The desire for cake baking was too strong so I capitulated last week by making this appealing apple cake for book club. Of course it would have been most impolite of me not to taste test it first so I did have a small slice.
It’s one of those very moist cakes but light and with a good texture. Keeps for days apparently but who would know - book club members were advised I would not be taking any home so it was all consumed on the night. I don’t know that it quite matched the plum, orange and almond cake but I’d definitely try it again.
I used the lovely, sweet apples from our tree, which is so laden with its bent boughs skirting the grass. Look up above and there are larger apples out of reach but which we’ll shake down, hopefully before they are eaten by the birds (and the naughty possums).
The recipe comes from Gorgeous Cakes by Annie Bell and is known as Somerset Apple Cake (but being a long way from the English West Country I could hardly call it that).
The recipe used Granny Smith apples - more tart than those from my tree - but I don’t think the cake was any the worse for the use of sweet apples. It certainly benefited from the splosh of Malibu. The original recipe stated an optional apple brandy or Calvados, but I once drank the latter to impress an attractive French guy on a date in London and he turned out to be a dickhead (looks are not everything) and the drink didn’t rate too highly with me either, so Malibu it was.
And the book? Well that was the rather strange The Elephant Keepers’ Children by Peter Hoeg (famous for his Smilla's Sense of Snow). It’s an offbeat story about the madcap adventures of three siblings whose eccentric parents have mysteriously disappeared; full of flamboyance and oddball characters. The theme of the title refers not to real elephants but the secret unseen elephants that lurk either in the room or in some people. Some good moments and themes, but I wasn’t really sure what to make of it and at just under 400 pages, I was quite glad to put it to rest.
Sweet Apple and Almond cake
175g caster sugar
175g unsalted butter, diced
3 eggs, separated
175g ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Malibu (optional)
Leaving the skin on the apples, quarter and core them. Slice three of the quarters very thinly (these are for the top of the cake so depending on apple size, you may need more or less slices) and pop in a small bowl with a squeeze of lemon juice to stop the apples from browning. Slice the remaining apple slices more thickly and place in a separate bowl and toss with a squeeze of lemon and 1 tablespoon of the sugar.
Preheat the oven to 160°C/320°F. Grease and line a 20cm cake tin.
Cream the butter and remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time until incorporated.
Using a spatula, gently incorporate the almonds and sifted baking powder into the mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.
In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Gently fold half of the egg whites into the baking mix and when that is combined, fold in the second half. Add the juice from the thickly sliced apples and Malibu (if using). Take the thickly sliced apples and pat with paper towel to remove excess juice. Add these to the mix, gently folding until just combined.
Transfer the baking mix into the cake tin, smoothing the top with a palette knife.
Drain the finely sliced apples and arrange on top of the cake.
Bake for approximately 1 hour 20 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
Leave to cool completely in the tin.
Dust with icing sugar before serving.