Spiced Jewish Apple Cake
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone – Why You Should Embrace Fall Baking

I’ve been baking for a long time. I know my way around professional bakeries, and can even crack two eggs at a time – a skill mastered while cracking 90 eggs in batch for massive orders of carrot cake. Yet just last week, I made a pie, my own recipe!, that was an epic fail in form.

You know what? It didn’t matter at all. Not one of my guests who devoured the sad looking, formless pie cared that the curd didn’t set. We scooped it into bowls, served it with spoons and called it “deconstructed.”

The point is, baking is finicky, even for seasoned bakers who follow all the best practices and have loads of experience. Once you accept that your final result may not look like that on the cover of a magazine, you can let go of that anxiety, enjoy the process, and most importantly the result. Because it’ll probably still taste dang delicious.

There’s no better time of year to embrace baking than the fall. And you’ll be doubly rewarded as your house is filled with the aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves – in my book, way better than any scented candle. At the end of the day, even if your cake falls flat, there’s always frosting.

Looking for a little fall baking inspiration? Here are a few of my seasonal favorites:

Pumpkin Coffee Cake with Hazelnut Streusel

The only thing better than pumpkin bread is one topped with a buttery, nutty streusel. Baked in a cake pan, this provides more surface area for the crumbly topping, and allows you to serve it for brunch or dessert, whichever you may fancy.
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Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Maple Muffins

Adapted from Alison Roman
Ever since being inspired by Alison's recipe that she shares on the New York Times, no other pumpkin muffin will do. Often times, I pour the batter into a large loaf pan and make pumpkin bread out of it, which will take around one hour's time to bake. The maple syrup and browned butter yield an incredible moistness and give it so much flavor, and the spice combination is just right.
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Pumpkin Snacking Bars

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Martha's pumpkin squares are good, but mine pack something extra – almost twice the pumpkin. Admittedly, it was an accident the first time I made them this way, but I haven't looked back. They are moist, with the perfect amount of sweetness. I've also dialed in the spices exactly as I want them, though feel free to adjust the spice measurements according to your preferences. Perfectly delicious on their own, a drizzle of sweetened cream cheese across the top makes them extra special.
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Pumpkin Malva Pudding Pie

Does malva pudding "need" a pie crust? This traditional South African dessert is superb in its traditional form; a spongy cake made almost pudding-like after being thoroughly doused with a sweetened cream and melted butter mixture. But in pie form, I discovered that the slightly salted crust provides a welcome contrast to the highly sweetened filling. I take this pie in an autumnal direction, using pumpkin butter, pumpkin pie spice and ginger, in lieu of the traditional apricot jam found in most Malva Puddings.
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Carrot, Apple & Date Morning Muffins

I'm very proud of these muffins, as this was one of my earliest baking recipes, and I do have to say they are quite delicious. When you are looking for a healthy breakfast or snack, that still feels like an indulgence, bake these. They are full of good-for-you ingredients like almond flour, whole wheat flour, walnuts, coconut oil, and of course the carrots and apples. I like to grate the carrots on the small holes of a box grater, which requires a bit more elbow grease, but it's worth it to get the right texture. The apples, on the other hand, you'll want to grate on the larger holes, lest they turn into something more akin to apple sauce, and will make the muffins overly moist.
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Spiced Jewish Apple Cake

Typically, a Jewish apple cake will use oil in the recipe, but butter lends a richness and flavor profile that I prefer. This cake is moist, dense and chock full of apples and cinnamon. If you like, add a half cup of walnuts or pecans for nuttiness and textural contrast.
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Bourbon Apple Cake with Maple Cinnamon Frosting

It really is worth it to make your own apple puree for this cake, instead of reaching for a jar of apple sauce. You'll get better texture and flavor from fresh apples, plus have the opportunity to infuse them with bourbon, lending a subtle yet unmistakable note to the cake. The bourbon cooks with the apples, so much of it evaporates, but if you prefer not to use alcohol you can substitute orange juice.
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Apple Cinnamon Bread Pudding with Miso Caramel Sauce

Don't be put off by the miso in the caramel sauce. Admittedly, the first time I used miso in caramel I was skeptical, but wow – it adds an incredible depth of flavor – and you'll be surprised how much you love it. This is a great dinner party dish, as it can all be assembled ahead, but also a supremely comforting cold-weather treat. Making your own applesauce is an extra step, but well worth it for the chunky texture that only homemade can provide. You can bake it in individual ramekins, or one large baking dish.
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Caramelized Apple Custard Cake

This dessert has just enough flour to remove it from the realm of custards, but yet not enough to make it fully a cake. Hence, a "custard cake." If you know clafoutis, it's sort of like that consistency. And like a clafoutis, I suggest serving it perfectly warm from the oven, with a scoop of ice cream, on a crisp fall day. I like my apples to have a slight bite to them for texture, but you can cook them longer if you prefer a softer result (see instructions).
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