Monday, August 25, 2014

September: 12-Layer Apple Cake and Going For It.

Several friends have told me I should write a blog this year, with intensities ranging from a casual conversational suggestion to an urgent and detailed plan. “You should totally do it,” one friend-who-shall-remain-nameless implored. “You could write about being Southern and cooking and running and psychology and being a stay-at-home-mom for a year. I’d totally read that!”

Um, okay?

So I just packed up my family, moved to a new city, quit my job, and now I'm going to write about work, parenting, sports and leisure, food, and an entire region of the United States all within one cohesive and brief narrative. Check. Got it.

Did I mention that I'm not even a writer?

Clearly, her plan was dismissed. Immediately.

Except then my issue of Southern Living arrived. With twelve layers of apple cake goodness. 

 *Note: as will become apparent below, this cover photo was taken from the Southern Living website. I did not bake that.

There was just no other excuse for its creation. We have no friends here and there are not enough miles of trail to justify eating half of this thing. And if I make it, with no friends or colleagues to share it with, I will eat half of it. It’s just a mathematical fact.

But…If it were for the sake of the blog…

And so the idea was born. The rules are simple: Each month I will attempt to re-create the cover of Southern Living magazine and will post my reflections on the process. For issues featuring a food-based cover, this should easily address both the southern and the food portions of my friend’s vision for my blog. I'll try to figure out how to work in the running, psychology, and parenting stuff along the way. When interior or exterior design is featured, I will reserve the right to make a case-by-case decision about whether to recreate the cover or select another prominently-displayed recipe from inside the magazine. Basically, what I’m saying here is that I will make up my own rules as we go along. So deal with it.

For this month, I’ve decided to feature the Southern and food-related portions of my discussion in a section I have cleverly named, “The Southern Cooking Part.” Subsequently, I will offer some work and parenting-related insights in the section called “The Insightful Part,” but will offer forewarning that I tend to lack insight, so don’t sue for misrepresentation.

Seriously y’all, I have no idea how to write a blog. So here we go.

The Southern Cooking Part…
Okay, wow. So in hindsight, I picked a hard cover to start with. Or maybe all of the Southern Living covers will be this hard. We'll see. But for what it's worth, here are my thoughts on the actual cooking. If you want the recipe, here's the link to it on Southern Living.

Step 1: Gather all ingredients. And I cannot emphasize this point enough: Do not attempt to purchase your ingredients at Wal-Mart on the Sunday afternoon before schools start. Can you hashtag in blogs? Because if so, I'm just gonna say #poorlifechoices

Step 2: Make the apple filling/topping. Having a really good vegetable peeler and an apple corer gizmo thingie helped a ton here. It basically speeds the process up a ton and eliminates almost all waste from imperfect peeling and slicing. So given that, I have to call out Southern Living because their recipe called for 6 lbs of apples, and I definitely used every bit of 8 lbs or maybe even more.


Here's what the apples look like when they first go in the Dutch oven and also after they've been cooking for a bit. As a side note, the recipe didn't say to remove the seeds from the lemon slices before they go in the pot, but you should. Again with the hashtags... #hindsight #tinyseeds

Wish I had a photo to include of my husband, laughing to himself, saying in the Beavis and Butthead voice:
"Huh Huh. Dutch Oven."

Step 3: Bake the cakes. Y'all, this cake recipe is perfect. Apple butter in the batter? Yes, please. I even substituted whole wheat flour and they tasted great!

My expert tip? Use scissors to cut the edge of the disposable pie pans to remove your cakes easily!

Step 4: Make the Apple Cider Glaze also featured in this month's issue. No pictures of this, and frankly, it tasted great but did NOT look like the brown, gooey, caramel-y stuff in the cover photo. Mine was lighter in color and thinner in texture.

Did not care. Tasted great, regardless.

In hindsight, I followed the recipe exactly, but I probably didn't allow mine to boil/reduce long enough, because I had almost twice as much volume as what I needed for glazing the cakes and decorating after assembly.

Step 5: Assembly of 6 layers of cake plus alternating layers of apple, topped with extra glaze.

I have no idea how Southern Living got their cake to stand up so straight. Here are a few shots of my delicious leaning tower of Pisa.

 Step 6: Take up a big ol' slice and eat it! I garnished mine with some homemade cinnamon whipped cream and extra drizzles of the leftover glaze. It honestly plated much prettier than I thought it would, given the monstrosity on my platter.

Yes, I photographed this on my couch. There's terrible lighting in our new apartment kitchen. Plus, my kids eat on the couch all day long anyway, so what difference does it make?

At the end of the day, I'd say it was good but not great. I'll definitely make the cake again, but might skip the excessive layering and do something with cinnamon cream cheese frosting. Still, I'm not complaining about eating this!

The Insightful Part…
And here's the thing: I almost didn't do this. Both the cake and the blog. Trust me, I'm sure these photos are not the most professional you've ever seen. Also, my cake leaned at a 30-degree angle. My glaze was not perfect. I've written nothing of importance or substance here.

But I kind of had fun today. 

Probably more often than I care to admit, I don't go for stuff if I think I'm not going to be good at it. Or if I do, I make certain to keep things on the D-L, because what if people find out and judge me? But seriously, who's judging me? I'm the one judging myself.

What if I quit my job and it's a huge mistake?
What if I'm not cut out for this stay-at-home-mom thing?
What if my work-friends think I don't fit in with them anymore because I'm selling out and turning into a Pinterest mom?
What if my stay-at-home-mom-friends think I don't fit in with them because I still want to work?
What if I try to train for this marathon and don't finish?
What if I do finish but I'm slow?
What if I write a blog and it's dumb?
What if I try to bake a 12-layer cake and it doesn't look like the cover shot staged by professional photographers and baked by professional chefs?

Here's to my year of just going for some stuff. Maybe even some big stuff. Like running a marathon and raising two kids and living in a brand new city and baking a 12-layer apple cake and who knows what else.

I’m already feeling nervous about the Thanksgiving special edition. Remind me in November that I decided to go for it.


  1. Sarah, I loved reading this. I agree, the whole, 100% stay-at-home mom thing feels weird, but freeing and fun at the same time. I am SO impressed with your cake!

  2. Thanks, Mandy! Miss y'all and hope you are enjoying your new city too. Maybe you should start up a blog along with me?!?

  3. This is so fun. I'm totally going to follow it. I blogged last year in LA and it helped me so much as I navigated a new place that felt so far from home. I had some of the same reservations you did but I did it and it was great. Keep it up! MIss you!!

    1. Thanks, Becca! Big hugs to y'all. Miss you too and hope things are going well as you settle back into east coast life!