When I was little, we had an apple tree smack bang in the middle of the garden. Its apple of choice was bramleys: great big, misshapen bulbous things that looked like an apple drawn by a child, or maybe something you’d find in a witch’s pantry. They are the Incredible Hulk of apples, bright green and almost bursting out of their skins. Every September, the apples would cover our lawn, more than we ever knew what to do with. Our next door neighbour would turn bursting carrier bags of these apples into perfect pies and sozzled pigeons would career around the garden, drunk on the apples we hadn’t collected. Eventually, it loomed so large that my parents got rid of it and, although I understood the rationale, I missed it.
When we moved into the house we now live in, my husband’s parents gave us an apple tree as a housewarming gift. But this was no ordinary apple tree: it was a multigraft. From one tree, four different types of apple are produced, russets and cox’s orange pippin, bramley and braeburns. In its first year of fruiting, still a sapling, overshadowed by our small shed, we got a handful of cooking apples out of it, and in its second, two perfect, blushing braeburns.
I have faith that one day this little tree will be a towering behemoth that reliably produces bushels of four different types of apples every year. But for now, I’m content to make the most of the few I get.
And this is a cake that does that: using both cooking and eating apples, it gives you get the best of both worlds. Bramleys are cooking apples: you wouldn’t want to eat them raw, they’d be sour and give you tummy ache, but cooked down with just a little water, even without sugar, they soften into sweet apple sauce, and in this cake they will bake into the sponge of the cake, while the alternating slices of eating apples retain their shape and bite. This recipe is adapted from Anna Hedworth’s excellent apple cake that she serves at her restaurant Cook House in Newcastle.
Spiced apple cake
Makes: 8-10 slices
Takes: 5 minutes
Bakes: 50 minutes
1 large cooking apple
1 eating apple
200g butter, melted
225g light brown sugar
225g self raising flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon caster sugar
1. Line a nine-inch round cake tin with greaseproof paper and heat the oven to 160°C.
2. Peel and core both apples and cut each into 12 wedges.
3. Melt the butter. Place the sugar, flour, cinnamon and baking powder into a large bowl and rub it between your finger tips to get rid of any lumps in the sugar.
4. Fork the eggs in a small bowl to break them up and then add these along with the butter to the dry ingredients, mixing the whole thing quickly together with a spatula.
5. Pour three quarters of the mix into the lined tin and then place the apple segments in a circle, alternating the segments of cooking apple with eating apple; pop any spare segments in the middle of the apple circle.
6. Spoon the rest of the mixture into the middle of the cake tin; don’t try and spread it out to the sides. Sprinkle caster sugar over the top of the cake.
7. Bake for 50 minutes until the top is taught and golden brown. Allow to cool for five minutes before removing from the tin and leaving to cool entirely.