Sunday, 15 February 2009

Guernsey cider cake (Gâche à cidre)

I’m still in the midst of my work travels but snatched some time to bake this cake. Travelling for work eats up time like nothing else, and even when you have free time you mostly can’t do with it what you would like to because you’re not at home! Having said that, there are some plusses and the biggest for me are finding out about the place I’m visiting and enjoying the local shops and markets.

I have spent most of the past two weeks in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which is part of the Channel Islands. The Islands are a British Crown Dependency but not part of the UK. Geographically they are nearer to France than England. “Enough of the geography”, I hear you shout, “where’s the cake?” Here it is:

In the independent bookshop I found local cookbooks featuring Guernsey traditional recipes. It struck me, on browsing these, that Guernsey has a fondness for apples and cake. Suddenly I felt right at home!

Cider cake caught my attention because I had a hankering for sultanas. In the same way that you soak dried fruit in brandy for a Christmas cake, you soak sultanas in cider for this cake. Here they are sitting in a bath of fizzy cider:

There are options too – the recipe notes that you can bake one large cake or cupcakes. The rustic nature of the ingredients – sultanas, brown sugar, cinnamon etc made me opt for a large cake. I added my twist to the cake, which will probably have the traditionalists seething, with a vanilla custard buttercream topping. A lot of buttercream topping.....

The aroma of the cake whilst cooking deserves a mention! It was a lovely warm appley smell with a hint of spice. It’s what I’d term a rustic, farmhouse-y sort of cake. Much as I love fancy cakes this is the sort of thing that really gets my taste buds salivating!

Here’s the cake fresh from the oven:

Here it is before it got ‘buttercreamed’:

On eating the cake we all agreed that it was the best cake we’d had for a long’s that good! It’s light and moist but also crumbly and oh so comforting. I think it would be delicious without the buttercream but, for my taste, the buttercream added an extra layer of loveliness.

For the cake:
180g sultanas
150ml dry cider
250g soft brown sugar
180g unsalted butter
Zest of one lemon (optional, I left it out)
2 eggs
250g self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the custard buttercream (optional):
150ml milk (whole or semi skimmed)
125g caster sugar
2 egg yolks
175g unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

How to make:

- Soak the sultanas in the cider for at least an hour before making the cake. This will give the sultanas time to absorb some cider and become fat and juicy.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan oven 160°C/350°F/Gas mark 4.
- Line a deep 20cm round cake tin. You can, if you prefer, make cupcakes. I’m not sure how many you will get because I made the 20cm cake.
- Cream together the butter and sugar. This will take quite a while as brown sugar is coarser than caster sugar. Don’t skimp as this is an important stage; using my kitchenaid at a medium speed it took about 10 minutes until I had something light and smooth.
- If you’re using it, add the lemon zest and stir in.
- Beat in the eggs one at a time.
- Fold in the flour and cinnamon.
- Stir in the sultanas and cider. The sultanas won’t completely absorb the cider so make sure you pour in all the cider too!
- Spoon into the prepared tin and bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer comes out cleanly. Mine took 1 hour 10 minutes. If you are making cupcakes instead, check after 20 minutes.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack. You can make the cake a day before serving it but I recommend making the buttercream on the day.
- To make the buttercream: place the milk and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil gently, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl and then pour the milk onto the yolks whisking all the time.
- Return the custard mix to the saucepan and, stirring all the time, cook over a medium heat just until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon. Take your time over this – if you have too fierce a heat your eggs might scramble!
- Pour into a bowl and leave to cool slightly.
- Beat the butter until it is fluffy and light.
- Gradually beat in the now room temperature custard to the butter.
- Finally beat in the vanilla extract.
- Spread over the top of the cake or cupcakes.
- Bask in glory at the wonderful thing you have made.
- Eat.


Dee said...

I used to hate travelling for work, and now that I don't I miss it. The grass is always greener...

The sheer variety of cakes you churn out never ceases to amaze me. This sounds delish! And I love your cake liner :)

Sharon said...

This cake is now next on my list. I love the cake liner too! Where do you get them from?

trashalou said...

I was with you up until the buttercream. I am far from a purist I just don't get the whole thing about buttercream.

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Dee and Sharon

I buy my liners from a company in the UK - Lakeland Ltd:
Having said that, they are available in kitchenware shops so I'm sure would be available in other countries too. Maybe even Amazon sells them?

Hi Trashalou
You don't "get" buttercream? It's hard to type when my tears are falling into the keyboard....! The cake would be lovely sans buttercream so please don't rule it out! It is a great cake.

The Caked Crusader

Katie said...

Apples, cider, sultanas, spices mmmm thats my kinda cake. I'm amazed you found time to cook when not at home. Looks delicious.

Margaret said...

When I think of Guernsey I certainly don't think 'cider'.
This looks a beautifully moist and tender cake.

Maria said...

Lovely cake!! I love all of the flavors involved!

Sam said...

This cake's going on my 'must try' list.

Best Playlists said...

This actually really sounds good as I love cake and have not had a good one for quite sometime now. I think this might have to be made!

Maria@TheGourmetChallenge said...

I've never seen cider in a cake before. It would definitely make it lighter and fluffier. Interesting indeed.

Jerri - Simply Sweet Home said...

Great looking cake!

Elizabeth said...

Great selection, Caked Crusader - I recently opened a bottle of cider, and I love anything apple. I made the cupcake version so that I could say that I made Fairy Cakes.

I got 18 cupcakes and they needed 24 minutes in my oven. They are very tasty and very tender, but a little sweet for my taste, which may be due to my cider. I was going to use a cider/powdered sugar/cinnamon glaze on them but decided to leave them naked.

I would judge my first CC recipe a success!

The Caked Crusader said...

Hi Elizabeth

Glad to hear they were a success. Yes, I think the type of cider used could greatly influence the final taste - perhaps that's why the recipe specifies dry cider. I think the recipe would still work with reduced sugar if using a sweeter cider.

You have definitely earned your "I have made fairy cakes" badge! A proud day.

The Caked Crusader

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

How fab! I'm guessing it's a bit like carrot cake in texture?

Sounds and looks very yummy...

glamah16 said...

I see the french influence. Omd day I have to visit.

Anonymous said...

Cider was traditionally endemic to Guernsey- before the growers in their infinite wisdom put up all the greenhouses there were cider orchards scattered densely across the entire island. Look on an old map from e.g. 13-15th centuries. Guernsey's fortune was built on Cider!