>> Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The other day I noticed a few apples sitting in our fruit bowl looking dejected. They were starting to develop that sweet-honey smell that means their past their eating best but are perfect for baking.

Apple cake? I had a lovely, simple recipe I’d used a few times; a fairly basic butter cake with apple quarters scored and pushed gently into the soft batter and coated with apricot jam, which I’d found in one of my mum’s Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks. I hunted through my handwritten recipe journal and file of cut-outs with no success. It was 3 o’clock in the morning in New Zealand, so I couldn’t ring my mum and get her to read the recipe out to me over the phone. Sometimes it’s so frustrating not living in the same time zone as your family. It makes the distance even harder since you feel so completely disconnected. Eating a slice of homemade apple cake would make it slightly easier to bear though. So I set about finding a new recipe to try.

I decided to look for one that was a bit different from my original recipe – trying to find one similar would surely only lead to disappointment. On the Waitrose website I found a recipe for ‘Organic Apple Cake with Honey and Cinnamon Crème Fraîche’. It was the layer of caramelised and finely sliced apple that really grabbed me. It looked shiny and delicious; this was the one.

First of all, I have to tell you that I chose this recipe despite the fact it claimed to be ‘organic’. Anything can be organic if you stick the word ‘organic’ in front of every ingredient listed. I also chose it even though everything in the ingredients list is measured in grams rather than cups or mls. Something which is particularly frustrating for me as I don’t yet own a set of scales.... It’s on my ‘to do’ list. Luckily I’ve found a great website which converts weights of different ingredients into various units. It’s pretty hard to get completely accurate though – 0.66 of a cup anyone? Electronic scales will be my next kitchen purchase. I just need to find some I like. It’s harder than you would think.

So – even though this cake was teetering on the edge of the ‘too-hard basket’ and had me scoffing at it’s ingredients list, I persevered. Lucky cake.

A very, very easy cake to make. (As long as you ignore the fact that I was continually running back and forth between the kitchen and my laptop on the dining room table trying to remember conversion quantities!) The batter couldn't be simpler and while the apples are slightly fiddly to arrange, they look pretty and it only takes about 5 minutes. The cake itself actually improves after a day or two, so I would recommend baking it the day before you intend to serve it. If not, it's a lovely light cake fresh from the oven.

I ended up taking this as a dessert for dinner at Anna and Carl’s house. I’m so glad I did, as had I not, I would never had tried the Honey and Cinnamon Crème Fraîche (which would have been a bit of an extravagant addition just for the two of us). Flavoured creams have never really caught my attention before, and they’re definitely not something I would usually make on a regular basis – save the Chantilly cream my family makes instead of ordinary whipped cream. (I don’t think I can remember a time when we’ve whipped cream to go with something sweet and not included a teaspoon of castor sugar and a small splash of vanilla essence. Infinitely better than plain.)

This Crème Fraîche is worth the little extra effort it takes to assemble - particularly with a delicately flavoured cake such as this. It transforms what could be an ordinary tea cake into something special and worthy of dessert. If you can't get hold of crème fraîche, whipping or double cream will be fine. Just make sure it's whipped to a thick consistency before adding the cinnamon honey.

Just to let you know; I tried this twice - the first time with whipped double cream because that was all the Tesco up the road had in stock, the second time with crème fraîche. I can't decide which is better. I liked the double cream; it was lighter and sweeter and allowed the taste of the cinnamon and honey to stand out. Chris preferred the crème fraîche; he said he liked the slight lemony tartness alongside the apples in the cake. So the jury's out on that one - but which ever you choose, be rest assured it's good no matter what.

While I know that no cake will ever be wonderful enough to keep the homesickness blues completely at bay, the comforting smell of any cake gently baking in the oven will always help - at least a little.

Chris and I are off to Paris for the Easter holiday weekend! So no more posting until next week sometime, but I'm sure I'll bring back lots of photos of amazing confections and french delights to share. À bientôt!

Apple Cake with Honey + Cinnamon Crème Fraîche
(adapted from the Waitrose Website)

For the cake:
2 eating apples
225g demerara sugar (or raw sugar)
200g butter, softened
3 room temperature free range eggs, beaten
200g self-raising flour
150g pot natural yoghurt

For the crème fraîche:
500g crème fraîche
2 tbsp liquid honey
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4. Lightly grease a round 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin, line the base with baking parchment, then grease the top of the parchment.

2. Core the apples and slice thinly (no need to peel). Put them in a large bowl, add 25g of the sugar and toss well to coat. Arrange the slices in the tin, overlapping them slightly to form circles. Make sure there are no gaps between the apples as this will result in uneven areas where the batter will show on the top of the cake.

3. Beat the butter and remaining sugar together until light and fluffy, using an electric hand whisk or wooden spoon. Add the eggs, a little at a time, until they are fully incorporated and the mixture is smooth. If the mixture begins to curdle, simply add a spoonful or two of the flour and continue to add the egg. This should not happen if your ingredients are at room temperature and you make sure to add the eggs only a little at a time.

4. Fold in the remaining flour and yoghurt, then carefully spoon the mixture over the apples. Place the cake tin on a baking tray and bake for about 1 hour, or until golden and springy to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 20 minutes or so. Turn the cake out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.

5. Spoon the crème fraîche into a serving bowl. Beat the honey and cinnamon together, then stir gently through the crème fraîche. Chill. Serve the cake in slices, with the honeyed crème fraîche.


Kelly Cook September 13, 2010 at 10:03 PM  

This looks good - and easy, a winning combination!

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