It’s at about this time every year (mid-October) that the eating apples I lovingly picked from the garden tree back in August or September start to become a nuisance. Now shrivelling and/or rotting in little yellow heaps around the kitchen, they are attracting fruit flies and exuding the vague waft of ethanol decay around the house.
But, before jettisoning the wizened lot to the compost heap, this spectacular and comforting autumnal apple cake is the perfect use for at least some of them. I found the parent recipe in one of the Moosewood cookbooks about 15 years ago, and have experimented a little over the years with both the ingredients and the method. I love the use of warming cardamom as well as the more conventional cinnamon to spice the apples, and the fact that the cake is crispy on the outside (thanks to a sesame seed crust) and really succulent on the inside (the apples and oil see to that). I’ve chosen to use spelt for the less gluten-tolerant, but any general purpose flour will do. Sunflower oil is both an economic fat and also makes that ‘cream fat and sugar’ stage really quick and easy. An electric mixer is helpful; though it’s possible to work this by hand, but your cake probably won’t be quite as light. Peeling, coring and chopping the apples can take a while, but you can do that a day ahead and refrigerate your apple/spice mix until you have time to use it.
- 6 or 7 (500g) small eating apples – the average garden eating apple is perfect – equivalent to 3 cups of chopped apple
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 or 5 green cardamom pods, equivalent to 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 375g (3 cups) spelt flour
- 1 teaspooon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
- 400g (2 cups) brown sugar
- 350ml sunflower oil
- 3 eggs
- 100g (1 cup) walnuts (or you could use pecans, almonds etc)
- 3 tablespoons apple juice (or milk or water)
- 1 teaspoon of butter (or a dollop of vegetable oil) for greasing your tin
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- icing sugar with a little cinnamon added, to dust finished cake (optional)
- Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees.
- Grease a 10″ bundt tin and scatter sesame seeds in the bottom, turning the tin until the seeds have all stuck. Set aside.
- Peel, core and chop the apples, placing them in a medium-sized bowl as you go.
- Grind the cardamom pods in a mortar and pestle, discarding the husks.
- Add the spices and vanilla to the apples and stir. At this point, you can cover with cling-film and store for a day, if need be.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder and bicarb into a medium bowl.
- Place sugar and oil into the bowl of mixer and beat until creamy. Don’t worry if it doesn’t get creamy – just ensure that you give it a good couple of minutes of vigorous beating as it’s this stage that’ll give lightness to your eventual cake.
- Now add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each.
- Add the flour mixture, just mixing until it’s all incorporated (this is when you don’t want to knock out all that air you’ve just worked in…).
- Add the apple juice (or equivalent).
- Fold in the apples and walnuts.
- Dollop your mix into prepared tin and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or till a knife/skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
- Allow to cool 15 minutes in the tin before turning out onto a rack to cool; it will be heavy so move it with care.
- When cool (if you can wait that long…), move your apple cake to a cake plate and sprinkle with cinnamon icing sugar before serving.