Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


Thanksgiving is Eats

I HATE THANKSGIVING! Did I get your attention? Okay, I’m just kidding. I don’t really hate Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. (I probably say that about every holiday. And I’m not lying!)

Here’s why:

  • Families get together without the brain/pocket drain of Christmas.
  • Not a lot of decorating. Just a few turkeys and some fall leaves to set around.
  • Tradition, tradition, tradition.
  • Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, almost like Mama’s still here.
  • Great food. (If I do say so myself.)

Speaking of good food, here’s my favorite Thanksgiving dessert.

Fresh Apple Cake–The recipe is from Edna Underwood (my dad’s secretary for years) who got it from her mom, Tuela Privett–one of history’s best cooks.

The first time I had this cake was for my 19th birthday. I attended Ozark Bible College (now Ozark Christian College) in Joplin, Missouri, and Mom sent this cake up with a friend. Mrs. Privett had baked it and iced it with her caramel icing. (Recipe below.) The caramel icing was so dark and I rich, I thought it was chocolate and that my mother had forgotten I didn’t like chocolate.

After pouting for two or three days, I finally cut it. I cried when I realized that not only had Mom not forgotten my aversion to chocolate, she’d remembered my love of apples.



  • 4 C. fine chopped, peeled apples
  • 2 C. sugar
  • 3 C. flour
  • 2 t. soda
  • 1 t. salt
  • 2 t. vanilla or 1/2 t nutmeg and 1 t cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C. cooking oil
  • 1 C. chopped nuts

Combine sugar and chopped apples. Let stand until juice forms. Sift flour, soda, salt and spices (if spices are used). Mix with apples and sugar, add nuts, eggs and oil. Stir all together. Bake 350 degrees 45 minutes or until done.

I bake this cake in a bundt pan, which I spray really well with baking spray.

Icing is optional. I serve it naked with only a dollop of whipped cream.

Mom served it with a cream cheese/pecan icing:

  • 1 large cream cheese (room temperature)
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 2 C powdered sugar
  • 2 C pecans

Beat the creamed cheese, add powered sugar and vanilla and beat until incorporated.  Stir in pecans and spread on cooled cake.  

Tuela’s caramel icing: (Mom never succeeded at this–she couldn’t melt the sugar without burning it.  I’ve never gotten past that stage, either. I usually bake apple cake for Thanksgiving, and I don’t have time to persevere.)

  • 3 C. sugar
  • 1 C. sweet milk (whole milk)
  • 3 T. butter
  • now 1/4 t. salt

 Melt 1/2 C. sugar in skillet. Mix the remaining 2-1/2 C. sugar with milk and butter. Place on fire. When hot, add melted sugar and stir constantly until drop stirred on saucer is creamy. Beat and when thick, spread on cake.