Yikes. You just remembered you were invited to your co-worker’s holiday dinner party. You could go the gift card route, which can get expensive, especially if you’re trying to assign a meaningful amount. You could play it safe a bottle of wine, but so will everyone else. Or you could purchase one of those random, spur-of-the-moment presents that’ll likely be re-gifted anyway.

Well, everyone loves to eat, right? And desserts are always a welcomed party contribution, so why not bake something?

“Food gifts usually come from the heart, and they’ve got love written all over it,” says Warren Brown, CEO of CakeLove and maker of the cake-in-a-jar phenomenon, which took the Washington D.C. area by storm and is now available in several specialty groceries across the country. “If you have the time, it’s extra nice.”

While he admits there is nothing wrong with purchasing a gift, Brown says homemade gifts can be a little more meaningful, especially when you’re taking the recipients into consideration. For example, he says whisky-infused cake balls can be a great option for the libation lovers in your crew or go with the perennial crowd pleaser with a fresh-baked batch of cookies. “It’s a great way to think of the person while you are making it for people,” Brown adds.

But if you’re still stuck, Brown would like to extend you a lifeline—his very own recipe for Spice Apple Cake, which he says is always a holiday hit.

Spiced Apple Cake

4 cups (½-inch diced, peeled) Apples

3¼  cup All-purpose flour

2 ounces Vegetable shortening

8 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

2 ¼ Cup granulated sugar

¼ Cup dark brown Sugar

4 Large eggs

2 Teaspoons vanilla extract

2 Teaspoons honey

2 Cups granulated sugar

2¼ All-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon baking powder

½ Teaspoon cornstarch

1 Teaspoon cinnamon

½ Teaspoon nutmeg

¼ Teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 325°F. Place rack in middle of the oven. Toss apples and 1 cup of flour together and set aside.

Combine shortening, butter, ¼ cup of granulated sugar, dark brown sugar eggs, vanilla and honey in mixer or bowl and stir well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining 2 cups of sugar, remaining 2¼ cup of flour, baking powder, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Slowly add into mixer, stirring in one-third portion at a time, until well combined. Fold in the apple mixture.

Coat loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Pour batter into pan. Bake 30 to 40 minutes (may take longer depending on pan’s depth). Test with wooden skewer inserted near the center of the cake; skewer should come out clean when cake is poked. Allow to cool in pan 5 to 7 minutes, then invert onto flat plate and remove cake pan. (Note: do not allow the cake to cool in pan entirely or the apples will stick).

Once cake is cooled, serve with a light dusting of powdered sugar.

Nina Reeder is a professional journalist, who has worked as senior editor at Upscale magazine and contributed to publications and outlets, such as EBONY magazine, AOL.com, Marriott Hotels, BMWK and more.