Sunday, May 06, 2007


English Apple Cake

I really cannot believe how long it has been since I last posted a blog entry. I meant to cook up a storm whilst in the US visiting my angelheart Eric, but I was either too busy with him, with friends, or with my nose in the books. Now, I have returned and have suitably re-settled in. I am still without a digital camera but have resolved to possess my own one when I go back to the US from July - September. In the meantime, please do not be too harsh on the pics taken with my webcam - not that I am known for my "photography".

Suddenly returning to Winter Skies, Kitchen Aglow has meant that I have not personally stocked up the pantry or freezer. I cannot just peek into the pantry for arborio rice, feel my way around the vials on the over-the-sink shelf for fennel seeds, or look above the fridge or in the freezer for chicken stock, canned or homemade. No, I am making do with mum and dad's kitchen staples for this return from exile. There has been no usual pre-planning; this is me cooking on-the-fly. Sort of.

Though I own and have thoroughly read Nigel Slater's Appetite,I am not really feeling ambitious enough to create a dish, and while the guidelines he establishes are disseminated in a way that any old kitchen clutz - myself certainly included - can feel secure in following his lead, I really need to familiarize myself with "mum's kitchen". I previously wrestled with the stove and finding all the tools when working on the recipes for the Cookbook Spotlight (reviewed here) and knew that I was not comfortable in that space, for it was not home - yet. So, I have decided to cook something I am really comfortable with to test how the oven performs.

I chose to stay on the Nigel Slater track because, as everyone should know by now, he makes unpretentious and usually uncomplicated dishes that are lovingly described in his rich descriptions, usually leaving the reader's mouth agape and saliva bursting through the dam. Mr. Slater's The Kitchen Diaries (really, a book to keep on the nightstand and within grasp in the kitchen year-long) is one my most beloved cookery books, not only for the wit and charm enveloped in his prose, or only for the rustic presentation of the food, but also for its seasonal offerings. Since it is Autumn in New Zealand, I look to the fruit bowl and immediately seize the two remaining glorious apples.

The only adjustments I make to this English Apple Cake are: to use half the juice of an orange instead of a lemon because I feel orange works better with cinnamon (a change due to preference, but you can be your own judge), to use two apples instead of three because they were the only ones remaining (a change due to necessity, but if you have three eating apples, then use them), and to use raw sugar instead of demerara sugar because my mum never has demerara sugar in the pantry (another change due to necessity). I was intrigued by this recipe not only because I was relieved to (almost) have everything on hand, but because of the addition of fresh breadcrumbs scattered over the apples before baking the cake. Breadcrumbs, really? Why? It is all in the result...

English Apple Cake
(from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries)

130g/4oz butter
130g/ 1/2 cup unrefined caster sugar
2 - 3 eating apples
juice of 1/2 an orange or lemon
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons raw or demerara sugar
2 large eggs
130g/ 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons fresh white breadcrumbs
a little extra sugar

1) Set oven to 180 C/ 350 F.
2) Line the base of a 24cm/9" cake tin (Mr. Slater uses a square one; I use a round one), and either butter and flour it or line it with parchment paper (including the sides).
3) Cream butter and caster sugar together until light in color and fluffy in texture.
4) Cut apples into small chunks, removing the cores one by one and dropping the chunks into a small bowl with the juice of half an orange or lemon.
5) Toss the apple chunks with the citrus juice, cinnamon and raw or demerara sugar.
6) Break the eggs, beat them with a fork, and gradually add them to the creamed butter and caster sugar.
7) Sift the flour and baking powder together and slowly fold into the mixture.
8) Scrape into the cake tin and put the spiced apple chunks on top (excluding the reserved juice) before scattering over the breadcrumbs and additional raw or demerara sugar (I scattered over one teaspoon of raw sugar).
9) Bake for 55 minutes to one hour. The cake should be ready not only when you can smell it but when it is pulling away from the sides (using a toothpick will yield some sticky bits, for this is meant to be a moist cake).

The breadcrumbs did not soak up the moisture as I thought they would but developed a coconut-like toastiness, which was a surprising and delicious partner to the thin, moist apple cake. The amount of cinnamon used is light enough to make this a perfect coffee cake to have for afternoon tea. And just so you know - yes, the oven seems to be perfectly calibrated, and I now know where all the spices, baking utensils, and bowls are kept.

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Welcome back! You've been missed.

I'm a Nigel fan as well--I've devoured Kitchen Diaries, Toast and Appetite (unpublished review for Canada Eats). The cake looks lovely.

Mmm apple cake, looks lovely.

KD is a great read I really should cook more from it...
It has been much too long Shaun! Hope you had a wonderful time with your beloved!
This cake looks wonderful but of course it's Nigel so it's going to be great...
So glad to see you back! Wonderful looking cake, looking forward to seeing what else comes out of your kitchen this spring.
Thank you one and all for being so kind about the appearance of the cake in spite of the "webcamography". You will only have to put up with the bollocky pics until July.

Jasmine - Thank you!! I have missed you, too. The cake really was great - my father ate most of it. The great thing about Slater's "The Kitchen Diary" is that one can cook from it throughout the year. Have you cooked anything from it yet?

Kelly-Jane - The cake, though simple, was really nice. For some reason I really want to just cozy-up whenever I read "The Kitchen Diaries". Does it make you feel that way, too?

Freya,love - I know it has been forever and a day, darling, but I'm back, not with a vengeance, perhaps, but I am back. Being with Eric was amazing as reassuring in many ways, and I can't wait to be with him again from July-September. The cake was simple, but both flavourful and moist.

Sara - Thank you for stopping by again! I, too, look forward to being productive in the kitchen, and I hope to not go for so long again, though I only dream of being as prolific as you.
I´m sure this Apple Cake was delish but I just can´t help being reminded of Tamasin´s perfect Spiced Apple Pie fr West of Ireland Summers ;P
Since making that for the first time, I haven´t been able to try something new:)
Vonsachsen - Thank you so much for stopping by this humble space. West of Ireland Cooking is the only Tamasin book I don't have, and knowing her, I can tell she has a fabulous apple pie dish - there is one in her Tarts with Tops On that I am keen to try, too: Blackberry and Apple Pie.
Great post and I can truly relate. My husband and I have moved to Halifax Nova Scotia to be near our daughter, son-in-law and (the real incentive for the move) our 4 month old grandson.

We're temporarily staying with them until I can get my bearings and we can find our own home here. So, like you, I'm finding my way through her staples and her kitchen.

Thanks for sharing the story and the recipe.
Hi Ruth - Yes, Halifax must be a big change from the food mecca of Toronto. Did your daughter not want to move to Toronto instead? Anyway, I know that moving comes with teething problems, but it all comes out in the wash...Have fun exploring your new territory.
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