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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Spiced Apple Cake

Inherently I'm a very lazy person. So when I see a recipe for an apple cake in which I don't have to peel the apples, I'm sold. When that cake turns out to be completely delicious, I'm vidicated.
Peeling - pah!
Being left-handed has alwyas made peeling vegetables a real trial for me, but finding this 'chuck 'em all in' recipe in a Jill Dupleix book shouldn't surprise anyone. Jill is the queen of easy, hands-off cookery. Her best-known
books are called Simple Food, Very Simple Food and her new one...ummm Really Very Simple Food, or something like that. Very Jill. I've written about her on many occasions before; an expat Aussie, she is now Cookery Writer at the Times in London. I recently saw her on an episode of Good Food Live doing her very blunt and laconic Aussie thing -in this case roundly telling off host Jennie Barnett for asking "a very ignorant question" when she was asked if we celebrated Easter at the same time as the rest of the world in Australia. I mean, really! I don't often bristle at shades of cultural imperialism from the UK, but I fully supported Jill's bemusement at that one!

So, I found this recipe in New Food, which I picked up 2nd hand at the uni market. I wrote about this book when I posted about fresh apple muesli. In the few months I've had it, I've made this cake about 4 times. Occasionally I've looked at the other cake recipes, but none grab me as much as this. I love the taste combination of apples with warm, wintery spices and this chunky, fruity, spicy cake is perfect for the cooler months. I tend to jack up the spices in any recipe, so feel free to add more than what is indicated! I've found it even handles the substition of wholemeal for plain flour very well, as do many heavier, rustic cakes - so with that and the apple peel, at least you know you're getting your fibre!

Each time I've made this cake it's turned out a little differently - both in taste and texture. I can't really explain it. Well, apart from one instance where (and this is absolute testimony to my laziness) I didn't have any eggs and couldn't be bothered going out to get any, so decided to just press on. Instead of eggs I decided to chop up a handful of dates and use them instead. "Yeah, that'll stick it all together. It'll be fine!" I somehow convinced myself. Evidentally I totally forgot that umm...dates are really sweet! I had soaked them in brandy before hand so yes, they acted in sticking the cake together, but only if you were looking for nougat!! The thing solidified like a brick. A cake it was not. But really tasty it was! It was kind of like a sweetmeat. Chunks of sugary, spicy preserved fruit stuff that was very easy to snack on. Sort of a cross between nougat and panforte. It was sweet enough to send my head into a spin, but wow- I loved it. Nearly ate the entire thing on my own. I like to think my laziness was vindicated again.Ahem.
And I have to tell you, the smell when baking this is divine.
Read on for the recipe:

Tagged with
Spiced Apple Cake
New Food - Jill Dupleix

Jill writes: "This is a big, chunky, fruity, spicy cake for a special morning or afternoon tea. I advise you to skip lunch."

1 cup raisins
1/2 cup rum or brandy
1 cup self-raising flour (wholemeal self-raising works well)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
Pinch of salt
140 grams (5 ounces) butter
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3 eggs
2 cups chopped, unpeeled apples
1 cup chopped walnuts

-Preheat oven to 180C (350F)
-Soak raisings in rum or brandy
-Sift flours, baking powder, spices and salt.
-Beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
-Add eggs one at a a time, beating after each addition
-Gradually fold in flour mixture
-Add apples, nuts and drained raisins. If mixture is very thick, add some of the rum or brandy.
-Pour into a 25cm (10 inch) pan and bake for 1.5 hours until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
-Cool and serve.


  • I have this cookbook, but not tried the apple cake (the tiny passionfruit cakes recipe is an old favourite though). You're not the only lazy cook - yes! no peeling apples. I'm sold. (I had to laugh about the eggs/date result).

    By Blogger lazy cow, at 7/27/2006 06:05:00 pm  

  • Not lazy... I tried peeling a pear the other day and gave up halfway! :)

    By Blogger Belinda, at 7/27/2006 10:59:00 pm  

  • I never have to peel another apple or potato: Alex has taken over that job, with our handy-dandy peeler!

    Ok...as soon as he turns 13, things will change. It's a biological imperative, so I'll take advantage of it while I can.

    By Blogger Stephanie, at 7/28/2006 05:38:00 am  

  • Yum - I love apple cake. This one looks delicious! Using whole wheat flour sounds like a great idea, but, um, I think I'll use eggs rather than dates. :)

    By Blogger Cathy, at 7/28/2006 12:07:00 pm  

  • Hey Niki! This looks delicious. I haven't been doing as many things with apples lately, since it's summer up here, but I think that's going to change.

    By Blogger Nic, at 7/30/2006 03:04:00 am  

  • Hi Niki,
    I think you may have left out plain flour from the recipe (I followed the actual book when I made this last week - delicious).

    By Blogger lazy cow, at 7/30/2006 07:43:00 am  

  • Lazy Cow - I also hate peeling onions. My least favourite kitchen job.
    Umm - I just checked the recipe again, and there's no plain flour specified in it - only self-raising. Are you referring to the same recipe?

    Belinda - Peeling a pear?!?

    Stephanie - lucky you to have such an assistant! I've looked at those peelers before, but I guess there's just not enough peeling I do to warrant it, especially as I don't eat potatoes any more!

    Cathy - Apple cake is delicious, and I imagine you'll be in season for it soon!

    Nic - Is there a distinct Autumn in LA when you notice the change of season and see apples and autumn fruit start appearing? Just wondering.

    By Blogger Niki, at 7/30/2006 03:35:00 pm  

  • uhmmm... I know for a fact that easter dates at least in USA, Germany and Bulgaria occasionally differ from each other...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/30/2006 08:04:00 pm  

  • Yes... pears need peeling. Sometimes :) The skin had horrible brown spots!

    By Blogger Belinda, at 7/30/2006 10:39:00 pm  

  • Niki, I have New Food in front of me (page 143, printed 1994, republished 1997 William Heinemann Australia pub.) and it says TWO cups self raising flour, AND 1 cup plain flour. It was awfully thick batter and I tipped in all of the brandy, it cooked in less than an hour. Still tasted good, but it's so rich and intense. Maybe you have a different edition? How strange (I should have just followed your recipe, I'm tipping it would have been the better option!)

    By Blogger lazy cow, at 7/31/2006 04:55:00 pm  

  • Hi - Just went to get my copy. Mine is the 1994 original publication by William Heinemann Australia. The recipe is also on p. 143, but for flour amounts it definitely only wants 1 cup of self-raising flour! How interesting - a change of ingredients in later publications usually indicated there was something wrong with the original, and they've improved the recipe (like Stephanie's Cook's Companion) but this seems to be the opposite! I'm not surprised you had to add all the brandy - I often have to with my version!!!

    By Blogger Niki, at 7/31/2006 05:00:00 pm  

  • It's really strange that it's gone from 1 cup of flour to 3. Maybe I'll compromise with 1 1/2 cups of wholemeal. (And I'm going to try her bircher muesli recipe you raved about in a previous post). Nigella's stew sounds good - I've just made lamb shanks stew and apart from the lamb there is no added fat (apart from olive oil). Good luck with the healthy eating.

    By Blogger lazy cow, at 7/31/2006 05:08:00 pm  

  • Anon - Yes, dates in Bulgaria and Germany/USA would differ, as Bulgaria follows the Orthodox Julian calendar, like the Greek community in Australia. See here . I have never known the dates of Easter Sunday not to coincide across the Western Christian communion. The dates for Easter are based on the date of the full moon; the Sunday following the full moon is Easter Sunday. There's lots of info on the web about Easter dates, if you're interested in finding out more.

    By Blogger Niki, at 7/31/2006 05:11:00 pm  

  • why is it a problem peeling vegatables due to being left handed?? I and four members of my family are left handed, and we've never experienced problems with peeling vegatables (my mum finds it hard to use a hairdryer and style her hair!) but that's about it - I've never understood left handed peelers, scissors etc. Spose we're just lucky!

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