old fashioned apple cake
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Time for apples – and I’m having to buy them.
We used to have two apple trees in the garden: one eating, one cooking, fruiting every other year each, in alternative years – a perfect arrangement. Most years there would be a bumper crop and I’d be juicing, jamming (well, chutney-ing; I don’t think apple jam is a fantastic innovation) and baking apple cakes. Or the eating apple tree would give birth to plenty of, slightly skanky but tasty, apples; and we’d live on them for weeks on end.
But it turns out apple trees have their lifespan and kick the bucket when very old. So we had to have them chopped down and got some new – and newfangled – espalier fan-trained (no, me neither) apple and cherry trees. To grow against the fence.
Now call me old fashioned (or unworldly, or a townie; or crap gardener – or all of the above), but in my books a fruit tree stands alone, surrounded by its sisters, in a lovely orchard. If it wants to be gnarly, it is. If the fruit is ripe, it will drop. If you go scrumping, you risk being eaten by a vicious dog. The way of the world.
These poor espalier trees now are made to stand with their back against a stupid fence where the sun peeks in only in the morning, with their branches permanently splayed and tied to the fence. Pure Guantanamo.
And so I can only nod sardonically with a textbook ‘told you’ expression on my face while the Weather Man is wondering why there are all of five tiny fruits on our trees third year running, including the ones eaten by the birds.
Recipe from King Arthur Flour – a good find; I’ll certainly be exploring the good King more in the future.
old fashioned apple cake
- For the cake:
- 280g (2 1/3 cup) plain flour
- 200g (1 cup) caster sugar
- 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- ¾ tsp fine salt
- 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ¼ tsp ground or grated nutmeg
- 2 large eggs
- 115g (1 stick) butter, softened
- 400g (1 pound) cooking Bramley apples, peeled, cored and diced
- 100g (½ cup) sultanas or raisins
- For the frosting:
- 50g (3 ½ tbsp.) butter
- 70g (5 tbsp.) brown sugar
- ¼ tsp fine salt
- 30ml (3 tbsp.) milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 120g (1 cup) icing sugar
Butter and flour or line with parchment a round 23cm (10in) springform cake tin. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/gas 3.
Beat all the ingredients except apples and raisins thoroughly until smooth in a large bowl. The mix will be very thick; add the apples and raisins and stir for a few minutes until the apple juice releases and makes the batter a little less stiff.
Transfer the batter to the tin and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 50-55 minutes until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and cool in the tin.
To make the frosting, melt the sugar and butter in a small pan until dissolved. Add the salt, pour in the milk and the vanilla extract and bring to the boil. Take it off the heat and beat the icing sugar into the mix until smooth.
Spread on the cooled cake and let it set before removing the cake from the tin.