I confess to having a bit of a love affair with apple cakes; sponge and apple is such a heavenly combination. This cake is a substantial country cake and everyone who tries it loves it. Little airy-fairy cakes are all well and good but sometimes you want to have a slice of cake and really know you’ve eaten something.
The slightly unusual ingredient in the sponge part of the cake is custard powder and it adds a robustness to the mix – this isn’t an airy batter, this is a solid dense cake mix. It has to be to support the weight of the custard and the apples.
There is another thing I love about making this cake: when you put the clingfilm over the custard to stop a skin forming as it cools you get an incredible touch sensation – it’s the most amazingly silky surface that’s impossible to resist stroking! Hard to put into words but when you get to that point in the recipe you will realise exactly what I mean!
For the custard:
2 tablespoons custard powder
55g caster sugar
250ml milk (whole or semi skimmed)
20g unsalted butter
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
For the cake:
200g unsalted butter, softened
110g caster sugar
185g self raising flour
40g custard powder
2-3 apples, depending on size (I used three small Gala), peeled, cored and thinly sliced
For the cake topping:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Additional caster sugar to sprinkle on the baked cake. I recommend this as it adds to the look
How to make:
- Start by making the custard: combine the custard powder and sugar in a saucepan then, over a medium heat, add the milk.
- Stir all the time until the custard thickens slightly. Do not leave the pan or stop stirring because if the custard thickens and you’re not there you’ll end up with something like glue!
- As soon as the custard thickens take the pan off the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.
- Press clingfilm on to the top of the custard to stop a skin forming and try to resist wasting about 10 mins stroking the surface of the newly-covered custard! Leave to cool.
- Preheat oven to 190°C/fan oven 170°C/375°F/ Gas mark 5 and line a 22cm round springform tin with greaseproof paper.
- Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Don’t skimp on this stage as I think it is the foundation of success. Take a tiny piece of the mix and place on your tongue. Press it to the roof of your mouth – if it’s gritty the mix needs more beating. When it’s smooth you can move to the next stage.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time. The mix shouldn’t curdle but don’t worry if it does as it will correct itself when you add the flour.
- Stir in the flour and custard powder.
- Building the cake in the tin requires care – this isn’t a cake where you simply dump the mix in the tin and put in the over. You’ll need a knife and spatula and a light touch!
- Spoon half the cake mix into the cake tin and level it. It is a thick batter and you will worry that you don’t have enough mix. You do. You just have to be patient and spread it carefully.
- Remove the clingfilm and spoon the custard onto the cake mix in the tin. Be careful not to spread the custard to the edge as you want the top and bottom layers of cake mix to meet and enclose the custard.
- Now the bit that requires patience and care. Spread the remaining cake mix on top of the custard ensuring that as you spread it you don’t disturb the custard. Try to skim the surface with your knife so that you only move the mix. It isn’t easy but if you’re careful you’ll manage. My hint is to spoon the mix around the edge and draw it towards the centre – that way you guarantee the custard will be cased in the cake.
- Peel, core and slice the apples. I cut the apple into quarters, and then each quarter into four i.e. an apple yields 16 slices.
- Arrange the apple slices on top of the cake.
- Brush the apples with the melted butter and then sprinkle on the sugar and cinnamon.
- Bake in the oven for approx 1 hour until a skewer comes out clean. Mine took exactly one hour.
- While the cake cools in the tin, sprinkle additional caster sugar on top.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.