A week ago, a friend of mine emailed to say she was making apple cake. Ever since, I have not stopped thinking about apple cake. And then, last night, my boyfriend comes home with 10 perfect granny smith apples he had picked up from work (he had been working at a dentist conference, of course). So, the stars aligned, and I was destined to make an apple cake.
My boyfriend also bought home, from the local Oxfam, a near-immaculate vinyl copy of the 1983 Emmylou Harris album, White Shoes. This album makes a great cake-baking backdrop, especially the first side with In My Dreams, White Shoes and a cover of On The Radio.
Apple cake recipe
4 apples (I used granny smith, but any apples will work)
1 cup unrefined caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (of good quality)
½ cup ground almonds
1 cup plain flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon mixed spice
1. Grease and line a cake tin, and preheat the oven to 180c.
2. Peel and core the apples, cut in half and then into slices. Arrange about half the apples on the bottom of the cake tin. Chop the remaining apple slices in half again into pieces and set aside.
3. Chop the butter into cubes, place in a large bowl with the cup of sugar. Beat until fluffy.
4. Add the eggs one at a time to the sugar and butter mix, beating each egg in well before adding the next. Beat in vanilla essence.
5. Sift in flour, baking powder, cinnamon and mixed spice, and add ground almonds. Gently stir through. Add the remaining apples and stir until just mixed.
6. Spread the batter into the cake tin over the apples.
7. Bake for around 45 minutes to an hour, until the cake springs back when touched.
8. Once cooled, gently remove the cake from the tin and flip upside down, so that the cooked apple is face up.
Serve on its own warm from the oven, with runny or whipped cream, custard, or vanilla ice cream.
Custard is an excellent accompaniment, and homemade custard is remarkably easy to make.
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons caster sugar
½ cup cream
1 ½ cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence, or a vanilla bean split in half and seeded.
Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a metal bowl and set aside. In a pot, put the milk, cream and vanilla. Heat slowly on a low heat, stirring regularly.
When the milk and cream is almost at the boil, whisk about half of it into the egg yolks and sugar (whisk quickly so that the egg doesn’t cook). Put it all back into the pot, and continue to stir over a low heat until thick and almost at the boil. Do not allow the mixture to boil or it will curdle. If it is not thick enough, add another egg yolk – again adding the milk mixture to the egg, and then putting back into the pot.
A note on cream
The cream departments of UK supermarkets offer a variety of different types of cream – single, double, whipping cream, light cream… Very confusing for an antipodean who is used to one variety – cream – that serves all purposes. I realised that there was a real difference in the UK cream varieties when I was trying to whip some cream to go with some fresh raspberries. I had been whipping this cream for about 10 minutes, getting more and more frustrated at its stubbornness, when someone pointed out to me that it was single cream and wasn’t suitable for whipping.
So, in case you find yourself confused in the UK like me, single cream has a much lighter fat content and is not suitable for whipping – it just doesn’t have enough fat for it to be whipped. Double cream has a much higher fat content and can be used for whipping, as of course, can ‘whipping cream’.
And, if you find yourself confused in New Zealand or Australia, cream is just cream, and you can whip it, cook it, pour it, or whatever you like.