Begging your patience, I offer a holiday coffee break on a blustery afternoon. I wrote the following bit of foolishness several years ago while stranded in Rockland, and some friend of questionable taste asked that I dig it out of the pile. Be sure that I mean no disloyalty to all the other comfortable Maine coffee shops in which I also, most eagerly, hunker down.

(Now get that tune into your head …)

“On the first day of Christmas, Rock City sold coffee
To a ferry-riding trucker. That’s me!”

(Okay, “trucker” is a bit of a stretch, considering it’s a U-Haul full of beer cans, but indulge me.)

“On the second day of Christmas, the café was warm and free
for two who have no money,
and a ferry-riding trucker — that’s me.

On the third day of Christmas, just as early as can be
It’s three city councilors,
Two who have no money,
And a ferry-riding trucker — -that’s me.

On the fourth day of Christmas, hot chocolate brought much glee
To four homeschooled children,
Three city councilors,
Two who have no money,
And a ferry-riding trucker — that’s me!

On the fifth day of Christmas, Jet and Dark Star and North Beach
For five dark-roast snobs! … and four homeschooled
children, three city councilors, two who have no money and
a ferry-riding trucker — that’s me!

On the sixth day of Christmas a hot mug-up was the need
Of six rained-out roofers…
… and a shivering ferry trucker, that’s me.

On the seventh day of Christmas, another cup or two, or three — With seven schooner captains …

On the eighth day of Christmas, Ry-Jack brewed the “espressi” For eight learning Italian …
… and a sleepy ferry rider, me.

On the ninth day of Christmas, Suze made complicated chai For nine goth teenagers …
(… but a plain old coffee for me!)

On the tenth day of Christmas they poured Jameson in the Joe
For Ten Irish musicians …
… and an off-duty hauler — that’s me!

On the eleventh day of Christmas, soy milk and herbal tea For eleven vegan purists…
… and the ferry-riding trucker? We’ll see …

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Rock City caffeinated we
twelve obnoxious tourists,
Eleven vegan purists,
Ten Irish musicians,
Nine Goth teenagers,
“Otto” learning Italian,
Seven schooner captains,
Six rained-out roofers,
Five dark-roast snobs!
Four homeschooled children, three city councilors, two with no money, and a seasick, damn-near hypothermic, trash-hauling, ferry-riding trucker — that’s me!

* * *

That was the coffee. Now, the cake:

Recipe for Apple Spice Wintertime Cake

This cake is extremely adaptable in terms of ingredients, redolent with the fragrances of the season, is excellent for breakfast, only gets better with time, and beats the heck out of most anything store-bought.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Precision does not matter and this bakes up fine in the wood stove. Grease a 9"x13" pan or anything remotely similar in size. I use a Bundt ring.

First make some fresh applesauce: peel, cut, and boil 8 or 9 apples with roughly 12 cup water. I like Cortlands best for this, but use what’s convenient. Cook until soft and mash with a potato masher or fork, leaving lumps. There is no need to puree them, and do not sweeten. If you use apples that you picked yourself everybody will be impressed.

In a large bowl, cream together/mix up (by hand is fine)

1 cup fat (Crisco, butter, fresh lard, any oil with no flavor; most anything is OK, although EVOO is maybe too weird)

2 cups sweetener (white sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, or any combination)

Mix in: 2 eggs, slightly beaten; I use extra large

Sift in (to avoid lumps): 312 cups white flour (if using maple syrup and liquid oil, go for 4 cups)

2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
12teaspoon nutmeg

You can go a little heavy on these spices. Mix until no lumps of flour. It will seem quite dry.

Mix in: 212 to 3 cups hot applesauce. Lumps of apple are fine.

If you like, add in walnuts or pecans, chopped candied ginger, and/or raisins (I suggest soaking raisins first if they’re hard). You might also add candied peel, cherries, etc., as this makes a great base for a fruitcake and tastes a lot better than most.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the pan. Check with a toothpick or small knife; it’s ready when the toothpick/blade comes out clean.

This cake improves with age, within reason, so make enough to have some tomorrow or the next day or next week. You might consider soaking it in rum or brandy or whatever, wrapping, and enjoying it in a week or two. Tell your friends it’s an old family recipe from wherever it is Grammie came from.