Sunday, 7 October 2012

Apple Cake

Yesterday was perfect autumn walk and picnic weather. I had noticed earlier in the week that Erddig, a National Trust stately home only half an hour away from where we live was holding its annual apple festival in celebration of the harvest. Erddig has been on my list of local places that I have always meant to visit but never quite got around to. The festival seemed like the perfect reason to finally make the effort. I had read about their beautiful gardens and friends had told me that it was a lovely spot for a stroll and a picnic. A serendipitous plan was falling into place: glorious autumn sunshine, apples, walk and a picnic.



 
I was immediately enchanted as we turned into the driveway. If I were to re-write the lyrics to the Sound of Music song, warm dappled sunlight that falls through the trees would be on my list of favourite things: it reminds me of French tree-lined boulevards and shady courtyards. The gentler autumn sunlight and the bronzed leaves made for an even more pleasing aesthetic.


The sunshine being so lovely, we decided to buy the £7 ticket to look around the gardens and apple festival, saving exploring the house for a rainy day. We walked along yet another dappled, leafy path to enter the walled gardens by a side gate. The festival exhibitions and stalls were nicely spread out in different courtyards, connected by paths bordered with red brick walls and home to a vast number of espaliered fruit trees. I am not generally a fan of prim and proper gardening (anyone who has visited my own garden would tell you that my approach to gardening is somewhat organic and haphazard), yet I found the neatly trained trees adorning the Erddig walled gardens utterly charming.   

The garden boasts a dizzying array of plum, cherry, apple and medlar cultivars, many of which are heritage varieties. My only disappointment was that there were not more opportunities to taste the fruit that sat temptingly on display, only a small selection being available for sale. Nevertheless, we spent a lovely afternoon wandering the gardens and picnicking on Welsh oggies, before picking up some fruit for apple-inspired baking back home. 

My basket overflowing with fruit, I spent the drive home considering what to do with it. I decided to make a cake. I wanted one of those dense, moist cakes that can be served warm as pudding but will last a few days to be enjoyed with a flask of coffee on an Autumn walk. I added some eastern promise to the quintessentially British appleyness using rose water, lemon and almond. It makes for a deliciously versatile cake. I hope you enjoy it. Vx

Apple Cake 


For a 22cm cake tin

7-8 medium dessert apples (I used a mixture of Court Pendu Plat and Holland Pippin, procured at the apple festival.)
200g. self-raising flour
175g. caster sugar + a couple of teaspoons extra.
225g butter
50g. ground almonds
3 eggs
1tsp. cinnamon
1tsp. baking powder
2tbsp. light muscovado sugar
4tsp. rosewater
4tsp. lemon juice



Preheat the oven to 180°C. Melt 200g. of the butter and put to one side to cool. Line your cake tin with parchment and sprinkle the light muscovado sugar into the base of the tin. Dot the remaining butter around the bottom of the tin amongst the sprinkled sugar.

Slice three of the apples sideways, slicing thinly through the centre of the core and pushing out the seeds. Place the slices in the bowl and dress them with 2 tsps. of rosewater, 2 tsps. of lemon juice and 1 tsp. of caster sugar. Lay these slices into the bottom of the cake tin on top of the sugar and butter. Now peel and chop the remaining apples into bite size chunks, put them into another bowl and dress them with the same quantities of rosewater, lemon juice and caster sugar as you did with the slices.

In another bowl (I know, lots of washing up, but you can charm the washer-upper with a slice of cake), beat together the eggs and the caster sugar before slowly pouring in the melted butter and beating this into the mix. Stir through the chopped apple.

Finally, sift the flour and baking powder and add to the mix with the cinnamon and ground almonds. I like to grind my own almonds in a food processor so that you get a coarser texture that adds a subtle crunch to the cake; ready ground almonds would give a smoother texture. Fold in the flour until everything is combined.

Smooth the cake batter over the apple slices and bake in the oven for approximately 50 minutes until golden. Test the cake by piercing with a skewer, if the skewer comes out clean the cake is ready. Serve warm from the oven with a dollop of clotted cream or ice-cream or enjoy at room temperature with a cup of tea.


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