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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Apple Apricot Cinnamon & Allspice cake


This is a variation of something I found in Tessa Kiros' very beautiful cookbook, Falling Cloudberries. This book includes family recipes from the various countries she has lived in throughout her life. She has an exotic lineage; a Finnish mother and a Greek Cypriot father, so she includes Finnish and Cyriot chapters, as well as recipes from South Africa, where she grew up, Greece, where family lives, and Italy where she currently has her home. The final chapter is a collection of recipes from around the world. It's a good book to have on your coffee table to flick through, and the photography is beautiful.
This is cake recipe I found in the South African section; in the book it is actually a pineapple upside-down cake, but she notes that you can use any fruit you like. I didn't have pineapple, but I did have canned apricots and fresh apples, so I used those instead.

My cake didn't look nearly as picturesque as her pineapple version. It was a bit wet and flabby looking on top when I turned it out, so I put it under a hot grill for a few minutes to get some crispage happening - a bit of crunchy caramelisation of the sugar syrup. It helped the texture and improved the presentation a bit.

I thought the cake part lacked a little sweetness, actually. Perhaps if you're using less sweet fruit, like apples you might need to add a little extra sugar to the batter. You wouldn't need to with sweet pinepples. Also, I found this cake just a tad too buttery. It uses a whole block of butter in the cake, plus more for the syrup and left your fingers and mouths a bit oily. When warm, that wasn't so bad, but when it cools down it might taste a little greasy? In my opinion you could cut down on the butter in the cake batter.

This was still warm when I served it on a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon. And I have to admit that after a few bites, somebody turned to me and said:
"Niki, this cake makes me HAPPY inside!"
Well, you can't ask for better than that, can you?
Read on for the recipe:


Apple & Apricot Cinnamon & Allspice cake
Adapted from Tessa Kiros, Falling Cloudberries

Spice Mix:
5 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
6 allspice (pimento) berries or 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Rind of half a lemon

Syrup:
Juice of 1 orange
60g (2 1/4 oz) butter
70g (2 1/2 oz) brown sugar
I tin of apricots
1-2 apples, peeled, halved and sliced thinly.

Cake:
250g (9 oz) softened butter
200g (7 oz) brown sugar
3 eggs
250g (2 cups) cake flour or plain (all-purpose) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
185 ml (3/4 cup) milk

-Preheat oven to 200C (400 F). Make spice mix by grinding ingredients in a spice or coffee grinder and grind to a coarse dust (or use already ground spices to make things easier)
-Make syrup by putting orange juice, butter and sugar in a small pan with 1/2 teaspoon of the spice mix and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 8-10 minutes until you have a thick caramel syrup
-Line a 24cm springform tin with tinfoil, so the bottom and sides are covered. Press the foil flat against the bottom and sides so it won't press into the cake. Place the fruit at the bottom of the tin, in a single layer, in an attractive pattern (I placed apricots around the edge and tried to make a central spiral of the apples).
-Make the cake batter by whisking the butter with electric beaters until fluffy and then beat in the brown sugar. Beat the eggs one at a time, then add the flour and baking powder. Mix to combine. Add the milk to thin the mixture. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of the spice mix and combine.
-Pour the syrup over the fruit in the tin, making sure that it covers fairly evenly, then spoon the cake batter over the syrupy fruit and smooth the top. Bake for ~1 hour 20 minutes, reducing the temperature to 180C (350F) after 10 minutes and covering with foil after an hour. The cake should be a deep gold colour. Leave to cool slightly before turning out onto a serving platter. Remove the bottom of the tin, and peel away the foil.
-Serve with creme fraiche, ice cream or slightly sweetened whipped cream, or on its own, very slighly warm.
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