Wednesday, 16 May 2012

spicy apple cake

If you live in Melbourne, winter happens quickly. Only a few weeks of crisp autumn air and warm afternoons, and then the leaves are off the trees and you're pulling out your gloves. This cake is just what you need to remind you of cold-weather pleasures. It came from my grandmother, via a venerable tome known as the Binya cookbook. The well be-splattered pages of this volume contain the collective culinary wisdom of a few generations of farmers' wives... and are the provenance of my food-love.
Eat this perfectly soft, cinnamony cake while still warm. All you need is a rainy afternoon, something wonderful to read and a cup of lady grey. Winter bliss.

170g butter, softened
170g caster sugar (1 cup)
2 large eggs
125ml milk (1/2 cup)
150g self-raising flour (1 1/2 cups)
50g plain flour (1/2 cup)
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon mixed spice
5 granny smith (green cooking) apples
1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, extra
2 tablespoons caster sugar, extra
1/2 tablespoon mixed spice, extra

1x 20-cm, buttered, baking-paper-lined springform cake pan

Preheat your oven to moderate/180 celcius/350 fahrenheit.
Peel your granny smiths and slice them into a medium saucepan. Add about 1/4 cup water from the tap, and the extra cinnamon, sugar and mixed spice. Cook them gently for 20 minutes or so, just until they become soft but not mushy. Cool, then drain off excess liquid.
Now for your cake mixture. Using an electric mixer (handheld or freestanding, it doesn't matter) cream together the soft butter and the sugar til fluffy. You can't really overdo it, so don't worry. Now add the eggs. Beat very briefly. Now take the mixer out just for a minute and sift in your flours and spices. Continue beating and while you do, add the milk in a thin stream. As soon as all is incorporated, stop beating.

Spoon half the creamy, cinnamony batter into the prepared pan. Now gently add the apple mixture on the top. Cover the apples with the remaining batter. I find it easiest to dollop the mixture on top and then smooth it together with the back of the spoon. Be sure to cover all the apples.

Now bake your cake for 40-45 minutes, until the top is deep golden and a skewer inserted comes out sticky from the apple but not covered in batter.

Cool for a few impatient minutes, then carefully undo the springform pan. Cut into lovely generous wedges and eat just as it is. Cinnamon heaven.

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