bright.  Notice that I have some bruising on my apples? This is fine! It won’t affect the overall product. If it has a lot of bruising I would cut it off, but a little won’t hurt!

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Then the fun part! Slice your “cheeks” off your apples

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Then the sides to make a fun little square. Ok. I’m easily amused. Forgive me…. 128 pounds of apples can do that. .

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Then slice those cheeks and sides into slices. We prefer ours about 1/2 inch thick. Drop these back into the lemon water to keep the color.

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Make a light syrup however you want. I do 5 cups water, 1.5 cups rapadura (a natural sugar) OR 1.5 cups honey. I drop in approximately 2 tbsp. cinnamon and bring to a boil. Once this is boiling add your apples and boil for five minutes. I have skipped this step before. Bad. Very bad. They puffed up and exploded all over, the texture was terrible. Don’t make bad choices. Friends don’t let friends raw pack apples. Please cook them five full minutes.

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Then, as with the applesauce, drop into hot jars, release all air bubbles, wipe the tops, add lids, and place into BWB for 20 minutes (pints and quarts ).

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Now, you have worked all day, you have a counter full of jars and you realize you have a bucket of cores and peels. You don’t want that to go to waste right?? Good thing you have options! The first option is to make apple peel jelly, the second is to make apple juice. I would not recommend making this if your apples are not organic. Apples are one product that is highly sprayed with chemicals, and even with the best washing, you will not be able to get the chemicals gone. However, if you have organic apples, these are great options.

The first is apple peel jelly. This is a mild flavored jelly. You do not need pectin as apples are very high in pectin naturally. I am providing a recipe, but did not make jelly with this batch so I do not have pics  (next time, promise!)

APPLE CORE JELLY

Cores and peels from apples (recipe will change depending on volume)

Sugar

Lemon Juice

Cover your apple cores and peels with just enough water to peek through the top layer. Simmer for approximately one hour until the peels and cores are disintegrated. Pour this through a colander or strainer to separate the liquid from the solids. For each cup liquid, add one half cup of sugar and one tablespoon lemon juice. Return to pot and boil until reduced and thick, stirring often, approximately 45 minutes. When this has reached the gel point (thickens on a frozen plate) then you are ready to pour into hot jars, cap with lids and process in a BWB for 10 minutes.

Apple Juice

I have found that we can SO much jelly that we ultimately don’t use the apple jelly. I am not sure why this is but it is. Instead, we take all the scraps and cover them in water, the same way you would do for jelly. We simmer it, then strain it through two colanders (one larger holes, one smaller). In the end we have apple “juice” which is more water then juice, but its flavored nicely and the kids think its pretty special! It also makes a good base for other canning projects! We usually drink this right up but you can also bring to a simmer, pour into jars and cap, then process in BWB for 20 minutes (pints and quarts).

Last but not least, I did not post an apple butter recipe. I think this deserves a blog of its own. The short version? Chop you apples, peels and all, place in a crock pot, add 1-2 cups brown sugar, honey or rapadura and cook forever. When this breaks down to half, add some more, and some cinnamon, and nutmeg…. Blog to follow!