The idea for this cake comes from the wonderful cook book “European Peasant Cookery” by Elisabeth Luard; it is her recipe for Apple Cake or Æblekage, which comes from Denmark. “European Peasant Cookery” is one of those great cookbooks that is packed with recipes that will inspire you and has no pretty pictures to beguile you and get in the way of the cookery.
I have changed it quite a lot, switching self rasing flour for plain and increasing the number of eggs used, but the underlying concept remains the same – a rich, moist apple cake. The result came out as a rich and fulsome apple cake that can be eaten hot or cold, as a cake or a pudding with custard or cream. It is a delicious balance between the sweetness of the cake with the tart freshness of the cooking apples; it reminds me of Zwetschgendatschi, which is one of my favourite flavour memories buried deep in my soul from holidays spent in Bavaria around the Chiemsee.
Axel’s Apple Cake
500g / 1lb cooking apples, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lemon
2 pinches of organic Fairtrade mixed spice
1tbsp Fairtrade caster sugar, or flavoured sugar like cinnamon or lemon sugar (if using cinnamon sugar, drop the mixed spice)
225g / 8oz unsalted butter, at room temperature and chopped into cubes
195g / 6¾ oz Fairtrade caster sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature and whisked gently
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
195g / 6¾ oz organic plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp sea salt
½ tsp organic Fairtrade cinnamon powder
75g / 2½ oz organic ground almonds
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F. Take a 23cm / 9 inch cake tin and lightly oil the tin, remove any excess oil, then line the base with baking paper.
Go pick your apples, peel and core them, then slice thinly. Place in a bowl and sprinkle the lemon juice over them all, then sprinkle with the caster sugar and a couple of pinches of mixed spice. Thoroughly mix it up to make sure all slices are nicely coated with sugar and spice. Leave until later.
Grind the ground almonds in a food processor to make them finer – I know it sounds weird but they are usually just too coarse. Put to the side for use later in the recipe.
Cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and Steenbergs vanilla extract and whisk up fully. Sieve together the flour, baking powder, sea salt and cinnamon powder. Add the flour mix into the cake batter and throughly mix up, then add the ground almonds and mix into the batter.
Pour half the cake batter into the cake tin, then layer over half the apple slices. Cover with rest of cake mixture and then layer rest of apple slices over the top of the cake.
Bake in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes. At around 1 hour, sprinkle the top of the cake with 1 tablespoon of sugar and start looking and checking the cake to ensure you catch it just when it is cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for about 10 minutes then turn out and cool on a wire rack.
Serve warm with custard or whipped cream, or cold as a cake with double cream or on its own.