Now that British Summertime has ended it’s time for a baker’s thoughts to turn to spice, apples and cake that comforts! When I saw this recipe I knew it was perfect to accompany a cup of tea on a murky November afternoon.
Much as it’s against my principles I should point out that this cake is low in calories and saturated fat (although that probably doesn’t include the buttercream). But don’t let that put you off because it is also moist, delicious and very, very moreish. I can’t help but think of Marjorie Dawes’ diet advice to her Fatfighter’s group: “and because it’s only half the calories you can eat twice as much of it”.
The recipe came with a cream cheese frosting but – try as I might – I just cannot warm to the flavour of it, so switched to the cinnamon buttercream we all loved from my apple cupcakes last month. I halved the amount of honey in the buttercream as I wanted it to be firmer.
This cake is exceptionally soft so I advise caution on removing it from the tin; it’s probably best to let it cool completely before handling it. Even then, take care – it’s a really squidgy, but also crumbly, sponge. Here it is before decoration:
The batter was light and airy – I tried to photograph it to illustrate it’s light, open batter; not sure this is the best photo I’ve ever taken but, this is what the batter looked like:
Apple and spice is probably second only to vanilla in my “all-time favourite cake flavours” list. It’s the way the sweet acidity of the apple is warmed by the spice and the flavours dance around your mouth and linger. Just beautiful. The walnut garnish adds some extra texture and I was rather pleased with my idea of putting the walnut halves round the edge because, not only did it look pretty, but it also used more buttercream!
For the cake:
1kg Bramley apples (or any other cooking apple)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons water, add more if necessary
100g plain flour
100g wholemeal flour
1 tablespoon cornflour
2 teaspoons bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
225g golden caster sugar
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
50ml sunflower oil
For the buttercream:
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
300g icing sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon honey
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Optional, to decorate: walnut halves
Start by making the apple puree: peel, core and slice the apples and place into a non-stick saucepan.
Add the lemon juice and water and simmer – covered – over a low heat until the apples break down into a thick puree. I found I needed to add some more water to generate the steam to break down the apples – I probably added a further 4 tablespoons; use your judgement. If the apples look dry then add more water.
Remove the lid and increase the heat (only a little) then cook for a further 5 minutes and stir to ensure that the excess liquid cooks away.
Remove from the heat, decant into a bowl and leave to cool completely – if you wish, you can make the puree the day before you bake and store it in the fridge overnight.
Preheat the oven to 160˚C/fan oven140˚C/320˚F/gas mark 3.
Line a 20cm round springform tin with baking paper.
Sift together all three flours, bicarbonate of soda, spices and sugar into a bowl, then tip in any bran left in the sieve – in this instance you’re sieving to combine the ingredients rather than weed out undesirables!
Stir in the raisins and walnuts.
Weigh out 550g of the apple puree and stir into the dry ingredients along with the oil. (You can use any leftover apple puree in the decoration)
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and level the surface.
Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Mine actually took a fair bit longer – 1 hour 20 mins but I know all ovens are different so use your judgement.
Leave the cake – in its tin – on a wire rack until it is completely cool; the cake is very soft so take extra care.
Now make the buttercream: beat the butter on its own until it is light and whippy.
Add the icing sugar and milk and beat until light and smooth.
Beat in the honey and spice.
Spoon any leftover apple puree onto the centre of the cake (you could also cut the cake through and use the puree to sandwich it).
Pipe the buttercream around the top of the cake and decorate with walnut halves, if so desired.
Bask in the glory of the wonderful thing you have created.