Happy Halloween!

Since there are so many Halloween posts floating around, and last year I wrote about the history of the holiday, today I’m sharing a recipe directly from one of my favorite Halloween stories: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.

I grew up close to Tarrytown, NY near where the Dutch settled in the mid-seventeenth century and the story of Ichabod Crane and his headless horseman took place. We took many school trips to Tarrytown in the fall, but I never got tired of wandering around the old cemeteries, seeing Revolutionary War skirmish sites, and throwing apples at the tree where Major Andre was supposedly hanged. (I don’t remember why we did that!) Anyway, I especially loved the bonfires with the live readings of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving’s famous short story. After the reading, we’d go to a nearby inn where we’d drink hot cider and eat apple cakes and ginger cakes.

Why those two cakes? Because they’re mentioned in the story when Washington Irving gives us a wonderful description of the Van Tassel feast. Here is the open source passage:

“Fain would I pause to dwell upon the world of charms that burst upon the enraptured gaze of my hero, as he entered the state parlor of Van Tassel’s mansion. Not those of the bevy of buxom lasses, with their luxurious display of red and white; but the ample charms of a genuine Dutch country tea-table, in the sumptuous time of autumn. Such heaped up platters of cakes of various and almost indescribable kinds, known only to experienced Dutch housewives! There was the doughty doughnut, the tender oly koek, and the crisp and crumbling cruller; sweet cakes and short cakes, ginger cakes and honey cakes, and the whole family of cakes. And then there were apple pies, and peach pies, and pumpkin pies; besides slices of ham and smoked beef; and moreover delectable dishes of preserved plums, and peaches, and pears, and quinces; not to mention broiled shad and roasted chickens; together with bowls of milk and cream, all mingled higgledy-piggledy, pretty much as I have enumerated them, with the motherly teapot sending up its clouds of vapor from the midst—Heaven bless the mark! I want breath and time to discuss this banquet as it deserves, and am too eager to get on with my story. Happily, Ichabod Crane was not in so great a hurry as his historian, but did ample justice to every dainty.”

When I was growing up, it wasn’t uncommon for local restaurants to serve “Ichabod Crane’s Last Meal” which included roasted chickens, homemade jams, and freshly-made cakes and pies. So today, in honor of the season, I’m giving you my grandmother’s recipe for Dutch Apple Cake, similar to the one Ichabod Crane ate in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, not long before he met his fate with the headless horseman. I hope you enjoy it!


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