It is apple season and I am overwhelmed with apples at the moment after inheriting a huge tree in my new garden. It left me craving apple cake but I have to admit that I did not have a famous, family recipe handed down for generations but I was determined it should be perfect. So, where to start? No cookbooks of mine sprang to mind, so I scoured the internet and as I have found before, this is a dangerous pastime. There are literally thousands of recipes to choose from and no real guarantee that any of them are any good or even going to work. In the past I have stuck to safe bets such as Jamie Oliver, BBC Good Food or allrecipes.co.uk. Large corporations, such as Jamie Oliver have testing kitchens which try out all the recipes, so they tend to be more likely to work. Other websites such as allrecipes have ratings so you can try and get an idea on the feedback. So after sifting through at least half a dozen recipes I decided on one by Nigella Lawson which had been tested and had good ratings. I am very disappointed to say it really was not very good. More of a pudding than a cake, it just was not special at all. I was quite irritated to say the least. I had made it and photographed it for this blog, which had taken quite some time and now I was at a bit of a quandary as to whether I should just write it up anyway, and say it was OK or start again. The cake sat there uneaten. It was the kind of cake which was just not worth sacrificing your waistline for. I wanted a cake that made you say “to hell with the calories, this is too good.” I decided I just had to try harder. Back to the drawing board. I thought about what I really wanted from an apple cake. Apply, crumbly, not too sweet and a hint of Cinnamon. I wanted a cake that it didn’t matter exactly how many apples you used or what type of apple they were, it would still deliver on texture and taste. I finally found a recipe and I am proud to say that it is nothing short of perfect. Irresistibly good and every bit worth the calories.
Apple and cinnamon crumble cake
For the crumble topping:
125g plain flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g slightly salted butter, cold, cubed
125g demerara or light brown sugar
50g roasted chopped hazelnuts or almonds
For the cake:
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
125g slightly salted butter, softened
150g golden caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 large organic free range Eggs
6 Cox or Braiburn apples or 4 Bramleys
Juice 1 lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Grease and line a 22cm round cake tin with baking parchment. For the crumble topping, place the flour, cinnamon and cold butter into a large bowl or and rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and nuts then transfer to the fridge. (Alternatively put the whole lot in a food processor and pulse until you have breadcrumbs)
2. For the cake, sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl and set aside. Using a mixer or electric handheld whisk, cream the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs. Gradually beat a little flour into the butter mixture, followed by a little of the milk and eggs, alternating until they’re all mixed in. Spoon the cake mixture into the prepared tin and level with the back of a spoon. (This can all be done in a food processor too.)
3. Peel, core and halve the apples, then slice thinly and toss in the lemon juice. Arrange on top of the cake mixture then sprinkle the chilled crumble over the top.
4. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. You can see when it is done as the cake rises in the middle and the apples begin to poke out. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Great with vanilla ice-cream, whipped cream or clotted cream.