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Posts from the ‘Pies, tarts, and cakes’ Category

Holiday spice cake with orange-vanilla sugared cranberries + cake baking tips


As if you somehow have been living under a rock and aren’t currently aware, THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING. And boy does the world want you to know it.

Should this sort of thing cause your pulse to quicken and temples to bulge, a few things to note:

  • Holiday dessert, decided. See photos above and below and tell me that wouldn’t look gorgeous as part of your holiday spread. Spiced cake, creamy cream cheese frosting, and crispy, sweet-tart sugared cranberries spiked with orange zest and vanilla. Once everyone stops oohing and aahing long enough to eat a slice, you’ll quickly be crowned the king or queen of the holidays and everyone else will lay down their spatulas in submission. (A little dramatic.)
  • Looking for a creative, unique holiday gift or gathering? Remember that Bowen Appétit offers private parties and gift certificatesRead more

Mohnkuchen, Austrian poppy seed cake

Everyone’s getting a little excitable around here. A few days of above-freezing temperatures has turned a collective just-this-side-of-desperate sense of downtrodden winter defeat into a somewhat crazy-eyed and suspicious exuberance. Folks know full well that these conditions won’t last forever and seem to be steeling themselves for the emotional roller coaster otherwise known as spring, but it’s the first sign that things will get better, and that’s notable. I’m mentally making lists upon lists of the things I will cook when the outdoor market returns and the selection at the grocery looks a little more lively, and I’ve never felt the inspirations of seasonality as much as I do living in the Midwest in late winter.


There’s something about this poppyseed cake that makes me think of spring. Perhaps it’s that our love of this cake is deeply rooted in our love of Austria, and both times we’ve gone to Austria it’s been on that cusp of late spring/early summer, both times over our wedding anniversary, both times when we’ve desperately needed a little refreshing. It’s one of the more rustic Austrian desserts and we saw it most often on the menus of Heurigen, the wine taverns that are so central to the Austrian sense of Gemütlichkeit.Versions differ slightly from place to place – some have streusel toppings and a shortbread base (the more German-style Mohnkuchen) or some sort of glaze or frosting. But all feature a base of poppy seeds ground into a texture similar to wet soil, nearly paste-like and colored midnight blue. Where in the United States poppy seeds are generally included in a recipe for appearance or texture or a slight flavor addition, in this cake the poppy seeds are the appearance, the texture, and the flavor. The cake is intoxicatingly dark in hue and flavored intensely of poppy seeds – nutty and slightly floral. The texture is toothsome, but with only the hint of the crunch you normally get with whole poppy seeds. It’s unlike any traditional American dessert I’ve had, and has become one of our absolute favorites to make.

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Caramel Dutch apple pie

Did I just realize, after writing this post, that this is the third apple recipe in a row? Yes. That said: yesterday no fewer than 10 different people came into the store where I work specifically to get gear for making things with their overflowing apple stores. There were cider makers and people drying apple rings and everyone giving recommendations for apple picking places and so many conversations about apple pies that I could barely find the time to figure out what type of apple pie I was going to make upon returning home from work. It is apple season, everyone, and Wisconsin takes that seriously, and I will definitely not let you forget it (apparently). Apples apples apples.

But really, I will try to write the next post about something other than apples. Seriously. 


I’ve been taking photos of food for a few years now, and for the most part it’s been going pretty well. Lumbering the tripod around the kitchen can be a bit of a hassle and the idea of taking out my camera at restaurants makes me pretty uncomfortable, so I primarily take photos only when it’s a recipe I want to document (for here or elsewhere) or when something looks particularly pretty (like the onions Brett browned today to put in the venison stew we made). I knew absolutely nothing about photography before I started this website and would only claim to know a very small amount now, but I’ve been learning a lot and it’s all worth it for that moment when a shot seems to grasp everything I wanted it to – the way the light looked, the feeling and intention I had in making and serving a dish, or the spirit of the food.  Read more

Pie Crust Guide

Everything you ever wanted to know about pie crust - the hows and whys of various ingredients, techniques, and more.

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Herbed (or not) rum apple cake

What if I said I made three of these cakes in two days?


There was a reason, see, and a pretty good one at that – a waxed cardboard box full of apples from Minnesota, bequeathed to us by my grandmother on Labor Day and rapidly softening thanks to the hot streak that followed. (Even Midwestern basements can’t store apples well in 95-degree heat.)

So I made 16 cups of apple pectin stock and 3 different types of apple jelly (Jameson, chili, and red wine/bay leaf), each of which was re-branded a glaze after utterly failing to set (whoops). But even that project used up only about half the apple stores, and with only a few days of usability remaining I turned my eye to desserts. So I opened up the usual suspects – a few favorite websites and books – to find inspiration, only to be almost immediately questioned by Brett as to why I would make anything other than this apple cake that I first made a few years back. It’s actually been on this site since back then, but tucked in the archives under the relatively unassuming name “Simple Apple Cake,” and after this binge I figured it deserved an updated page and a new title. Read more