There’s something about cooler weather and cozy sweaters that stirs up the desire to break out that beloved Bundt pan and get baking. Of course, baking on a weekend whim is all fun and games, but the holidays call for big gatherings, which means impressive desserts are on the menu. Toss in the reality that it’s easily one of the busiest seasons, that time always seems to be in short supply (There’s so much to do! And eat!), and that few among us have the talent to put together a dessert table to wow a crowd and it’s easy to see why the bakers at treat have such a busy schedule.
You’ve probably heard some version of the old adage about food tasting better when it is made with love. I wasn’t exactly sure if this was true until I met the team behind treat cakes & confections in Wenham. This women-owned business is the brainchild of Carol Harlow-Carlson and Kathleen O’Connor, two friends and bakers with a shared love and equal passion for putting their own spin on your favorite cookies, cakes, and desserts. Both women spent years in corporate America before joining forces to open treat, which operates as a wholesale and special-order retail bakery.
Regardless of the customer’s baked goods needs (or, let’s be honest, they just might be wants!), treat is happy to accommodate. They routinely work with wholesale accounts, caterers, and retail clients on everything from corporate events, weddings, birthdays, and bridal showers to family dinners and dinner parties (all of this in addition to their holiday menus). It didn’t take long for treat to build up a local following, thanks in large part to their commitment to crafting simple, beautiful, and delicious desserts from scratch using high-quality ingredients.
Their desserts are unpretentious and homey while still paying close attention to detail and presentation. “A free-form tart isn’t necessarily fussy,” Harlow-Carlson explains, but it is still rustically beautiful and organic—look no further than the pages of this magazine for validation of that. Many of their recipes contain elements of nostalgia, says O’Connor, whose own mother visited the treat kitchen to share tricks of the trade after years spent making raspberry thumbprint cookies (which contain the bakers’ own homemade raspberry jam). But make no mistake, all of their desserts are baked with a high level of skill. Their single-process cakes are gorgeous and elegant, and their galettes and tarts are not something the once-in-a-while baker is going to reproduce anytime soon.
Harlow-Carlson and O’Connor have an appreciation for traditional favorites, but are also bold enough to interpret classic desserts in new ways. They tinkered with their pecan pie until it was just right, and the result happened to include a gluten-free crust. They have an impressive amount of gluten-free options because they curate and develop recipes that often don’t need wheat or gluten to be delicious, resulting in gluten-free versions that are so tasty you don’t even miss the flour (take one bite of their brownies and you’ll know exactly what I mean).
Their Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Boozy Caramel Sauce is as amazing as it sounds. A bread pudding for the ages, that’s what that is. The same could be said about their Pumpkin Marble Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust or their Fallen Chocolate Cake, a favorite of O’Connor’s, who happens to firmly believe that no dessert table is complete without chocolate (no objections here).
The treat team enjoys working with clients for special occasions and easily scales events as needed, whether the order is for a series of cakes, a confection table, or a cupcake display. They also offer gift boxes around the holidays or for anytime special occasions.
One unique detail they offer is that they will even bake one of their delicious desserts in a client’s own bakeware—a special way to display treasured family pieces without having to stress about making the perfect dessert. As Harlow-Carlson and O’Connor like to say, “Homemade, just not by you!”
Yes, Harlow-Carlson and O’Connor are bakers and business owners, but they are also mothers with families and multiple children between them. “For all of us, family is always first, and we support each other,” says Harlow-Carlson. Clients are held in the highest regard and will always receive top-notch products because of the team’s commitment to working together. It really is love you can see. And taste.
7 to 9 Assorted apples (including Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and sliced
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
¼-½ tsp. Cinnamon
½ cup Almond flour
½ cup Old-fashioned oats (they’re gluten-free, if that’s important)
1 cup Brown sugar
⊲ Pinch salt
1 stick Cold butter, cut into ½-inch cubes
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Pour apples into a 2-quart baking dish, toss them with vanilla and cinnamon, and then gently arrange them with your hands so they are evenly distributed and there aren’t any large gaps.
3. Place the almond flour, oats, brown sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse once or twice to combine. Sprinkle the butter cubes on top and pulse a few times to incorporate the butter so that some pieces are small bits and some pieces are pea-sized.
4. Pour the crisp topping on top of the apples in an even layer and slightly mound in the center.
5. Place the baking dish on a cookie sheet and bake for approximately 45 minutes, until the entire dessert sinks slightly in its dish, the apples are bubbly on the sides, and the crisp topping is golden and delicious.
6. Serve warm or room temperature with ice cream.
We love vanilla or Ben & Jerry’s Dulce de Leche.
Tips From the Trade
Use assorted apples. We like to use assorted apples, because different apples behave in different ways once baked. Some apples keep their shape, some break down, and there is always a range of flavors from sweet to tart. We also make this all summer long, substituting peaches and blueberries and adding a ¼ cup of cornstarch to the fruit.
Quality ingredients count! Choose a brown sugar that smells like something other than just sugar when you open the bag. Many grocery store brand organic sugars are fantastic; however, we buy ours in bulk from Privateer Rum in Ipswich. They now sell it in small bags right in their tasting room. Trust us, it’s worth the trip!
This recipe is so versatile. The butter can easily be replaced with Earth Balance to make a vegan and dairy-free version (as well as gluten-free). Not a lot of desserts can boast that quality! We suggest freezing the Earth Balance first because it is so soft. If you didn’t plan ahead to freeze it, no worries; just don’t over-process the crumb topping.
Having company? Choose desserts that can be prepared a day in advance or earlier in the day—it takes the pressure off. Still too much to do? Call us. treatcakesandconfections.com