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The Merchant Baker Turns One!!!

Well, that sure went fast!

Spiced Applesauce Cake Round 2-8

Today is the anniversary of the birth of The Merchant Baker. One year ago today, I very nervously pressed the “Publish” button and posted Brownie Bark. It was both epic and anti-climactic. Epic because I was starting a new venture, epic because I was entering into a very public space that I had previously avoided like the plague, and anti-climactic because once I pushed the button, nothing happened. I was just sitting at my computer and in a heartbeat I went from unpublished to published. You can’t immediately see any reaction. No one even knew the blog existed yet.

Spiced Applesauce Cake Round 2-7

Don’t get me wrong, I was acting as if everything had just happened.  I was nervous, anxious, excited and more than a little freaked out.  I was barely on Facebook let alone any other social media outlet and now I was OUT there…eek!  And now I needed to not just observe the social media machine, I had to embrace it so that something would happen.

Spiced Applesauce Cake Round 2

The mystery and power of social media was just one of the things I had to conquer.  Food styling and photography? Well, let’s just say I’ve learned a lot but have only scratched the surface. My friends and family were very supportive of my early post photography, but it’s clear that my photography skills needed some work. Before I figured out white balance, I had some posts that I’ll simply call the “Blue Period.” :)  Take 10 Minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce, then and now. I had to reshoot it. It was too good to get lost in some dark dingy photos. I’m featuring it again today along with a redo of Spiced Applesauce Cake. It’s a nice reminder of some recipes I love, and a year later, I’m trying to give them the credit they are due.

Spiced Applesauce Cake Round 2-4

The cake is an easy way to share some fall flavors without a lot of hassle or commitment.  It’s just a simple snack cake; applesauce takes the place of peeling and chopping up apples. It’s full of spice and fall flavor. If you use better spices you’ll have better flavor. Check out the original post to read more about the spices I used. The 10 minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce takes the cake over the top. There’s nothing like hot caramel sauce dripping over a warm spiced cake…or over anything, really.

Spiced Applesauce Cake Round 2-5

I happened to have some particularly small honey crisp apples on hand, so I couldn’t resist dressing up the cake with a drippy caramel apple to celebrate this special day. It worked out beautifully, and who doesn’t want a little caramel apple with their Spiced Applesauce Cake? No one I know :)

Spiced Applesauce Cake Round 2-3

I’ve enjoyed sharing my favorite recipes, whether they were ones that I’ve developed on my own, or others that are just tried and true. There’s an infinite amount of recipes out there. It’s always nice when someone who has similar tastes to yours can tell you that something is just plain good. I won’t post something just to fill a slot for the week. I stick with quality over quantity and there’s been plenty of really good, but not good enough recipes that haven’t made the cut or will continue to be developed until they do. Whether it’s a fellow food blogger, a food magazine or a cook book, I always know after I’ve tried a few recipes if they are a trusted source. I hope this blog has become that for some of you.

Spiced Applesauce Cake Round 2-6

This blog has also given me a great outlet to talk about food with people who want to hear about it. I have a few friends/family that will engage in a long conversation about a certain recipe or ingredient or a process. Most people’s eyes glaze over after a few minutes. I get it. When my husband and I were dating, he showed me how to build a computer. Yeah, I get it. I love being able to use a computer, I just might not be passionate about mother boards and hard drives. Some people just like to eat good food. They don’t really care much about how it was made.

But even now, when I can write 1000 words without blinking, I don’t know how many people are actually reading the post. I don’t have data for that (sigh), and I do love my data. In my merchant days, I could get quick feedback when I delivered product to stores. The consultants and store managers would tell me what they thought as soon as they opened up the cartons. I could find out if my customers liked what we created and watch sales by the hour if I chose to. I could track what the end use was of the product. Lots of data. Lots of feedback.

Spiced Applesauce Cake Round 2-11

I analyze all kinds of the data for the blog and while there’s no metric telling me that people read the words or enjoy the writing or make and like the recipes…what I do know is that thousands of you stop by each week from over 100 different countries.  It’s mind boggling and more than I ever expected. I’m truly grateful.

For those of you who make the recipes and comment on them, or email me about them, know that it makes my day to hear from you…because then I know that something is actually happening and it’s something good. I personally was never one to comment on blogs no matter how much a loyal reader I was. I do comment more now on others’ blogs because I’m living it, but I still don’t do so often, unless I really feel a connection and have something sincere to say. So for those loyal readers who come back to read each post or make the recipes, but who prefer to stay out of the mix…I get you and I’m sending out a virtual high five to celebrate the day. Thanks for coming back again and again :)

Spiced Applesauce Cake Round 2-9

Finally, I’m grateful to my husband, who built this site for me and who didn’t flinch when I came up with a totally different looking design for the site two weeks after he completed the original design. He sat patiently with me and helped me bring that new vision to life so that I could feel comfortable presenting something that I felt really represented “me”.

When I couldn’t find a graphic for a pot filled with vegetables, he created one for me so that it could be part of the logo. When I decided I wanted a wood textured background, he found a photo we had taken of a playground bench near our house and used that. (It was exactly what I was looking for!) He’s stained and painted back drops and helped me source photography props. He holds caramel drippy spoons in mid air while I take photos. And, of course, he’s one of my valuable taste testers. I could go on and on.

Spiced Applesauce Cake Round 2-10

So, one year after I pushed the button and waited impatiently for the band to play and the balloons to drop…something did happen. I produced a blog, challenged myself to do something I’ve never done before, learned that producing content for a food blog takes far longer than I ever thought possible, found a different kind of creative outlet, developed some food photography and photo editing skills, learned about the benefits and drawbacks to social media and how to engage productively, and joined a whole new community where I’ve met some really great people.

Today, The Merchant Baker turns one…

Spiced Applesauce Cake Round 2-add

I’d say it was a year well spent.

Spiced Applesauce Cake with 10 Minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce

Spiced Applesauce Cake with 10 Minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce


  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 ½ cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 10 Minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8” or 9” square cake pan with cooking spray. (I used a 9" pan)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices.
  3. In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar and vanilla together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time and beat well after each addition. Then, beat in the applesauce.
  5. Add the flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Expect the mixture to look a bit curdled. This is normal.
  6. Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few moist crumbs, about 35-40 minutes. (If you're making the caramel sauce, you can start it once the cake is in the oven or even while its cooling. It will be done in plenty of time to top the cake.)
  7. Cool cake in pan 15 minutes. Loosen the edges with a knife and remove to a cooling rack to finish cooling or you can let it cool in the baking pan if you're planning to serve it from there.
  8. Top each serving with warm caramel sauce, if desired. (Trust me, you desire it!)


*Store plain cake (without caramel sauce on it) in a covered container at room temperature. Caramel sauce should be refrigerated separately. See sauce recipe for further storage details.

*This cake stays moist for at least three days and probably more, but it rarely lasts that long in our house.

Cake from Smitten Kitchen

The Merchant Baker Copyright © 2015

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Sharon M

Sunday 1st of November 2015

I know this is an older post but its new to me and I'm so excited to try this recipe! Congratulations on continuing your successful blog ;) I have considered starting one to keep everything in order & document my journey. I'm amazed at the dedication so many of you have & deeply appreciate it-there's nothing worse then falling in love with a blog & realizing it hasn't been updated in years-but people get busy. Just writing this response is taking much longer then anticipated ;) I fell in love with cake decorating after making a couple cakes for my daughter. I started off with doctored mixes just to create and practice. Now don't get me wrong, I have no issues with boxed cakes, although I've come to learn this can be a heated debate in the 'caking world', I just became fascinated with the science and process behind recipe development and wanted to learn how to adapt/create my own. Also, it was more about the artistry in design that I enjoyed, rather then the baking side but that's all changed. I am still fairly new to scratch baking but there is something really special about mastering a new technique or knowing exactly what's gone into your cake, I'm not sure how to explain it but something tells me you know that satisfaction all to well. Anyway, see I've babbled my way into a ridiculously long response, so sorry! I'm wondering if this would work well as a layered cake? I know it's going to be rich and fabulous already (and I plan to try it first as written with caramel) but I set out looking for a layer cake, maybe with some of the caramel mixed into BC for filling then drizzled on top (yum) is the cake structure firm enough? Thank you so much for your wonderful recipes, can't wait to try this cake! I really enjoy reading your posts!


Sunday 1st of November 2015


First, I think it would be wonderful to document your journey via a blog. It sounds as if you'd have a lot to share with all of us. I also know that when you end up writing long comments on other's blogs, it's a sign that perhaps it's time to find a bigger outlet for all that you want to say:) This is my own experience anyway...If I've made another blogger's recipe, it is HARD not to write everything I learned, enjoyed, experienced...I found myself writing long comments about a recipe, or really long emails to friends about my experiences testing recipes, texting photos of everything I made to my sisters. You'll notice that most of my posts are not short paragraphs just introducing the recipe :) It's nice to be able to write freely.

This cake is definitely sturdy enough for a layer cake. It has some weight to it, so I don't know if I'd go more than two layers, unless you made thinner layers. I've actually been developing a completely different flavored cake that has a similar texture/weight to it for a layer cake recipe. It's been a tricky one and I'm on my fifth trial (ugh!) and I'm hoping to get it done before the season for it ends. And, coincidentally, I'm developing a caramel frosting for it, so I am 100% on your page. I think a caramel filling would be out of this world delicious with this applesauce cake! But, I think caramel makes everything better so there's no surprise there!

Would love to hear how it all works out for you! Good luck!

The Baker's List 9.26.15 ~ Hey, It’s A Cakewalk

Friday 2nd of October 2015

[…] I read this on a recipe, “There’s nothing like hot caramel sauce dripping over a warm spiced cake…or over anything, really.” And, I knew I found a kindred spirit. Ramona, from The Merchant Baker,  is celebrating her one year blog anniversary with Spiced Applesauce Cake with 10 Minute Buttermilk Caramel Sauce. […]

Tasbih @ Cleobuttera

Monday 28th of September 2015

Happy blogiversary to my wonderful blogging buddy Ramona!!! I will never forget how you were there to support me since Day 1 of blogging, and now I feel this huge connection with you. It's like I know you so well just by reading your lovely posts, which I never ever skip. I always look forward to your next recipe with anticipation and get really excited when I receive a notification in my inbox. You always have a sweet story behind each recipe which I love, but then you go far and beyond that explaining the why's and how's of the recipe, which is very appreciated. Rest assure, you really are an absolutely trusted source for recipes and one of my all time favorite bloggers and virtual friend! Lovely post and stunning photography! Wishing you further success and more deliciousness coming your way :)


Monday 28th of September 2015

Thanks, Tasbih! I could never have imagined, a year ago, that I would have found a fellow blogger that I would end up having such a great connection with….on the other side of the world! And, I found you just a few days after you started your blog! Immediately, as a month old blogger, I felt like I was not alone in a very crowded and well established blogging world. From your first post, I knew I would absolutely have to follow you along on your journey. Your recipes, food styling and photography are out of bounds and I am always anxious to see the visual feast and gustatory treats you will share next. I know your one year is coming up soon and I will be there will bells on to celebrate!


Sunday 27th of September 2015

Congratulations on your first blog-o-birthday! It's hard to believe that it has already been a year since I met you in line at the Simply Delish book signing. I enjoy all of your posts, although I do not comment often. Keep up the great work. I am looking forward to all the goodness that you have coming!


Sunday 27th of September 2015

Hi Jessica! I really doesn't seem like a year has passed. Thanks for being a loyal reader. I think you're the first person that wasn't already family or a friend of mine that I told about the blog. It barely seemed real back then and I almost couldn't believe I was telling anyone! :) What a difference a year makes!


Sunday 27th of September 2015

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I WANT TO SAY CONGRATULATIONS AND HAPPY BIRTHDAY!! I love reading your stories and your photos are great!!! I must say my favorite part of sharing this past year with you as you've developed the blog is being one of your loyal taste testers!!! So here's to another great year and just know I'm excited and my taste buds are anticipating another yummy year!!!


Sunday 27th of September 2015

Cheryl! I love having you as one of my taste testers. I know you'll always be honest. I still remember sending you home with a bunch of different brownies each labeled with a different number. Your feedback is always spot on. And even if it's something that's not for the blog, baking for you is always a joy! :)

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