A Valentine’s Day treat: a review of the apple torte with butter sauce from Bushnell’s Turtle cookbook

After hearing of a popular Iowa City restaurant named after her ancestor’s invention, a DI Arts reporter set out to cook and review three original recipes from the restaurant’s cookbook. For her second recipe, she makes and reviews the apple torte with butter sauce.


Addie Bushnell prepares an apple torte in her apartment, which is inspired by a recipe from a cookbook called “The Original Recipes from Busnell’s Turtle.” Bushnell’s Turtle was a prominent restaurant in Iowa City in the late 20th century that Addie Bushnell is now bringing to life through her three-part project, “Bushnell Recipe Series.” (Jake Maish/The Daily Iowan)

Addie Bushnell, Arts Reporter

When I discovered The Original Recipes of the Bushnell’s Turtle cookbook in Prairie Lights, I was introduced to the history of a popular Iowa City restaurant called Bushnell’s Turtle. The restaurant was named after a Revolutionary War submarine invented by my ancestor, David Bushnell.

To honor the legacy of my ancestor and the late Ed Zastrow, founder of Bushnell’s Turtle and an extraordinary member of the Iowa City community, I decided to cook and review three recipes from The Original Recipes of the Bushnell’s Turtle.

RELATED: Exploring the legacy of Bushnell’s Turtle, a beloved Iowa City restaurant that pays homage to the first combat submarine

With Valentine’s Day coming up, I was in the mood for a sugary treat. The apple torte with butter sauce is just that — the recipe calls for two-and-a-half cups of sugar in all, along with plenty of butter and tasty spices like cinnamon and nutmeg.

I’m a big fan of apple pies and turnovers, so this torte was perfectly suited to my taste in desserts, and the cookbook itself has a wide variety of options, from cheesecakes to mint chocolate brownies.

Making the torte was generally an easy process (besides a few hiccups) and it was a lot of fun. I started out by mixing the butter sauce, which consisted of sugar, evaporated milk, and vanilla. The sauce was supposed to sit on the stovetop on low for an hour, which was about as long as it took to prep and cook the torte itself, so I let the sauce simmer while I worked on mixing the batter for the crust.

The crust was a mix of sugar, flour, egg, and autumn-inspired spices that smelled absolutely wonderful by the time I was finished making it. I spread the batter evenly inside a buttered 9 inch springform pan.

Next, I cut two Honeycrisp apples into slices. I wanted to use Cortland apples because they’re generally the best choice when making foods like apple pies or applesauce, but there weren’t any at Hy-Vee. For those interested in recreating this recipe, Cortland, Honeycrisp, and Granny Smith (if you like a sour tang) are all good options for this recipe.

RELATED: Cheesy and delicious: a DI staffer cooked and reviewed hot turkey sandwich from Bushnell’s Turtle cookbook

Once I had cut both apples and removed the skin, I placed the slices into the batter, creating a ring along the inside of the pan and filling the center with leftover slices. I sprinkled extra nutmeg and sugar on the batter and placed the pan in the preheated oven.

The torte cooked for 40 minutes until the crust became a perfectly toasted golden-brown. I let it cool on the stovetop for a few minutes and garnished it with a drizzle of the butter sauce.

The torte ended up having the perfect doughy consistency — it was soft and chewy in the middle with a crunchy, flaky surface. The apples were so refreshing when paired with the richness of the crust.

Personally, I would have added even more apple to the torte. There was an imbalance between the crust and the fruit, and I found myself wishing there was more apple in each bite. If you like your apple pies stuffed to the brim with slices, I’d recommend adding an extra apple when making this torte.

The addition of nutmeg and cinnamon made this dessert perfect for fans of fall and winter cuisine, and the eggy taste of the crust is reminiscent of classic Midwestern supper club popovers. Paired with a sweet glass of Reisling, this recipe made for a delicious Valentine’s dessert.