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 time...it’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:
150ml dry cider
250g soft brown sugar
180g unsalted butter
Zest of one lemon (optional, I left it out)
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.