Category Archives: Cakes

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.

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).

A Taste of Spring!

The first week of spring here in the Smoky Mountains brought us a couple of snowy days, but now that the weather’s warming up, we’re all coming down with severe cases of spring fever. And one of the best cures we know of is cake! So for our last entry for March – which is also National Flour Month – we offer you our Blueberry and Lemon Cornmeal Cake. Lightened with ricotta cheese and brightened with fresh berries and lemon juice, the batter features not only our freshly ground cornmeal, but also Old Mill’s all-purpose Plain Flour. It makes a simple but stunning addition to an Easter buffet or any other spring or summer occasion. Come autumn, you can easily turn this versatile recipe into a holiday cake by substituting fresh cranberries for the blueberries, similar to our Cranberry Orange Cornmeal Cake we offer online. This cake also freezes well, so if you like to do all your baking at one time and give home-baked items to friends and family, this will be a hit!

Blueberry and Lemon Cornmeal Cake

Makes: 12 to 16 servings

Ingredients:

Butter for prepping the pan

2 cups Old Mill Plain Flour

1 cup Old Mill Yellow Cornmeal

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

7 ounces (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1/4 cup Old Mill Pure Maple Syrup

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Grated zest of 1 lemon (1 teaspoon)

Juice of 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)

1 container (15 ounces) whole milk ricotta cheese, about 2 cups

2 1/2 cups fresh blueberries, divided use

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Directions:

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan with butter, and place the pan on a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Place the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl, and stir to combine. Set aside.
  3. Place the butter in a large mixing bowl and beat on medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy, 30 seconds. Add the sugar, and beat on medium until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until each egg is incorporated, about 20 seconds each. Add the maple syrup, oil, and the grated lemon zest and juice. Blend on medium speed until well combined, 45 seconds.
  4. Turn about a third of the dry ingredients into the batter and blend on low until just incorporated. Add half of the ricotta cheese and blend. Add another third of dry ingredients and blend, then add the rest of the ricotta, and finally the rest of the dry ingredients, blending just to incorporate. Fold 1 1/2 cups of the blueberries into the batter, and blend on low speed to break up the berries a bit, about 30 seconds. Turn the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter the remaining cup of blueberries on top of the batter, and sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Place the baking sheet with springform pan in the oven.
  5. Bake until the cake is well browned, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 to 20 minutes. After 1 hour, gently cover the top of the cake with foil to protect it from over-browning. Remove the cake from the oven, and let the cake cool in the pan 20 to 25 minutes. Run a knife around the edges of the pan, and unfasten the sides of the pan. Let the cake cool completely before slicing, about 1 hour. Slice and serve with vanilla ice cream.

 

March is National Flour Month at The Old Mill

Springtime in the mountains brings the blossoming of flowers, and it also draws our attention to a “flour” of a different sort – the one we use in the kitchen every day. March is National Flour Month, a time to explore new ways to bake with flour.

At The Old Mill General Store, you can step back to the 1800s with some old flours and explore some relatively new ones on our shelves. For example, we’ve been milling Corn Flour as long as we have been stone-grinding grits. Corn flour is the fine powdery flour that is sifted off in the process of making grits. It is perfect for folding into cornbreads, muffins, pancakes, and cookies. And it makes some of the best homemade corn dogs!

Whole Wheat Flour, also ground right in our historic mill, is the most delicious and fresh whole wheat flour you will ever taste. Wheat berries are crushed and ground into a flour perfect for muffins, like Morning Glory Muffins, as well as pancakes, cheese straws, and loaf breads. Use our whole wheat flour anytime you want a better and more nutritious substitute for white flour.

Another interesting whole wheat flour sold at the General Store is a White Whole Wheat Bread FlourThat’s right – it’s white. But it tastes and bakes like whole wheat. This special flour milled from Montana hard wheat berries is a bread flour just right for baking into loaves, dinner rolls, even pizza crust.

Also from America’s West is our medium Rye Flourwhich bakes much like whole wheat flour and can be used in any baking recipe calling for whole wheat. It adds a nuttiness to recipes, and it is delicious in sweets, from cakes to chocolate chip cookies. America’s frontier cooks used to substitute rye flour when wheat wasn’t available.

Cold weather climates bring us our Buckwheat Flour, which is not a flour at all but ground from the seeds of the buckwheat plant, a cousin to rhubarb. We’ve been selling buckwheat flour and buckwheat pancake mixes to happy customers for many years, but with the rise in interest in gluten-free baking, more people are getting interested in buckwheat. Try ours, and your pancakes will have never tasted so good. You can also use buckwheat in banana bread and muffins, substituting buckwheat for half of the white flour.

Without a doubt, the Southern flour that has the deepest history in our region is Self-Rising FlourIt’s a staple in kitchens throughout the South, where in the early 1900s it became the flour that made the best, most reliable, biscuits. The secret is a soft winter wheat flour that is lower in gluten (protein) than other flours, and the baking powder and salt are mixed right into the flour. There’s no measuring of leavening, and that’s a time-saver we can appreciate today. Try it in your biscuits, cornbread, pancakes, and cakes.

Here is a recipe for a perfect morning muffin called the Morning Glory Muffin. We make it with our freshly-milled Whole Wheat Flour, and it’s just the way to salute National Flour Month.

Morning Glory Muffins 

Makes 12 muffins

Prep: 10 to 15 minutes

Bake: 18 to 23 minutes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup raisins, softened in hot water

2 cups Old Mill Whole Wheat Flour

1 cup light brown sugar

2 teaspoons baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups grated peeled carrots

1 apple, peeled and grated

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/2 cup finely chopped pecans

3 large eggs

2/3 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup orange juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set aside a muffin pan with 12 wells. Soak the raisins in hot water to cover and set aside.
  2. Place the flour, brown sugar, soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl and stir to combine. Add the carrots, apple, coconut, and pecans. Make a well in the center and add the eggs, oil, orange juice, and vanilla. Stir the ingredients together until just mixed.
  3. Spray the muffin pan with vegetable oil spray or line with paper liners. Scoop batter into the pan, filling each well nearly to the top. The batter will fill 12 to 14 wells. Place the pan in the oven, and bake until the muffins brown and are just firm on top, 18 to 23 minutes. Run a knife around the edges and transfer to a rack to cool completely.