Category: vanilla

Apple-cranberry pie.

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Apples for apple-cranberry pie.

Peeling apples for apple-cranberry pie.

As a food blogger and someone who just loves to eat in general, there are a few things I hear from people a lot. One is usually something like “How do you stay so skinny?” Now in my mind I am far from skinny, but also do people assume I eat every single thing I make in it’s entirety? And two, which really bothers me: “I don’t have time to do all that!”

Yes, yes you do.

Apple-cranberry pie; like apple pie with cranberry sauce!

I’m busy too. Trust me. I have a lot going on in my life. But it’s a matter of priority. Some people will always choose to drive through a fast food restaurant, others will make homemade hamburgers. That’s just the way it is. Some people won’t ever try to do it, so they won’t realize how it really doesn’t take 6 hours and it isn’t all that difficult. However, if I want something, I want to make sure its the best it can be. Sometimes, yes, I use shortcuts like frozen pie crust, and that’s okay. That is TOTALLY OKAY. But Jay can sniff out a frozen crust from a mile away- and he prefers homemade. So if I know I’m making a pie ahead of time (and not at 3 a.m. when I can’t sleep), I try to put aside extra time to make a homemade pie crust. Especially if it’s for a holiday dinner.

This pie was new for me, and I wanted to share it with you because it’s a great Thanksgiving pie. And Christmas pie, too, really. It’s like cranberry sauce and apple pie rolled into one. It’s dessert and a side dish. It’s totally unexpected. And it’s also adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, which I happen to trust immensely when it comes to recipes.

Apple-cranberry pie.

I hope you’ll try it this year for the holidays. Maybe you’ll come to love it so much, you’ll never buy a frozen crust or store-bought pie ever again. And yes… I continue my tradition of being horrible at folding pie crust.

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Simple scones with caramel ginger pear jam & vanilla butter.

Simple scones, vanilla butter and caramel ginger pear jam. Click through for all three recipes!

It’s cold! On weekends this time of year, I wake up hungry. Hungry and chilly, I wander bleary eyed into the kitchen. Indy sits next to me some mornings, on “his” kitchen rug patiently waiting for the back door to open so he can take care of his… *ahem* daily constitutional. I put the Keurig on and stand there waiting for coffee in my pajamas, fuzzy socks or slippers, rubbing my eyes thinking, “God I wish I had something to shove in my pie hole.” Usually… I also wake up lazy; too lazy to make something. But if I’m lucky I already have made something! For example, scones with caramel ginger pear jam & vanilla butter.

Jay is a huge fan of scones. So am I really, and for some reason I never make them. I should really make them more often. They’re ridiculously easy and delicious- requiring no mixing other than by hand, no special equipment. And also? They go with everything. Like the recipes I’m giving you today: caramel pear jam and vanilla butter.

Yes, I said vanilla butter. I’ll get to that in a sec.

And… caramel ginger pear jam. It is pear season, you know. Go getchu some gorgeous pears and do something. Ginger is so warming, and it gives an exotic kind of scent to the jam. But you can feel free to omit it and keep it just caramel pear, if you want. YES- YOU GUYS GET THREE RECIPES IN ONE POST TODAY. OMG AREN’T YOU LUCKY.

Caramel ginger pear jam.

By the way- these scones are NOT just a vehicle to get vanilla butter and jam into your face hole. They’re buttery, flaky, and delicious. Totally great on their own. But also great with: marmalade, plain butter, clotted cream, crème fraîche, and just about any kind of jam or jelly you can imagine. They also can be totally changed up to suit you.

They really are easy too. I swear.

Simple scones.

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Spiced ginger walnut pumpkin cake with vanilla maple frosting.

Spiced pumpkin ginger cake with maple frosting.

Readers of my blog will remember when I said a few weeks ago that it was pumpkin time. Well, it definitely is. Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere. As far as the eye can see! Pumpkin is the universal symbol- and flavor- of autumn. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin Oreos… the thought of it makes me want to pull out my fuzzy knit socks and my favorite sweats and read a book. Because fall.

That’s how I feel about ginger too. It’s a fall and winter thing, for me.

Spiced ginger pumpkin cake with maple frosting.

Spiced pumpkin ginger cake with maple frosting and toasted walnuts.

I saw the original form of this cake in an e-mail from one of my favorite stores, Sur La Table. I decided to switch it up a bit, tweak it and bake it in a different way. The frosting I also changed completely, because I don’t like cream cheese frosting. So I made a vanilla maple buttercream-ish frosting instead.

I know it sounds like a lot going on- just like that apple pie, but I promise you it works beautifully and it is not “too much.” It’s a gorgeous cake that works perfectly for any fall Sunday dinner, or even Thanksgiving, but also just for your average cold fall weekend.

I made this cake twice. The first time I used a 1 1/2 qt. vintage glass Fire King baking dish  (this one actually) that was about 10″ x 6.” I just greased it lightly and skipped the parchment. The second time, I used this vintage loaf pan, but you can use any baking dish or pan that’s roughly the same size. It can be a little wider and shallower, square instead of rectangle, or even a little deeper… but regardless, you shouldn’t have to change the temperature. Just watch the time. You don’t want the cake to burn! Baking it as a loaf, it will take around 40 minutes to bake.

But both times it came out perfect- so don’t stress what kind of pan you use.

Pumpkin spice ginger cake with maple frosting and toasted walnuts.

The cake can also very easily be made vegan: just take out the eggs and substitute with an egg replacer, flax seed or tofu. And you can use a vegan frosting option too. Although you can definitely serve it without frosting and it’s awesome, too.

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Maple, brown butter & bourbon apple pie… with walnuts.

Maple brown butter bourbon apple pie with toasted walnuts.

Wow. That’s a mouthful and a half, huh? It didn’t start out being all of that. It started out simple: bourbon apple pie. And then I said to myself, let’d add some toasted walnuts. But this finished pie is a result of me letting Jay get all up in the kitchen with me while I was making it. I mean, it’s only fair- it was HIS pie. I don’t eat apple pie.

I know. Blasphemy. I LOVE apples, though, if that counts for anything.

Granny Smith & Ginger Gold apples for a fall apple pie (with maple, brown butter and BOURBON)

I’m a purist. I prefer things to be straightforward and to the point. My cupcakes are never (and never will be) green tea and macaroni and cheese cupcakes with tangerine frosting and Maldon sea salt flakes. I like things to be good, original, sturdy. My apple pies are usually just that; apple pies. I add the spices, sure, and sometimes I’ll throw in some brandy or bourbon, but for the most part it’s a basic apple pie. Jay, on the other hand, likes to throw all kinds of things into his food. He comes up with these crazy (to me) ideas right before making whatever he’s making, or while he’s making it, and it’ll go from a basic brisket or barbecued chicken to something recognizable but yet completely new… with all these ingredients I never would’ve thought to add. And it comes out amazing. So he decided- as I was slicing apples- that it would be fantastic to add brown butter to it. Oh… and some maple syrup, too.

So that’s what I did. And it smelled quite fantastic the entire time.

For this pie, we chose a mix of Ginger Gold (kind of a Golden Delicious variety, a cross between them and an Albemarle Pippin) and Granny Smith, the classic apple pie apple. We decided to make this pie randomly the night before, so we grabbed about 2 1/2 lbs. of apples to be on the safe side. This pie uses 5 apples, which is (usually- unless you have HUGE apples) less than that.

Maple brown butter bourbon apple walnut pie... whew, what a mouthful!

I SUCK AT CRUST. Always. It starts off great, and then I always have some kind of problem, particularly with the top crust. This time, I was all set to make a covered pie, not this garbage-y lattice I have going on. But disaster struck and I was forced to do this. It was a HUGE DISASTER. I won’t even say what it was… but it sucked. And the shitty thing is, it looked pretty decent pre-disaster. *sigh*

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Fall-ing into some rosy pink & spicy Gala apple jam.

Indy snuggling.

Oh, fall. You come every year and you sweep in subtlely; first the air loses it’s humidity. Then the sun changes. Finally the wind itself is different- it smells different too. The leaves begin to change color, then drop. It’s time for the down comforter and open windows at night. The need for a light sweater at night turns into the need for something a little heavier. The leaves crunch underfoot and it’s time for boots and socks. The sandals get relegated to the back of the closet for another year.

Everyone instinctively wants to snuggle again- even the dog- after a long summer of “GET AWAY FROM ME IT’S SO HOT.”

And… and… there are apples.

Gala apple jam.

Apple season is here. Omigah, omigah, omigaaaaaaaaaaahhhhwwwwd.

I love apples. Apples are my favorite. Honeycrisps and Red Delicious, oh, I could eat them all day. Even Golden Delicious and Granny Smith have their place here with me. Pink Lady’s? Oh sure. Love those too. I’m just an apple lover, period. However, sometimes you get some apples and maybe it’s the batch or the harvest or maybe it’s just that particular apple… and they’re just not the kind thats best for eating out of your hand.

And that’s what happened with this little group of Gala’s I bought. I was all psyched for apple season, and went a little crazy getting a couple of different kinds, and the Gala’s were just… eh. Not fantastic. Gala apples are mild anyway, a bit grainy, and softish. Not the best eating apple (not to me anyway- I prefer a crisper, slightly more tart apple). So I decided to just use the rest of them in a jam and be done with it.

Rosy pink gala apple jam with vanilla and cardamom.

That way I can move on to eating those Honeycrisps.

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Happy birthday, Cupcake Rehab.

Happy birthday, Cupcake Rehab!

Happy 8th birthday, Cupcake Rehab!

Wow. I cannot believe it’s been EIGHT YEARS. Insane! Yes, I know, it’s unbelievable but this past Saturday, September 12th, was Cupcake Rehab‘s 8th birthday. Eight. 8. Ocho. I’m kinda in shock. It really does seem just like yesterday that I started this blog over at, way back in 2007. Since then, so many things have changed.

Jay and I adopted Indy. Jay got me a KitchenAid mixer which I named Lola (the Cook For the Cure pink one, of course) and a much better camera (Canon EOS Rebel t4i). We bought a house. We got married. We lost our Arwyn just a few weeks ago. And my mom- one of the main impetus for me even starting to bake & cook at all, and back then when I started this blog was still undergoing treatment- is now a NINE YEAR SURVIVOR of breast cancer, and a volunteer with the Adelphi NY Statewide Breast Cancer Program.

I’d like to think my photography has gotten a lot better. And I think my recipe development has too. I’ve grown in both my cooking and my baking, and I’ve started canning and preserving as well. I’ve matured, and so has the blog. It’s shaped me, just as I’ve shaped it.

It's Cupcake Rehab's 8th birthday! Make these adorable vanilla cupcakes for two.

And the people I’ve met? Oh wow. From fellow bloggers to the people who “like” Cupcake Rehab on Facebook, to my Instagram and Twitter followers. They are all AMAZING. I’ve made some fantastic friends through having this blog. I’ve been exposed to things I never thought possible. I’ve made contacts and networked and enjoyed every single minute of it.

Every single day has been fun & exciting.

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Ushering in autumn with spiced nectarine jam.

Spiced nectarine jam.

Whoa. All you bloggers- not to mention store owners- are really kicking in the fall stuff quick, huh? I’m sorry guys- I can’t do it. It’s still hot and while I love fall… I mean, I really LOVE fall… I just can’t do Halloween stuff or hardcore fall recipes in late August, or even the beginning of September. Gross. I’m still eating grilled hot dogs and fresh corn and hanging out in my backyard! I have plenty of time to make apple (and the ever beloved pumpkin) themed desserts and treats. There will be more than enough of that in October. And November. But for now, no. It’s still summer for God’s sake!

But what I can do is make a summery (or end of summer…y) fruit into a fall-appropriate jam. Because it is coming, and when it does won’t it be nice to have a few jars of summer mixed with a little fall? That’s how we have this jam; spiced nectarine. Spiced with vanilla bean, star anise and cinnamon. And actually a little bit of nutmeg, cardamom, powdered honey and ginger, too, because I used a “sweet blend” spice mix I bought from a local spicery at a fair last summer.

It’s basically a way to start to acknowledge fall without going crazy for apples (yet).


These nectarines are the last of what’s left from my most recent shipment of Washington State Fruit. My “Canbassadorship” is coming to and end for this year, and I wanted to make a jam that was easy and didn’t require something like purple basil that not everyone has.

Feel free to substitute your own favorite spices. I know star anise can be polarizing, like licorice. Use cardamom instead. Or ginger. Or nutmeg. Or just add in a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice! That way you get a little bit of everything.

I wouldn’t omit the vanilla bean, though. Not only does it smell heavenly, but it adds those little flecks to the jam that look pretty cool.

Spiced nectarine jam with vanilla bean, cinnamon and star anise.

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