Saturday, 26 September 2015

Autumn Apple Cake

For me, nothing beats the bounty of autumn’s natural larder and here in Ireland we are particularly blessed with the great produce that is on offer at this time of year.

I especially love picking blackberries from the hedgerows and watching as the apples start to ripen on the trees in my garden. Autumn is also a great time for game and as the season progresses there is more and more of it available. This is a time for hearty stews, hot soups and substantial puddings – foods that are warming and comforting to eat.

The abundance of the autumn months has a profound effect on my general sense of well-being and brings my passion for cooking and experimenting with food to the fore. As the days get shorter, I feel compelled to produce dishes that are nourishing but cheer me up as.
 
I usually use cooking apples in this cake but you could also use tart eating apples. I have a couple of Bramley apple trees in my garden but I find that have struggled to produce fruit whereas the other apple varieties that I have are laden with fruit each year. Although I would have preferred to have used some of my own home-grown apples I had to make do with some Bramleys that I bought in my local fruit and veg shop. This didn’t take away from the flavour of the finished cake which was magnificent.
 
This is one of those cakes that is lovely served slightly warm and demands to be eaten with a hot cup of strong tea. It keeps incredibly well but if it lasts more than a couple of days it benefits from being warmed up in a low oven for 10 minutes or so before serving.
 
The apples do release some moisture during baking so it can be tricky to judge when it is done using the trusty ‘skewer inserted into the centre of the cake’ method but if you follow my timings and use the same sized cake-tin that I did, you should be rewarded with a lovely moist cake which is baked all the way through.
 
If you like you can add a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to the cake batter when mixing – the smell of the spice as the cake bakes is heavenly!

Ingredients:

450g cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
Juice of ½ lemon
Cake:
225g butter, softened
280g caster sugar
4 large eggs
340g self-raising flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
2 tsp vanilla extract
To finish:
2tblsp caster sugar
2tblsp of apricot jam
 

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Grease the inside of a 20cm round spring-form with butter and line the base with a circle of non-stick baking paper and set aside.
2. Place the apples in a bowl and pour in the lemon juice to prevent the apples from discolouring. Gently toss the apples so that they are coated in the apple juice. Set aside.
3. Place the butter and caster sugar in a large mixing bowl and using a hand-held electric mixer, beat together until light and fluffy. Gradually add the eggs, mixing well after each addition.
4. Sieve the flour and cinnamon (if using) together and fold into the creamed mixture, making sure that it is well incorporated. Stir in the vanilla extract making sure that it is well mixed in.
5. Spoon half of the mixture into the prepared tin and spread it out evenly. Place half the sliced apples on top, spreading them out so that they sit in an even layer.
6. Top with the remaining cake batter, again spreading it out evenly so that it covers the layer of apples. You don’t have to be too particular about this as the cake mixture will spread as the cake bakes. Finally top with the remaining apples, placing them in an attractive design on top of the cake. Sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of caster sugar.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes and then reduce the heat to 160C/ Fan Oven 140C/ Gas Mark 2 and cover loosely with some tin foil. Bake for a further 30-35 minutes.
8. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for at least 20 minutes before removing.
To finish:
9. Place the apricot jam in a small saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water. Bring up to the boil and allow bubble for 1 minute. Pass through a sieve into a small clean bowl. Discard the contents of the sieve. Brush the heated and sieved jam over the top of the cake.
NOTE: The cake can be served warm or allowed to cool completely.
 
Serves 10-12.