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Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars and The Great Fall Bakeoff

Hi, you lovely people!

Are we all in agreement that autumn is the best season of them all?

You've got to admit that autumn has got it going on. First off, it's got two names: autumn, which is such a pretty word, and fall, which is extremely convenient. There's General Conference (you might not care, but I do), football (I don't care, but you might), my birthday (everyone should care), Halloween, leaves changing, Thanksgiving, hot chocolate, pumpkins, not shaving your legs, and most of all: fall baking.

Fall baking is the definition of comfort to me. Apples, cinnamon, sweet potatoes, nutmeg, cloves, pumpkins, more cinnamon, brown sugar, and all of the warmest, comfiest, coziest ingredients you can think of.

In order to celebrate the beginning of autumn, I started this thing called "The Fall Bakeoff" a few years ago at church. As this is my first autumn in Houston, I instigated The Fall Bakeoff again in order to make more friends and get my fill of free food. It was great! I got my pumpkin fix, some new recipes, and everyone had a good time.

For the bakeoff, I made Paula Deen's Caramel Apple Cheesecake Bars. I didn't win, but boy, were they good. I don't even really like cooked apples and I probably ate half the pan myself. They're pretty butterific if you know what I mean.

I also made The Pioneer Woman's Caramel Sauce, which the bars really didn't need, but I'm glad I made it because it was delicious by itself. I have eaten a few straight spoonfuls and have been keeping it in my fridge for emergency purposes. Like dipping apple slices in. I also poured it over my French toast this morning, and in the wise, wise words of Elphaba and Glinda, "Who can say if I've been changed for the better? I do believe I have been changed for the better. And because I [poured warm caramel sauce on my French toast this morning,] I have been changed for good."*

Some of you now hate me for defiling the song, but I'm sure if they were going to rewrite it they'd change it to that. 

Anyway, here are the recipes. I hope you enjoy them! If you're interested in hosting your own Fall Bakeoff, I'll type up how we did ours under the recipes!

CARAMEL APPLE CHEESECAKE BARS by Paula Deen (original recipe here)

     2 c. all-purpose flour
     1/2 c. packed brown sugar
     1 c. (2 sticks) butter, softened
Combine flour and brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until incorporated and crumbly. Press mixture into the bottom of a foil-lined 9x13" cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until light brown.

     2 (8 oz) packages cream cheese, softened (I use Neufchatel cheese because that's what I grew up on and I'm a creature of habit. It's really good, it tastes just like cream cheese but it's 1/3 less calories, not that you care if you're making this recipe.)
     1/2 c. white sugar
     2 large eggs
     1 tsp. vanilla
Beat cream cheese and sugar together until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla and mix. Pour over the warm crust.

Apple layer: 
     3 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced
     2 Tbsp. sugar
     1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
     1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Mix diced apples with sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon and sprinkle evenly over cream cheese layer.

     1 c. packed brown sugar
     1 c. all-purpose flour
     1/2 c. rolled oats
     1/2 c. butter, softened
Combine brown sugar, flour, and oats. Using your pastry blender, cut in butter until incorporated and crumbly. Sprinkle over apple layer. Bake bars at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes or until filling is set (the top will be a little brown, the bars will be a little wobbly still, but if you stick a knife in to test it the knife should come out pretty clean). Put your bars in the fridge for a few hours to cool. Practice restraint, you'll want to serve them cold, just like cheesecake. It's worth the wait. Cut the bars into 28 pieces and top with caramel sauce, if desired.

THE PIONEER WOMAN'S EASY CARAMEL SAUCE by Ree Drummond (original recipes here and here)

1/2 c. heavy cream
4 Tbsp. butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
1 pinch kosher salt
2 tsp. vanilla (I reduced her recipe by a teaspoon, she does 1 Tbsp.)

Mix the cream, butter, brown sugar, and salt in a small sauce pan over medium heat. When butter is melted and ingredients are starting to bubble, mix and cook for 5-7 minutes until thickened. Remove from heat, add vanilla, and mix caramel sauce over medium heat for another minute or two to thicken a little more.

Pour into a warm glass jar and allow to cool to room temperature, or store in the fridge. 


The Fall Bakeoff is simple and you can make it really impressive without putting a ton of effort into it! It's a great way to get to know people, collect new recipes, and score some free food, too!

1. Pick a date, a time and a location. 

2. Let people know you're going to host a Fall Bakeoff, and get a headcount of people who want to come. 

3. Have everyone prepare and bring their favorite fall dish (or a new one they want to try out). It doesn't have to be baked, and it doesn't have to be a dessert. This year, the winner made Roasted Red Pepper & Cauliflower Soup. The gals who tied for second place made Homemade Apple Cider and Pumpkin Crumble.

4. Everyone also needs to bring either several copies of their recipe for people to take, or you can collect copies of the recipes, scan them into a document, and e-mail them out, like I'm going to. 

5. Have everyone sign in. They will be writing their name and dish next to a number. They grab the card that has their number on it and they write the title of their dish, leaving their name off of it. They put that card in front of their dish.

6. Everyone tries each others' dishes! It's easier if you have them bring them already prepared as samples, either cut up or with a little dish or cup to serve it in. 

7. People sit down, eat, and talk to each other!

8. Everyone votes for their two favorite recipes (you can just have them write down the number of each dish). They vote for two so they can vote for one they really like and then vote for themselves if they want to, or if they like one that's sweet and one that's savory.

9. Tally up the votes. The top 3 winners get prizes! I just got my prizes in the $5 bins at Target and in the kitchen supplies. 

10. Everyone helps clean up, and then they dish up a plate of whatever they want to take home!

That's it! You can decorate for the Fall Bakeoff, you can leave it simple, you can have people chip in for prizes and go really big, you can do it for a group date, you can do it for a girls' night or guys' night, a church activity, or just with a group of friends. You can even do one by yourself and for yourself, if you want. I won't judge. 

If you have any other ideas or yummy fall recipes to share with me, comment below! I'd love to hear from you!

Hasta la pasta, ya'll!

*"For Good" from the musical Wicked, music and original lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, not me.


  1. I remember our fall bakeoff and it was lots of fun. I read this out loud to Shawn, and we both got a good laugh from the first part. Now Shawn's like, "You should do it, Morgan" and I'm like, "Eh, that sounds like a lot of work and I'm lazy. I'd have to make food." to which Shawn replied, "I'll make those Caramel Apple bar things and you can just take them and tell everyone you made them." I told him that was laying, and he said, "See there's your problem. You'll never be president if you have a problem with that." (I don't want to be president...)

    1. You should do it! It's not hard to put together! And I would totally vote for you! Shawn could be your running mate. McRory Squared 2016!


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