Skip to content

where apples fall

15 October 2013


family tree apple cake

yesterday, i went shopping. it’s something i do now only out of necessity. when mom (a.k.a. little bird) was alive, we went frequently. persistently. at times, ad nauseum. i had to force myself to remember that, to mom (who spent more than 25 years in upscale sales), retail felt like going home.

no matter where we shopped, she proactively sought out sales people in every store—as if they were family. most newbie retail associates tried to avoid her enthusiastic advances (and eye contact). but seasoned comrades, much to mom’s delight, engaged respectfully in conversations. and she took their parting words to come back again soon like invitations from dear friends.

my solo retail outing (mission: to replace ratty old sweaters with new, unratty counterparts) took a surprising turn. i found myself drawn—clearly by some mysterious, magnetic force—to a retail outlet and to a sweater nearly identical to one little bird used to wear religiously. yeah, ok, hers didn’t have a hoodie. and she didn’t wear mens’ sweaters, except for dad’s when she felt a little blue. and i have no intention of wearing a brooch on my sweater. but other than that, we could have been twins. i grabbed the sweater, hugged it tightly to my chest and grinned a big toothy one. even the newbie sales guy at the register seemed to feel the excitement of my discovery and pride in being part of a shiny, new-store family. i think mom would have liked him.

dominant gene: skinny legs

dominant genes: skinny legs, big feet

as the years go by, i catch myself sounding—and looking—just a little bit more like mom. a lilt in my voice (with only a hint of New England accent). a facial expression. a wicked-lame joke. an affinity for a handsome, black and white sweater. and i think (with some modicum of panic), i am becoming my mother. well, dear, the apples don’t fall far from the tree.

if you’re in the mood, crank up Glenn Miller’s rendition of People Like You and Me, get out the flour, and whip up a nicely moist apple cake (recipe just below).

mom would have liked it with a double-dollop of vanilla bean whipped cream. or maybe some vanilla ice cream. or both. from our gene pool: when it comes to dessert, always shoot the moon.

endnote: sincere thanks to those who’ve continued to stop by during this quiet time. losing our beloved Winnie on 17 February left my creative spirit squashed. appreciate your patience as i get my juju back.

Family Tree Apple Cake
based on a recipe from pinch of yum


for the cake
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/3 cup oil (i use sunflower)
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups chopped apples (i used a mix of Queen Cox and Bramley; if you don’t have access to these, try a nice, tart Granny Smith)

for the topping
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar
2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
6 tablespoons butter


  1. preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. butter a 10-inch square pan. (if you don’t have this more unusual size [mine is a Emile Henry Urban Colors square baking dish], you could use a 9 x13-inch pan, but the cake wouldn’t be as lofty.)
  3. to make the topping, in a medium bowl, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, flour, cinnamon and cloves.
  4. using a pastry blender, cut in the butter (leaving some larger lumps) until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs; set aside.
  5. to make the cake, in a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt.
  6. in the bowl of a stand mixer, with beater attachment, beat brown sugar and oil until combined.
  7. add egg, buttermilk and vanilla, and mix until throughly incorporated.
  8. add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  9. fold in the apples.
  10. scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading out evenly.
  11. sprinkle the topping evenly over the cake.
  12. bake cake until golden brown and a tester comes out free of wet batter, about 45 minutes.
  13. let cake cool in pan on rack, but it’s great served warm.
dominant genes: goofy w/beak

dominant genes: goofy w/beak



Post a comment
  1. Carla Arnold #
    October 15, 2013

    Great story and really good cake. Perfect warm with a cup of joe on a cool autumn morning. Yum indeed!

    • dj #
      October 15, 2013

      gosh, thanks, Toot!

  2. October 15, 2013

    Welcome back, dj, I’ve missed your posts!!!! As always, your stories are inspiring and so totally warm and relatable (is that a word?). Will have to make this cake soon. I’ve been trying to get to the farmers’ market every couple of weeks now that it’s apple season in NC.

    • dj #
      October 15, 2013

      thanks for the kind words, A-M. will look forward to hearing what kinds of apples you decided on and how your cake turned out!

  3. Elizabeth Erskine #
    October 15, 2013

    It is great to see a new blog post from you. I want to see the sweater! You have really brought your mother to life for me. I feel like I knew her.

    • dj #
      October 15, 2013

      thank you, e. will have to take a pic in the new sweater. know mom would have loved chatting with you!

  4. michael #
    October 15, 2013

    it is that time of year (albeit without the change of season you have there, or in New England) for apple cakes and warm sweaters; you capture all—the autumnal hues, warm-oven scents, and coziness of a well-worn hoodie—word by word. i can almost taste it, but drat! not close enough to actually sample… your posts always make me hungry for more.

    • dj #
      October 15, 2013

      thanks, M. wish you were here to share it. i’d even lend you my hoodie.

  5. Cheryl (Little Sis) #
    October 20, 2013

    Hi big sis!! Love the story! Yes, we are both like mumma, in our own ways!! Skinny legs and big feet are your crosses to bear. Mine is skinny legs and a big beak!! LOL!! Have missed your blogs!! I so remember her black and white sweater! Love you! xoxo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: