One-Bowl Pumpkin Squares with Cream Cheese Icing

Every fall kitchen needs a good pumpkin square recipe, and this cake does not disappoint. Pumpkins were originally cultivated by Native Americans and are a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as fiber. Bake these squares in a 13-by 9-inch pan, and freeze them unfrosted if you like to bake ahead. And if you like less icing and more of a glaze, cut the icing recipe in half and spread it over the warm cake.
Makes about 24 to 32 squares
Prep: 15 minutes
Bake: 25 to 30 minutes
Ingredients for the Cake:
Vegetable oil spray for misting the pan
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Ingredients for the Cream Cheese Icing:
4 ounces (half an 8-inch block) cream cheese, at room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions:
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Mist a 13- by 9-inch pan with vegetable oil spray, and set the pan aside.
2. Place the pumpkin, eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and oil in a large mixing bowl, and mix with a wooden spoon until the eggs are incorporated and the mixture has thickened slightly and is smooth, about 100 strokes. Place the flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda and salt on top of the pumpkin mixture, and with a fork, toss the dry ingredients together to combine lightly. Using the wooden spoon, fold the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture and stir until smooth, about 50 strokes.
3. Turn the batter into the prepared pan, and place the pan in the oven. Bake until the cake springs back when lightly pressed and has turned lightly browned around the edges, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven to cool.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the icing. Place the soft cream cheese and butter in a medium-size mixing bowl. Blend with a hand-mixer on low speed, or with a wooden spoon, until smooth. Add the sugar and vanilla, and blend until smooth, 1 minute.
5. When the pumpkin cake has cooled to the touch, spread the icing over the top of the cake, and let the cake rest for 1 hour before slicing into squares or bars.

The Old Mill Restaurant celebrates 25 years!

A new restaurant began construction in late 1992 along the banks of the Little Pigeon River. A few families got together and formed a partnership to enter into this new venture. That was Al & Mary Nell Blanton, Ben & Patsy Frizzell, and Cotton & Sarah Berrier. They wanted to bring families together in a comfortable and welcoming atmosphere, feed them well and invite them to return. A great place for local families to work was also very important and over the years there have been as many as 4 generations of the same families working here. They also wanted the restaurant to mean something, have a connection, and that is when they came up with The Cornflour Restaurant. The name came from the largest source of inspiration; the grist mill next door. The Old Mill, of course, dates back to 1830 and has been grinding corn since the first turn of the water-powered stones. Cornflour is a sub-product of making grits. Grits are sifted, after being ground, to remove the larger parts of the hull. During this process, the dust that falls to the bottom of the grits machine is called corn flour. The restaurant opened its doors in the fall of 1993.

It was in 1995 when the Stout/Simmons family, who had owned and operated the grist mill and adjoining general store for about 67 years, decided to sell. They wanted us to be the ones to carry on the legacy that they and the other 5 previous owners had built. We were honored to do so and that’s when the name of the restaurant was changed to The Old Mill Restaurant. The mill has always been privately owned and operated. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Tennessee Civil War Trail. The Old Mill itself had many names over its 150 preceding years, and many other industries were house inside the building as well, but more about that in another post. It was in the mid-1950’s that tourism began to really take hold in Pigeon Forge and the name was changed to The Old Mill. Its name and image became synonymous with the town. It’s a name that will stay forever.

For the past 25 years, the very same owners, and many employees who have been with us from the very beginning, and are very much a part of our larger family, have welcomed visitors from all over the world. On our busiest days, we take care of more than 3,000 guests from breakfast to dinner. In the beginning, corn was part of every course of the meal by using the corn flour, grits, cornmeal, and corn. Our customers told us what they loved best about the menu and today every lunch and dinner begins with a bowl of fresh Corn Chowder and a basket of Corn Fritters with maple butter. And, for dessert, we serve over 1200 slices of Pecan Pie a day, along with a fresh baked seasonal cobbler, banana pudding, and chocolate cake.

Over the next few months, we will share some of our quarter of a century history and let you get to know more about some of the fine folks you have probably met when you visited. And, we want to see your memories as well. We invite you to send pictures of your family enjoying some time with us. Please send them to customerservice@old-mill.com. Some of your pictures may be included in an upcoming blog post, on social, or maybe even in print. So, if you send us something, it is with the understanding that you have given us permission to use it.

While we can’t share an anniversary cake with all of you, we can share a recipe so you can make one and your whole family can enjoy it! You may have seen it in the last post. We’ve decided we wanted to celebrate with a cake as synonymous with the Appalachian region as The Old Mill, so we are making the prettiest Apple Stack Cake we’ve ever seen! Be sure and keep your inbox open for us, for that and many other recipes.

Old Mill Historian and 20-year employee, Jimmy Proffitt, can be reached at jimmy@old-mill.com if you have any questions or would like to share any family history connection you may have with The Old Mill.

Apple Stack Cake

Photo credit: American Cake, by Anne Byrn (Rodale, 2016)

If you were invited to a wedding in the Appalachian mountains, you might be asked to bring a cake layer. For generations, a wedding cake has been constructed from these spice cake layers and filled with a thick and fragrant apple butter made from dried apples put up from the fall harvest. The more layers to the cake – 12 to 16, perhaps – the more popular the bride, or so the story goes. Stack cakes may contain other fillings, often lemon or coconut, but the original was and still is apple. Not calling for fancy and expensive ingredients, stack cakes use what people have on hand – modest baking staples like sorghum, flour, and vegetable shortening, and you could bake the cake in a cast iron skillet. Or you can use 9-inch round cake pans. The secret to a great stack cake is to bake it a day in advance and cover it so that the apple filling slowly seeps into the cake. To save time, use apple butter, such as the Old Mill Apple Butter, instead of making the filling.

Here are links to Old Mill Products, which can be used in the recipe below from our friend Anne Byrn. Old Mill Apple Butter, Spiced Apple Seasoning, Old Mill Plain Flour, Muddy Pond Sorghum, Molasses

Makes: 12 to 16 servings
Prep: 2 hours
Bake: 14 to 16 minutes
Apple Filling:
15 to 16 ounces dried unsulphured apple rings (4 to 5 packed cups)
1 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
4 cups water
Cake:
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup sorghum or molasses
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature
Garnish:
Powdered sugar or sweetened whipped cream
Directions:
1. For the filling, place the apples in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg over the apples. Pour in the water, which should half-cover the apples. Bring the mixture to a boil, and once boiling, reduce the heat to low and allow to simmer, covered, for about 1 hour, or until the apples are soft and the mixture has thickened. Add a bit more water if needed. Remove the apples from the heat and let them cool. When cool, place them in thirds in a food processor and pulse until smooth but some chunks of apple remain. Or mash the apples by hand with a potato masher. You will have about 5 heaping cups of apples to spread between 6 cake layers. Set aside.
2. Meanwhile, for the cake, place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut six pieces of parchment paper to fit in the bottom of six 9-inch round pans. Smear a bit of vegetable shortening on the bottom of the pans to hold the parchment in place, and set the pans aside.
3. Place the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine, and set the mixture aside. In another large bowl, place the shortening, sugar, and sorghum. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is creamy and smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating just until blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour, and beating until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. The batter will be thick, more like a cookie dough. Use a strong rubber spatula, if needed, to facilitate mixing.
4. Divide the batter into 6 equal parts. Each part will be about 10 ounces. Spread the batter out into the pans, using the rubber spatula or a flexible metal spatula. Place 2 to 3 pans in the oven at a time, depending on the size of your oven. Bake until the cakes are a light golden color and spring back when lightly pressed in the center, 14 to 16 minutes. Remove the pans to a wire rack to cool 3 minutes, then run a knife around the edges and turn out the warm layers onto the rack. Immediately spread 1 heaping cup of apple filling over the top of the warm layer. Top with a second layer, spread on filling, top with a third, and so on. Repeat the process for the rest of the batter until you end with the 6th layer on top.
5. Place the cake in a cake saver or under a cake dome for 1 to 2 days before serving. Before serving, sprinkle the top of the cake with powdered sugar or pile on whipped cream.
– Used with permission from Anne Byrn author of American Cake. This recipe appears in American Cake (Rodale Books, 2016).

Old Mill Apple Skillet Cobbler

Start with fresh apples and an iron skillet and you wind up with an irresistible cobbler!

Old Mill Apple Skillet Cobbler

Makes 8 to 12 servings
Ingredients:
2 9-inch pie crusts (see recipe below)
8 medium apples, peeled, cored and sliced 1/3-inch thick
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 tablespoons butter, cold, cut into pieces
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Directions:
  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Roll the pie pastry out to two 9-inch rounds. (Or use two pre-made crusts.)
  2. Place one of the pastry rounds in a 10-inch cast iron skillet. Pile the apples into the skillet evenly. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup sugar over the top. Sprinkle on the cinnamon. Distribute the cold pieces of butter across the top.
  3. Cut the remaining round of pie pastry into 1-inch strips. Lay 4 to 5 strips across the top of the apples, leaving a couple inches in between each one. With the remaining strips weave them in an over-and-under fashion to create a lattice pattern. Pinch the edges of the lattice strips to seal them to the bottom crust. Tuck any excess crust under to finish the edges. If desired, scallop the edges or press the edges down with the tines of a fork to create a finished look.
  4. Brush the egg on top of the pie crust. Sprinkle the top of the crust with the tablespoon of sugar. Place the cobbler in the oven.
  5. Bake the cobbler 10 minutes, until golden brown, then reduce the heat to 350 degrees and bake until the filling is bubbly and the apples are soft, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cover the cobbler lightly with foil if it starts to get too brown. Remove from the oven, and let it rest for 30 minutes. Spoon warm into serving bowls and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Homemade Pie Crust

Makes two 9-inch crusts
Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups Old Mill Unbleached Plain Flour, plus extra for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup vegetable shortening, chilled
4 tablespoons very cold water
Directions:
Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Cut the shortening into small pieces and distribute over the flour. Cut into the flour using a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture looks like coarse meal. Sprinkle water over the mixture and stir with a fork until the mixture holds together. If still crumbly, add a little more water. Divide into two balls and place each on a sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper. Press down on the balls to flatten, wrap securely, and chill 1 hour.
When ready to roll, place the dough rounds on a lightly floured board and roll to 1/8-inch thickness.