Baker’s Dozen

There’s nothing more invigorating than a crisp, sunny fall day in the Midwest; the leaves are so bright, they don’t even look real! Sadly, when we found ourselves in Michigan this past Halloween weekend, it was wet and chilly…and we’d missed the foliage by a few days. Fortunately, there’s something that makes any trip (in any weather) worthwhile: the Franklin Cider Mill.

Open only three months out of the year, this place is synonymous with my carefree, small-town childhood. Their apple cider is still the best I’ve ever tasted, and no visit there is complete without the accompanying brown paper bag filled with hot, greasy spiced donuts—the only suitable accompaniment to the cider. After decimating the first donut, I told my husband, “These are so good that I could seriously eat a dozen”. Here’s how the rest of that conversation went:

“No, you couldn’t,” he replied.
“WATCH ME,” I said.
“Honey, no one wants to see his wife eat a dozen donuts.”

Message delivered. In addition to cider and donuts, The Franklin Cider Mill also sells caramel apples, homemade pies, breads and other goodies. On this visit, I found a table stacked with something I don’t recall seeing before: Apple Pie Bread. It looked fabulous, so of course I had to buy a loaf to taste—then try to reverse-engineer the recipe at home. The bread dough was cut into chunks, combined with a mixture of fresh apples and cinnamon, and then placed in a loaf pan and baked. Decadent and delicious. I’m working on my own version, and will share it once I get it right.
www.franklincidermill.com

 

FALL LAYERING

Another Michigan thing (or more specifically, a suburban Detroit thing): Seven-Layer Cake. Thankfully, unlike apple cider, it’s in season all year long! The basic concept of this cake, unsurprisingly, involves seven very thin layers of yellow cake separated by billowy, whipped-cream-like filling—which, weirdly, contains no dairy at all—and covered in rich chocolate ganache frosting. I am addicted to this classic bakery cake. Every time we visit Detroit, I drag at least one whole log on the plane back to LA, and store the tightly wrapped slices in the freezer “for later use.” They have never made it longer than a week.

Detroit folks have VERY strong opinions about which bakery or deli makes the best one. In the interest of culinary research, I have painstakingly sampled every single one—and my vote goes to The Bake Station. Nut-free and kosher, their Seven-Layer Cake is a literal slice of heaven. While there are bakeries in LA that make this confection, it NEVER tastes remotely as good as the Michigan cake. If you happen to find yourself in Detroit, you should also find yourself here: www.bakestation.com

ROAD TRIP FINDS: MAE’S DINER
We stumbled upon this old-school diner on Woodward Avenue in Pleasant Ridge, and waited in the windy October chill for a table. SO WORTH IT. With cozy counter seating and a just few small tables, this bustling local charmer has it all, including classic diner fare made with locally sourced ingredients PLUS fresh baked pastries and breads from the famous Zingermann’s—which they toast and slather with butter! YUM. It’s the perfect embodiment of Detroit—and our new favorite spot. www.maesdetroit.com