Recipes with Julie Van Rosendaal: Sides and desserts for large fall gatherings

This caramel apple cake is wonderful for fall.  (Julie Van Rosendaal - image credit)
This caramel apple cake is wonderful for fall. (Julie Van Rosendaal - image credit)

All around the world, friends, families and communities gather around the table at harvest time, when food is more abundant, and it's no longer too hot to turn on the oven.

If you're planning on having a few more people around the table, and perhaps haven't for awhile, it can be intimidating — it helps to ask everyone to bring something, and share the prep (and cost) of your meal, and there are so many things that can be made in advance: soups, stews, sauces, chutneys, dressings … all benefit from a few days in the fridge, as does gingerbread and sticky toffee pudding.

Many desserts can be frozen — cakes can be frosted and frozen, or the layers frozen before frosting, or freeze unbaked pies to slide into the hot oven (directly from the freezer) when you sit down to dinner. Or make panna cotta or crème brûlée for dessert, which can simply hang out in the fridge until you need it. As for sides, mashed potatoes have staying power, and grainy salads are wilt-free and totally portable. Here are a few ideas for your harvest table.

The rice for this salad can be made ahead and kept in the fridge.
The rice for this salad can be made ahead and kept in the fridge.

The rice for this salad can be made ahead and kept in the fridge. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Wild Rice Salad

As with all salads, quantities don't need to be precise — 1 cup dry wild rice will yield about 3-4 cups cooked, and everything else can be added according to your taste, or what you happen to have on hand. Bits of ingredients are perfect for stretching into a salad — a single carrot, a chunk of cauliflower, a small apple, a bit of crumbled goat cheese, some parsley, any nuts or seeds you have in the baking cupboard, all work perfectly here … and wild rice salad is delicious with cold roasted squash or sweet potato. The rice can be made ahead and kept in the fridge, and so can the dressing — and even if it's assembled ahead of time or transported to dinner, it's completely wilt-proof.

  • Wild rice or other grains (such as barley, farro, wheat berries, quinoa, millet)

  • Golden raisins, dried cranberries, chopped apricots or dates or other dried fruit

  • Chopped celery

  • Chopped carrot

  • Chopped apple

  • Chopped fresh parsley

  • Crumbled goat cheese (optional)

  • Toasted pecans, walnuts or pumpkin seeds


  • 1/3 cup canola, olive or other vegetable oil

  • 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar (or other vinegar, such as white wine or balsamic)

  • 2 tsp grainy or Dijon mustard

  • 1-2 tsp brown sugar, maple syrup or other sweetener

  • 1 small garlic clove, finely crushed

  • Salt and pepper

Cook as much wild rice as you like—1 cup dry will make 3-4 cups cooked—in plenty of salted water for 40-45 minutes, or until tender and some of the grains start to split. Drain and transfer to a bowl, and add a handful of dried fruit, if you like — the fruit will plump up as the grains cool.

Once cooled down, you can refrigerate the rice for when you need it, or add everything else, saving any toasted nuts or seeds to sprinkle over last, to keep them crunchy. Shake together the vinaigrette and drizzle overtop, toss to coat, and serve topped with toasted nuts or seeds, and/or extra chopped parsley. Serves as many as you like.

This sticky toffee cake uses Earl Grey tea.
This sticky toffee cake uses Earl Grey tea.

This sticky toffee cake uses Earl Grey tea. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Ballymaloe Sticky Toffee Pudding

There are versions of this recipe in Forgotten Skills of Cooking, by Darina Allen, and the new Ballymaloe Desserts: Iconic Recipes and Stories from Ireland as well as on the Ballymaloe Cookery School website. In her version, Darina says she made it with chopped dried figs in absence of dates, so either (or a combination) will work. I've adapted this slightly to reflect the version I made, which was kind of an amalgamation of all of them, with Earl Grey tea and 1 tsp baking powder plus 1/4 tsp salt per cup of flour in place of the self-raising flour… the ratio is typically 1 1/2 tsp baking powder per cup of flour, but I worried it might be too much.

  • 225g (8oz) chopped dates (block dates are cheaper)

  • 1 1/4 cups tea (I used strong Earl Grey)

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened

  • 1/2 cup white or Muscovado sugar

  • 3 eggs

  • 2 cups self-raising flour (or 2 cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp salt)

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso or regular coffee

Hot Toffee Sauce

  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 3/4 cup golden syrup

  • 1 cup whipping cream

  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas Mark 4.

Soak the dates in hot tea for 15 minutes. Line the bottom and sides of a 8-inch spring form tin with removable base or a heavy cake tin with parchment paper.

Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and then fold in the sifted flour. Stir the baking soda, vanilla extract and coffee into the date and tea mixture, then stir it into the batter. Turn into the lined tin and cook for 1-1 1/2 hours, or until a skewer comes out clean. (If it's darkening too quickly, cover loosely with foil and turn the heat down to about 325˚F.)

To make the sauce: Put the butter, sugars and syrup into a heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt gently on a low heat. Simmer for about 5 minutes, remove from the heat and gradually stir in the cream and the vanilla extract. Put back on the heat and stir for 2 or 3 minutes until the sauce is absolutely smooth.

To serve, pour some hot sauce on to a serving plate. Put the sticky toffee pudding on top, pour lots more sauce over the top. Put the remainder into a bowl, and to serve with the pudding as well as softly whipped cream. Serves 8-12.

This delicious cake is topped with caramel.
This delicious cake is topped with caramel.

This delicious cake is topped with caramel. (Julie Van Rosendaal)

Caramel Apple Cake with Oatmeal Cookie Crumble

This wonderful fall cake comes from the new cookbook Plantcakes, by Lyndsay Sung. I've edited it slightly for space, and to use two 9-inch round cake pans instead of the three 7-inch cake pans.


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 2 tsp baking powder

  • 1 tsp baking soda

  • 3/4 tsp fine salt

  • 1 cup vegetable oil

  • 1/2  cup unsweetened applesauce

  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 2 tsp vanilla

  • 2 cups grated apple (don't bother peeling it)

Oatmeal Cookie Crumbles

  • 5 Tbsp sugar

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats

  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 tsp fine salt

  • 1/4 cup unsalted plant-based butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

Salted Caramel

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 2 Tbsp corn syrup or golden syrup

  • ½ cup plant milk

  • 2 Tbsp unsalted plant-based butter

  • 1 tsp vanilla

  • 1 tsp fine salt


  • 1 ¾ cups unsalted brick-style plant-based butter, at room temperature

  • 2 1/2 cups icing sugar, plus more if needed

  • 2 tsp vanilla

  • salted caramel (above)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick spray, and line the bottoms with rounds of parchment.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the oil, applesauce, sugars and vanilla until smooth, about 1 minute. Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in the grated apple.

Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden and springy to the touch. Let the cakes cool completely in their pans.

Meanwhile, make the cookie crumbles: combine the sugar, oats, flour and salt. Add the butter and blend with a fork or your fingers; press onto a parchment-lined sheet and bake for 15–20 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Let cool completely and break into chunks.

Make the salted caramel: heat the sugar and corn syrup along with 2 Tbsp water in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over high heat until the sugar has dissolved. Let the mixture boil without stirring until it reaches a medium amber colour, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the plant milk (it will bubble up ferociously, so go slowly) along with the butter, vanilla and salt. (If the caramel hardens, stir it over low heat until it melts again.) Cool completely.

Make the frosting: in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, icing sugar, vanilla and almost all of the salted caramel (save a few tablespoons for decorating) on low speed to combine, then beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the bowl as needed. If the frosting seems too loose, add a spoonful of icing sugar at a time until creamy and spreadable. Frost the completely cooled cake and top with cookie crumbles, and drizzle with the reserved salted caramel. Serves about 12.