Goodbye Summer Apple Cake

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Despite my trying to keep the summer alive with short sleeved shirts and sunglasses, I am slowly starting to back down and give in to the golden season of autumn. I'm always sad to see summer go, but the arrival of cooler months bring spicy scented air from bakeries and the promise of weekly roast dinners (if I can be bothered)!

This apple cake recipe is quite detailed, but it has never let me down and continues to be one of my all time favourites around this time of year. I always opt for the classic Granny Smith for that sharp tang with good structure, but please use your windfall Bramley apples if you have them. Just a few notes on this recipe.

Cream cheese may seem like an odd addition, but the sharp creaminess works beautifully with the sweet spice of the cake. Feel free to substitute the cream cheese with any cream you like with good structure, or you could leave it out altogether - all options work well.

I mentioned the type of apples being Granny Smith, however regardless of what apple you use, I would always recommend taking away some of the excess moisture between some kitchen roll, just to stop the cake turning into a heavy pudding (not that I mind that). I have no issues with the exposed apple turning brown because I'm about to bake it, however toss them in lemon juice if you want to keep them green.

The addition of the pecans and sultanas is my choice but is not essential. Feel free to add different types of dried fruits or nuts, or not at all - make it yours. The sugared pecans make a sweet little addition to the final product.

Finally, there are a lot of steps to this cake, but it is versatile enough to be served as elevenses, afternoon tea or as a dessert!


INGREDIENTS

For the cake:

4 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored and diced

160g unsalted butter

180g caster sugar

4 large eggs

160g sour cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

250g plain flour

1 ½ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

1tsp Allspice

Grating of nutmeg (about a quarter nut)

½ tsp salt

Zest of 1 lemon

Zest of 1 orange

60g sultanas (optional)
60g chopped pecans (optional)

For the spiced cream cheese filling:

500g full fat cream cheese

200g icing sugar

100g unsalted butter (melted)

1-2 tsp ground cinnamon

For the caramel sauce:

100g unsalted butter

125g granulated sugar

125g double cream

½ salt

½ tsp vanilla extract 


METHOD

For the sponge:

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C and grease and line two 8" cake tins.

Once you have prepared the apples, spread them out over a double sheet of kitchen paper (or clean tea towel) and then lay another double sheet over the top. Press down to remove some of the excess moisture and set aside.

Start by creaming the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and then incorporate the eggs one by one – scrape the sides of the bowl between each egg. Stir through the sour cream.

Add the apple pieces to a bowl and toss through a tablespoon of flour, ensuring each piece is coated. This will stop the apple sinking whilst in the oven.

In a separate bowl sift together the dry ingredients and add the zests. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet in two parts, ensuring everything is combined. Fold in ¾ of the apple, the sultanas and pecans, then split the mix between the cake tins.

Spread the rest of the apple evenly over the top of the two cake tins and press them down gently so the pieces sit just below the surface of the batter. Bake in the centre of the oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when you prod it.

Cool the cakes in their tins on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove them from the tins and cool to room temperature.

For the spiced cream cheese filling:

Melt the butter and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, sugar and cinnamon. Slowly incorporate the melted butter and continue whisking until combined. Refrigerate until needed.

For the caramel sauce:

In a large heavy-based saucepan, melt the sugar over a medium heat. Use a fork to move the sugar around but do not touch once it has completely dissolved – swirl the pan if need be. Continue cooking the sugar until it turns a dark amber colour.

Remove the sugar from the heat and add the cream and butter in one go, stirring constantly (be careful). Add the salt and vanilla and set aside to cool to room temperature.

Layer the sponges with the cream cheese filling and drizzle each layer with the caramel sauce. You can crystallise some pecans by running them under the tap and then tossing them in caster sugar. Bake these at 180°C for 10-15 mins (watch they don’t burn). Allow these to cool completely before decorating the top with them.