Ichabod Crane and the Van Tassel Feast

Because it’s almost Halloween, I thought I’d do something different for today’s blog post.

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, 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!

Dutch Apple Cake

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 Macoun apples, peeled, cored, and diced*
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F) Cream sugar and butter until creamy and a light yellow color. Beat in the eggs–but don’t overbeat. Stir in the diced apples. With a heavy wooden spoon, stir in the flour, nutmeg, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Mix well. Pour into a greased bundt pan** and bake at 350 degrees (F) about 45 minutes. Cool in pan for 45 minutes and turn out. Serves 12.

*Macoun apples, grown in the Hudson River Valley, are the best apples for this cake. But they are hard to find. So if you can’t find them, use your favorite, crisp semi-sweet apple. If using a more sour apple, like granny smith, add a bit more sugar.

**This recipe can be baked in any pan–bundt, 9×11″, round springform pan, etc.–just watch the baking time so it doesn’t overcook and dry out.




Sharon Wray is a librarian who once studied dress design in the couture houses of Paris and now writes about the men in her Amazon bestselling Deadly Force romantic suspense series where ex-Green Berets meet their match in smart, sexy heroines who teach these alpha males that Grace always defeats Reckoning.

Her bestselling debut book EVERY DEEP DESIRE, a sexy, action-packed retelling of Romeo and Juliet, is about an ex-Green Beret determined to regain his honor, his freedom, and his wife. It’s available at:  Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | IndieBoundKobo|  Google | Books-a-Million | Audible

Her second book, ONE DARK WISH, a passionate redemption of Othello with a HEA, is about an ex-Green Beret who must give up the woman he loves in order to redeem his honor and save the life of his men. It’s available at: Amazon |  Barnes & Noble Books-a-Million | iBooks |  Google | Kobo |IndieBound | Audible

Her third book, IN SEARCH OF TRUTH, is about an ex-Green Beret desperate to win back the woman he loves and save the men he betrayed, even if he must make the greatest sacrifice. It’s available at: Amazon |  Barnes & Noble Books-a-Million | iBooks|  Google | Kobo | IndieBound | Audible

16 Comments Add yours

  1. vicki batman says:

    I’ve never heard of Macoun apples. And I love apple cake. I will save this recipe for sure. I can’t say I’ve read all of the Legend of story. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sharon Wray says:

    The Macoun apple is a cross between a Macintosh apple and a Jersey black apple and taste more like a honeycrisp apple. They were cultivated to be eating apples but because they are so firm they hold up well during the baking process. My kids thought I was crazy when I ordered them online one year–until they tasted them. They are the best apple I’ve ever eaten. But they need a particular climate and aren’t grown much outside of New York and New Jersey. But if you can find them, they’re worth the cost!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. OMG Sharon, I love apple cake. I don’t bake much anymore except pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving. But I will have to try this. Loved this post. I’ve shared. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sharon Wray says:

      Thanks so much, Marsha! Now I make this cake instead of apple pie at Thanksgiving. You can eat this cake for breakfast and with a cup of tea so it always gets eaten quickly. And it can be cut up and frozen for a later treat!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Reblogged this on Jacquie Biggar-USA Today Best-selling author and commented:

    Can you imagine growing up in the land of Ichabod Crane? My friend, Sharon Wray, did and lived to tell the story! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. No wonder you’re such a great writer with your many adventures!
    Thanks for sharing this story and the excerpt from Ichabod Crane, I’ll have to give it a read this weekend 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sharon Wray says:

      The funny thing is that it wasn’t until I had kids, and after having moved around a lot, that I realized what a special thing it was to have grown up in the part of the country. I regret now not appreciating the time–especially during autumn–while I had it. I’m even ashamed to say that when I was in high school I whined about having to listen to that “old, boring story” again. But what wouldn’t I give for one more day up there–listening to the story by a bonfire, drinking hot cider, and eating ginger and apple cakes again. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We get wiser as we get older 😊

        Like

    2. Sharon Wray says:

      Thanks so much for reblogging, Jacquie! I wish we were there right now!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Especially with a blue moon 🌚!

        Like

  6. Judi Lynn says:

    It’s been years since I read this story. I forgot about the feast, but it sounds wonderful! So does your apple cake recipe.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sharon Wray says:

      The great thing about the story is that it’s free on the gutenberg site (I linked to it above) and you can read it in under half an hour. It always surprises me that such a short, uncomplicated story has had such a huge impact on our culture at large. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Pat Amsden says:

    I never remember reading or hearing anything about his feast before that last and famous ride. Clearly I’ll have to remedy that by making some of the apple cake which, I suspect, will be amazing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sharon Wray says:

      The funny thing is the short story spends a huge amount of time talking about food in general. I always wondered why the author of such a great ghost story was obsessed with food. LOL

      Like

  8. Kathryn Jane says:

    Yum, now I’m craving apple cake! 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Sharon Wray says:

      Me too! If I can find Macoun apples, I’ll make it tonight or tomorrow.

      Like

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