I have had mixed experiences with making cakes containing fresh fruit. The first time I made an apple cake it was definitely delicious but the texture and look felt more like a pudding than a cake. It seemed rather claggy and was great with custard but I did not feel it was particularly presentable for a tea-time treat. It deteriorated quickly in the cake tin as it was so moist and was just about edible on the second day but definitely past it after that. I was a little unsure about wanting to repeat the experience, but we have been snowed under with gifts of apples this year. By all accounts it has been a bumper harvest. I decided to take a risk using a different recipe and this time the results and especially the texture were very much better. Actually, this recipe was so popular that I did not have to worry about it lasting as long as day three, however if it had I am sure it would have been edible.
You will not be surprised to know that this is yet another recipe from my original paperback copy of Delia Smith’s Book of Cakes, which is well thumbed and in places loose leaf. (I was looking for the recipe for Caraway Seed Cake, one of my favourites, which will follow another time … but I digress …!) This page popped open and it sounded lovely – and conveniently there was a small lonely bottle of French cider sitting in the cupboard. My only argument with the recipe is the instruction for placing slices of apple on the top. I spent quite some time making an attractive decorative pattern in concentric rings only to find this was completely unnecessary as it was completely obliterated by the topping mixture. Next time I will either scatter the slices evenly over the top before adding the topping or even try dicing the remaining apple (but into fairly small pieces), before mixing with most of the topping and evenly scattering it over. It can then be finished off with the remainder of the topping mix and the split almonds certainly add a lovely nutty crunch, although they could be omitted. As for the cider, we could really taste it in the cake. I am sure that apple juice would make a good substitute but obviously would not be quite the same. I served this as a warm dessert accompanied by vanilla ice cream with some cake left over to cut and eat cold later. If it is going to be served as a pudding you could go the whole hog and serve it with Brandy Sauce, the type some people serve with Christmas pudding!
Spiced Apple & Cider Cake
For the cake:
50zs/150g margerine or butter
5ozs/150g caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
8ozs/225g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1tsp grated nutmeg
¼pt/150ml dry cider
3 smallish cooking apples (I used 1lb 40zs/600g)
For the topping:
1oz/25g plain flour
2ozs/50g dark soft brown sugar
1oz/25g blanched & chopped or split almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4. Line and grease a 8inch/20cm loose bottomed cake tin.
First make the cake:
2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light, pale and fluffy.
3. Beat the eggs and add a little at a time, beating well each time a some egg is added.
4. Sieve the flour, nutmeg and baking powder together.
5. Fold half of this flour mix into the mixture using a metal spoon. Add half of the cider.
6. Fold in the remaining flour mix. Add the remaining cider.
7. Peel, core and chop one apple and fold into the cake mixture.
8. Spoon the cake mixture evenly into the prepared tin, smoothing with the back of a spoon.
Prepare the topping:
9. Measure the flour, butter, sugar and cinnamon into a bowl and rub together with fingertips until it has a coarse and crumbly texture similar to breadcrumbs. Add the chopped or split almonds.
10. The remaining apples should be peeled, cored and sliced thinly before arranging the slices, overlapping slightly, on the top of the cake. This can be done fairly roughly – these will be completely underneath the layer of topping mixture so it is not worth spending a lot of time making a highly decorative pattern with the apple!
11. Scatter the topping mixture evenly on top.
12. Bake in the centre of the pre-heated oven for 1¼-1½hrs or until the cake starts to shrink away from the sides of the tin.
13. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
14. Remove carefully and transfer to a wire rack.
15. Serve warm as a dessert with cream or ice cream. Alternatively cut when cool and serve at tea time.
16. The liquid in the fruit will make this a moist cake and the moistness will make it start to go mouldy quickly so be aware that it needs to be eaten within a day or so.