Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A Girl's Guide to Baking: Spiced Apple Cake

I was asked recently by my old school to contribute recipes for their newsletter. I had happy memories of our first year of cookery lessons, drawing the interior workings of an electric oven and learning how to make trifle without sherry or jelly or multi-coloured sprinkles. After a year, these fun lessons were replaced with Latin. It was that kind of school. Today, the school doesn't offer any cookery lessons at all. How are those poor girls ever going to find a husband? 

I hope these simple recipes are of help to them. I've tried to explain some of the terms that a lot of cookbooks already assume you understand and I've added some basic tips. The target audience is something like this girl here, though possibly less smug-looking.

Spiced Apple and Sultana Cake

This is a lovely cake to bake on a chilly autumn day – Bramley cooking apples are in season now and the spices give a warm flavour to the sponge.

You will need:

1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces
110g unsalted butter at room temperature
175g soft brown sugar
220g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
200g sultanas
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons milk

It helps if you get out all your ingredients out before you start. This way you know you’ve got everything and don’t have to go running to the shop halfway through for eggs.
  • Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius/170 degrees Celsius for a fan oven/Gas Mark 4. Grease the whole of the tin by smearing it lightly with butter. This helps your cake slide out of the tin once it's cooked. Then line the bottom of an 8 inch (21 cm) square baking tin with baking parchment by drawing round the tin and cutting it out to fit. 

  • Peel, core and chop the apple. Remember to throw the peel over your left shoulder to reveal the initial of your future husband (it’s always an S or a C, so if you’re hoping for Harry from One Direction, I’m sorry)

  • Your butter should be nice and soft so that a knife goes through it easily. If it’s too hard, just zap it for a few seconds in the microwave. Cream the sugar and butter together – this just means mashing it together then beating it a lot until the mixture is light and fluffy.
  • Beat your eggs lightly with a fork in a mug. If a bit of eggshell falls in when you break them, fish it out with another piece of eggshell. They attract each other like magnets and it’s much easier than trying to pick it out with your fingers.

  • Add the 4 tablespoons of milk in with the egg, then add this to the creamed butter and sugar and mix well.
  • Use a sieve to sift the flour, baking powder, mixed spice and cinnamon. This makes sure your dry ingredients are well mixed and traps in air, making the cake light.
  • Using a large metal spoon, gently mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. You don’t want to knock out all the air you’ve just trapped inside, so stir gently.
  • Lastly, stir in the chopped apple and sultanas and spread the mix evenly into your prepared tin

  • Bake for about 40 minutes until the top is golden brown and when you touch the top, it springs back. If you put the tip of a sharp knife or a skewer into the cake and it comes out clean, it is baked. If the skewer comes out with wet mix on it, give the cake 5 more minutes and check again.

  • Allow the cake to cool for 5 minutes in the tin while it settles. Once the tin has cooled enough for you to touch it with your bare hands, turn it out onto a wire rack and allow it to cool completely.
  • Once cooled, cut the cake into squares and share with friends and family. You are now everybody’s favourite person!

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