It’s finally fall!
I haven’t had a lot of field work this summer, which has actually been a little bit of a relief, since it has been SO HOT. I have been ready for fall for about a month now, and next week we are finally supposed to have some fall-like weather. Yay! Just in time too, since I’ll be heading back out to the field for the week.
Anyway, in honor of fall and apple season, I decided to put a spin on a family favorite recipe. Originally, these were called Cherry Bars. It’s a recipe my family has been making for years. It makes an appearance at family picnics and gatherings all through the summer. Moist yellow cake dolloped with cherry pie filling and topped with an almond glaze. What’s not to love?
Well, if you’re like me, the cherries are what’s not to love. I love cherry flavor, just not the texture of cooked cherries. This was one dessert I usually skipped. The few bites I have eaten, around the pieces of cherries, were delicious. So, I decided to change it up. Any fruit pie fillings would work here, but since it’s fall, I decided it was time for apples.
You can absolutely use a can of your favorite pie filling. Cherry, blueberry, peach – the sky’s the limit! That’s how we’ve always made the cherry version. But for the apple, I decided to make a homemade filling. The trick is to cook it all the way on the stovetop first, like a canned filling would be. Just peel and chop the apples, then combine them with butter, sugar, flour, and spices. Cook the mixture in a covered pot until the apples are cooked and the juices are thickened. Let it cool completely while you whip up the cake batter.
Cream your butter and sugar, add your vanilla and eggs, and then mix in the dry ingredients. So easy! Spread part of the batter into your pan, and dollop on the pie filling. Drop the rest of the batter by spoonfuls over the filling. Bake it up, let it cool, and drizzle it with a delicious glaze. I sprinkled on a few chopped pecans, but that’s always optional.
The glaze is minimal, but adds so much flavor. Almond goes so well with cherries, and I highly recommend this glaze if you make the cherry bars. A sprinkle of sliced almonds would add a nice crunch as well. While I love almond flavor, caramel and apples just seem to belong together. And a scattering of pecans or walnuts is perfect with those flavors. I would try a lemon glaze with a blueberry filling (just add some lemon zest and use lemon juice instead of milk – leave out the extract). And you could make a vanilla glaze to go with any of these flavors by using vanilla extract instead of the other flavorings. What flavors would your family like?
Caramel Apple Bars
Yellow cake, pie filling, and a drizzle of caramel!
- 21-ounce can of your favorite fruit pie filling, OR
- 4 cups diced apples (about 1/2-inch dice)
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmug
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- heavy pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 cup butter or margarine
- 1 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 3 cups flour
- Powdered sugar glaze, OR
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons chopped pecans
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- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until butter is melted and apples are beginning to soften. Cover pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook until apples are cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10x15-inch pan.
- Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla extract and eggs and beat well. Add dry ingredients and mix until combined. Spread two-thirds of the batter into the prepared pan. Dollop the pie filling over the batter. Drop the remaining batter by spoonfuls over the pie filling. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool.
- Heat brown sugar and butter in a saucepan over medium heat until both are melted. Bring to a boil and add salt and milk. Return to a boil. Remove from heat and whisk in powdered sugar and vanilla extract. Drizzle over cooled cake and immediately sprinkle with chopped pecans if desired.
- This cake is best within a day or two. If you want to keep it longer, store it in the refrigerator.
- Use whatever pie filling you like. One 21-ounce can is about 2 1/2 cups of homemade filling.
- Adapt the glaze flavor to the pie filling you are using. Vanilla, almond, lemon - the possibilities are endless!
The Archaeologist Bakes http://www.thearchaeologistbakes.com/
Caramel glaze adapted from Cooking Club of America