Innovation Chef, Jenna Johansen Shares a Family Favorite for National Applesauce Cake Day

(Photo courtesy of )

(Photo courtesy of )

In honor of National Applesauce Cake Day on June 6th, Innovation Chef, Jenna Johansen shares one of her all-time favorite family recipes with us.

One of my absolute favorite summertime sweets to make is chocolate applesauce cake. I love our handed-down family recipe; moist and delicious, and I usually always have the ingredients on hand. This version needs no frosting, so it travels easily and sits on a picnic bench perfectly, which is just what a hot summer day calls for.

I have fond memories of my mother making it often as a kid and we never had leftovers for long because everyone loves it! This version came from my Great Grandma Pearl, handed-down over generations. Today, she is 106 years old, living in Fargo, North Dakota. Maybe applesauce cake has more benefits to it than just good taste!

I like to pick the chocolate chips off the top. As I was growing up and doing a lot of the baking, I would use WAY more than the specified 1/2 cup of chocolate chips and you may want to, too!

Applesauce first came into vogue during World War I and the Great Depression when many rations were scarce. Now, I think of applesauce as being the perfect use for the fallen apples from our tree. I just peel, cook and puree to have my own homemade applesauce, so easy and simple.

P.S. This recipe pairs perfectly with corn on the cob, deviled eggs, cold beer, potato salad and anything that’s cooked on the grill!

My Mom’s Chocolate Applesauce Cake

1/2 cup shortening
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbs cocoa {I love the baking cocoas from Savory Spice}
1 can of applesauce
2 unbeaten eggs
2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

2 Tbs sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup chocolate chips {my mom uses semi-sweet but I like to use milk chocolate}

Mix all cake ingredients well.
Pour into a greased 9″x13″ cake pan.
Sprinkle the top with topping ingredients {I always add more chocolate chips}.
Bake 350 F for 30-40 minutes until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Brussels (no – not the european city)



Everybody gets their moment to shine. Same goes for veggies. It was micro greens. Then kale. And now its brussels sprouts. I hated these as a kid, often comparing them to carpet, which was not a big hit with my mother. But now – NOW – I am in brussels sprout love.

I recently spent some time at the Pines Lodge in Beaver Creek. I found myself at the Grouse Mountain Grill and made a meal out of a tasty pineapple mojito and a brussels sprouts appetizer. You wouldn’t think the two go together, but let’s pretend they do.

I was lucky enough to meet the chef, David Gutowski who is sort of a big shot, I now know. And after a little banter, I learned that he is a friend and a fan of our fabulous Jenna Johansen. So he graciously gave me his brussels sprouts recipe. It’s amazing what small talk can get you.

These were the best brussels sprouts I’ve ever tasted and the recipe seems simple and straightforward, always a plus.


Crispy Brussels Sprouts


  • 2 cups brussels sprouts, cleaned, halved, and blanched
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 TBL smokey, crispy bacon, minced


  • Mix maple syrup and apple cider vinegar in a small saucepan
  • Cook over medium high heat until boiling
  • Lower heat and and allow sauce (gastrique) to reduce
  • “Fry” brussels sprouts at 350 degrees until golden brown
  • Drain on paper towel and toss with  3TBL gastrique and bacon
  • Season with salt
  •  Enjoy

Smoking Bishop Recipe


Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, is currently showing at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts through December 29th. The famous Fezziwigs partnered with Epicurean’s Innovation Chef, Jenna Johansen, to spread holiday cheer by sharing the Smoking Bishop recipe on KWGN last Friday. This classic punch was a favorite of Charles Dickens, and mentioned in the play… This is also a perfect way to use up leftover open bottles after your holiday party this year!

Watch the video here:
A Christmas Carol Smoking Bishop Recipe | KWGN

Smoking Bishop
*Recipe adapted from
by chef Jenna Johansen, Epicurean Group

Total time: 26 hours | Active time: 15 minutes | Makes 8-10 servings


  • 5 oranges
  • 2 lemons
  • 30 whole cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 piece fresh ginger root (thumb-sized), peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) red wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) ruby port


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Wash fruit well. Take the 5 oranges and 1 lemon; reserve the second lemon for later. Make 5 small incisions with a sharp knife into each orange and the lemon. Stick whole cloves into each incision. Place oranges and lemon on a baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes, until peels turn pale and soften up. Place the fruit into the bottom of a large bowl.

In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of water with the cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and fresh ginger. Whisk together and simmer for a few minutes, stirring frequently, till the liquid is reduced by half. Remove from heat.

In a larger pan, pour the red wine (not the port) over medium high till it boils. Reduce heat to a slow simmer, then pour in the sugar and whisk till it dissolves. Let the wine simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the spiced liquid mixture. Remove from heat and pour over roasted fruit. Cover the bowl with cling film. Place the bowl in a warm corner or closed oven for 12 hours.

Then, halve the oranges and lemon, and juice into the spiced wine.

Strain. Add bottle of port and heat over medium heat, do not boil.

Vapors will begin to rise from the warming wine—this is the “smoking” part of the “smoking bishop.” Taste the mixture; add more sugar to taste, if desired.

Garnish with wedges from remaining lemon.

*For the kiddos, substitute apple cider (organic & unfiltered if possible) and cranberry juice for the port.

And now, the end is near…How to say goodbye to summer with style (and salsa).

corn salsa

I had to pry this recipe out of Jenna Johansen, our resident star Innovation Chef.  I’m not exaggerating about the star part; she was featured on Around the World in 80 Plates. And, sadly, I am not exaggerating about having to pry the recipe from her. She is refusing to admit that summer is coming to an end; and you’ve got a love a girl that insists on eating up the last days of fun in the sun.

After talking to her in soothing tones and promising her a round of margaritas on me (and by me, I mean the company credit card), she shared this recipe for Summertime Farmer’s Market Corn Salsa. This quick, easy, full of flavor concoction is sure to please. It’s a perfect partner for chips and a great topping for fish or meat. And wow is it good with those margs. Happy Labor Day!

Summertime Farmer’s Market Corn Salsa

Prep time: 10 minutes | Serves: 10


  • 3 ears corn, local and fresh if possible
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 2TBL extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste


  • Wall all vegetables, cut as necessary
  • Peel corn, blanch (if desired) in boiling water for three minutes, immediately placing in ice water to stop cooking
  • Cut corn off the cob
  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl and serve