Work had a barbecue on Monday, to welcome our new members of staff. We're only a tiny company (6 and a half with the newbies), so there were partners and The Cambridge Arts Marketing Mafia and assorted hangers-on. It was a nice evening. Lots of wine. Being able to leave work at 4, too. Though when I walked through the door of my bosses' house, I was greeted with, 'Hazel! Ah! ...if I give you a glass of wine will you make me another chart?' Typical...!
Anyway, the point was that we left with a party bag. A party bag full of cooking apples from the tree in another guest's garden. ACE FREE STUFF. And an excuse to make apple cake, which I love. That the combination of buttery cake and soft moist tart apple with a hint of cinnamon is a great one is hardly earth shattering news. I was thinking that I'd see if there were things I could do to add texture to it, hence the nutty crumble topping. What I really was thinking about was adding caramelised walnuts instead, but this was hindered by the fact I only had chopped mixed nuts in the cupboard, not walnut pieces, and also that I needed the cake baked quickly because I'd promised a friend tea and cake at three in the afternoon, and she changed the time to 10:30 in the morning! No disaster, except for me skinning the top of my middle finger with my brand new and hence very sharp indeed peeler.
Ingredients 3 small bramley apples, about the size of a girly fist. Didn't weigh them, sorry... Juice of half a lemon to coat the apple pieces and stop them browning 2 medium free range eggs 4 oz butter 4 oz plain flour (actually, I think half wholemeal flour here might be a nice way of giving this more texture) 4 oz soft brown sugar 2 scant tsp baking powder Half a tsp of salt
For the crumble: 4 tbsp plain flour 2 tbsp icing sugar 2 tbsp (about half an ounce) butter 2 tbsp chopped mixed nuts
Preheat the oven to 180 degree centigrade, or about gas mark 4. I hate my gas oven.
You will also need a tin around 6 inches in diameter and at least 1 and a half inches deep, lined with baking parchment. My cake overflowed - I might make it in a square tin another time to avoid that.
First, the apples. Peel them, without getting blood all over everywhere. Try to keep your fingers intact, or when you put a plaster on the subsequent cut, your pet rats will think it's a wonderful toy and try to pull it off and chew it and generally be fascinated by it. Cut two of them into quarters and core them, then into eighths and into rough dice and add to a pan with about 100ml water. Cook until soft right through and looking saucy. Quarter and dice the third apple and cover with lemon juice.
For the crumble, rub together the butter, flour and icing sugar until it resemble clumpy breadcrumbs, then stir in the nuts.
For the cake, cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, then beat in one egg. Sift in about a quarter of the flour, beat, then add the other egg and beat. Sift in the rest of the flour, baking powder and salt and combine. Fold in the apple pieces (not the juice) and add two heaped tablespoons of the apple puree. (This probably won't be all of the puree, but the rest is an awesome thing to add to yoghurt with a bit of sugar.)
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and cover with the crumble mixture. Bake for 30-35 minutes, checking towards the end. The top where the cake mixture pokes through should be nicely browned and a bit cracked. A knife should come out without uncooked cake mixture on it, but it will probably still be a bit wet because of the fruit.