Cider Pressing and Two Kinds of Cupcakes

20 Oct

A few weeks ago, when summer had let us know it was over by summoning its friend autumn to release the Portland rains, we celebrated the beginning of fall by hosting a cider pressing at our house.  I say that casually, as though we’re used to doing such things, but, for us, having a large group of people over is about as common as having a large group of bears over.  (Okay, so maybe people coming over just marginally wins over bears coming over, being as though we’ve had a bunch of bears over, let’s see, never, and we tend to have people over to our house at a rate of about one instance per year.  So, fine.)

Aversions to entertaining aside, the cider pressing was a huge success.  My husband’s aunt and uncle drove out from the coast with their cider pressing machine, set it up just outside our garage, and, as if by magic, hordes of people began to appear with apples and pears aplenty.  Hordes of people we had invited, but, still, hordes in any case.  One cousin of my husband’s brought several hundred pounds of pears from his own tree.  That’s tree, singular, not plural.  His truck, back bumper slung low to the ground, was filled with bin after bin of pears, and I could hardly believe that one tree had managed to produce so much fruit.  The kicker was, he said the tree had actually produced a fairly low yield that year.  Those hundreds of pounds of pears were a small harvest.

The pears, combined with apples of all sorts, made incredible cider.  Tart and sweet, it was the freshest beverage I think I’d ever had.  The biggest hit of all, however, might have been the cider press itself.  With its efficient design and wonderfully growling motor, it attracted people of all ages.  No matter if you were a child or an adult, there was no better place to be than standing at the helm of the press, feeding it with whole apples and pears, watching the press rapidly shred and pulp the fruit, then slowly and satisfyingly hand cranking the actual pressing plate down upon the pulp, squeezing out the fresh juice.

As the machine was starting to slow its production, we all convened in the kitchen to dish out an enormous potluck meal.  There was a fresh tomato tart, a selection of several incredible salads, grilled sausages, a baked polenta dish, macaroni and cheese made in a crock pot (seriously, did you know you could do that?  ‘Cause I didn’t and now I kind of feel like I’ve been missing out), pesto pasta, smoked salmon, Indian food, a peach cobbler, one gigantic chocolate cake, and, because I like no better excuse to bake than having the promise of many mouths to feed, two types of very fall-themed cupcakes.

Let’s be honest, even before cupcakes became the dessert de rigueur, then quickly became the most maligned and passé dessert on the planet (oh, how quickly food trends come and go), I think everyone could appreciate how wonderfully portable, casual, and delicious cupcakes are.  You don’t need a plate and fork when you eat a cupcake.  You don’t even need a table or chair, since you can eat a cupcake while walking around, kicking a soccer ball, or simply standing in one place and enjoying the company of friends.  But even better than the fact that cupcakes are handy, simple to make, and adored by children every where, is the realization that when you make cupcakes, you can make many types at a time, which means you can then eat many types, which I totally did, with no shame whatsoever.

Applesauce Cupcakes with Penuche Frosting

Applesauce Cupcakes

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground powdered ginger

¼ teaspoon salt

2/3 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

¾ cup unsweetened, unfiltered apple juice

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners, or grease and flour the tin.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt, then set aside.  With an electric mixer, cream the butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla.  Alternate adding the juice and the flour mixture, beating well after each addition.  Fold in the applesauce.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.  The cups will be very full.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into a cupcake comes out clean.  Remove the cupcakes from the tin (if they are too hot and delicate to handle at first, you can allow them to cool for 10 minutes before attempting to remove them from the tin) and cool completely on a rack before frosting.

Penuche Frosting

Adapted from Pillsbury: Best Cookies Cookbook

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

¼ cup milk

2 to 2 ½ cups powdered sugar

In a medium saucepan, combine butter and brown sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Cook at a light boil for 1 minute, stirring frequently, until mixture has thickened.  Remove from heat and cool for 10 minutes.  Add milk to cooled mixture and beat until smooth.  Beat in enough powdered sugar to reach desired frosting consistency (start with 2 cups, beat for a few minutes, then add more powdered sugar if you find your frosting is too runny).  Frosting will remain somewhat loose, as it is not meant to be fluffy.

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts

Gingerbread Cupcakes

¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

½ cup sugar

½ cup unsulphured molasses

1 large egg

1 ½ teaspoons ground powdered ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground allspice

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Line a muffin tin with 12 paper liners, or grease and flour the tin.

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light.  Add the molasses and egg and beat until smooth.  Add the ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and flour, and beat until well blended.  In a small bowl, dissolve the baking soda in the boiling water (the mixture will foam up).  Add the baking soda and water mixture to the batter and mix until smooth.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin tin.  Bake for 20 minutes, until the cupcakes spring back when lightly touched.  Cool cupcakes for 5 minutes, then remove from tin and set on a rack to cool completely before frosting.

Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 ounces cream cheese (a generous ¼ cup), at room temperature

2/3 cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon finely chopped or grated lemon zest

½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and cream cheese together until smooth.  Beat in the powdered sugar until fluffy.  Add the lemon zest and lemon juice and beat until smooth.

7 Responses to “Cider Pressing and Two Kinds of Cupcakes”

  1. Katie Whitehead October 20, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    I have to admit that I attended this wonderful event and so have only tried the cupcakes that were at the event (I have not yet baked them myself). I had an applesauce cupcake with penuche frosting and it was delicious. Just the right mix of fall flavors and, while the frosting is sweet (as I expect frosting to be), the cupcake is not overly sweet and they balanced each other really well. The cupcake was moist but not sticky and the frosting has that little bit of crunch that forms on the top when it cools. Yum! I’m going to make some this weekend for a fall party a friend is hosting.

  2. Judy October 20, 2011 at 3:31 pm #

    I got hooked on your blog when my friend Gypsy posted your cookbook saga to Facebook. Having worked for several years in an antique store, I have read my fair share of them also and with the same raised eyebrows! Today you make my mouth water with your story of apple cider and gingerbread cupcakes. I have ordered my daughter to make these for me. Thanks for sharing your recipe and your blog.

  3. Wendy October 20, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    What fun! This is the second blog post I’ve read this season about using a cider press. How does one come to be in possession of one? Do your husband’s aunt and uncle own an orchard? With the laws in NY I think this is the only way I’d be able to procure some unpasteurized cider… Sounds like the work is definitely worth it!

    • savorysaltysweet October 20, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

      Wendy–my husband’s aunt and uncle do not own an orchard, but they do live on several acres of land near the Oregon Coast. They actually bought the cider press from a fellow who makes and sells them for a living, which I find fascinating.

    • Nancy November 1, 2011 at 7:58 am #

      Wendy – see my reply to Elizabeth’s cider blog post. -Nancy on Nov. 1st

  4. Nancy November 1, 2011 at 7:56 am #

    I’m the aunt of the aunt & uncle with the press. We bought it because my husband was so taken with its design – he loves great machinery. This great design is made by Mr. Correll of Correll Cider Presses, 24791 Warthen Road, Elmira, OR 97437. I feel fine about making this ‘product placement’ advertisement, since Mr. Correll is in his 70’s and works out of his modest home, loving his work. Lots of other people love his presses, too, and there was a year’s wait when we ordered ours.
    Elizabeth, I was totally surprised to read in here that you don’t throw large parties at least once a month!! You pulled the cider pressing party off wonderfully!! And I seem to remember a wedding (on a boat!!), and an anniversary party for J&H, and other get-togethers with your helping hand – and wonderful food!!


  1. 5 comments: hip, hip, hurray! - Fall Bloomer Fall Bloomer - October 21, 2011

    […] 4. This is the second post I’ve seen this season about a cider press. I need to track one down so I can try me some unpasteurized cider… […]

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