For my mum’s birthday, I wanted to make a cake. But she doesn’t really like chocolate (!!) or anything overly sweet or decadent. Nigella’s orange almond cake (from her book How To Eat) has already had a few successful outings for this same occasion, so I wanted to make something new, but keep to some kind of fruit and nut combination.
In the end, I settled on Julie Le Clerc’s upside-down caramelized apple cake, from her book Favourite Cakes. The photo of the cake in the book looked very homely (in a nice way), rather than something overly fancy or complicated. This seemed appropriate for a casual weekday family dinner at my parents’ home, and of minimal failure risk, given this was my first attempt at this recipe. I adapted the recipe in parts (details below), and it is worthwhile mentioning that the original recipe caters for gluten-free eaters.
50 g butter, melted
1/3 cup (firmly packed) brown sugar
2-3 apples (of a variety that keeps its shape after baking e.g. Braeburn or Red Delicious; I used Rose)
2/3 cup caster sugar
75 g butter
1/2 cup applesauce or apple puree (I just used a 120 g pouch of applesauce that I had on hand)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour (or use gluten free)
2 tsp baking powder (or use gluten free)
Pinch of salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans or walnuts, finely chopped (I used a 70 g bag of walnut pieces, bashed about with a rolling pin)
Preheat oven to 180°C, and grease a 22-cm spring-form cake tin. Preferably a non-stick tin for ease of cleaning up afterwards, as the caramel topping leaks and is very sticky once it had cooled. I would also suggest placing an extra large sheet of baking paper in between the cake tin base and sleeve, and then wrapping the whole base up from the outside and up the sides in foil.
Combine butter and sugar for the topping. Spread into the base of the tin. Peel, core, and thinly slice the apples, then arrange on top of the butter-sugar mixture. I had quite a bit of apple left over (I think I sliced them too thin), and in hindsight should have just done 2 layers, which would probably have improved the final look of the cake.
Beat sugar, butter, egg, applesauce, and vanilla together for the batter. Stir in the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Fold in the nuts. (At this point, I cut up slivers of my left-over apple, and threw these in as well. What can I say, I hate wastage, and figured it can’t hurt.)
Spoon the batter evenly over the apple slices, taking care not to disturb them. Place on a baking tray to catch any leakage, and bake for 45 minutes.
Remove from the tin immediately, as once cooled the cake will stick to the tin. Julie recommends serving the cake on the same day that it’s made, although she also says that it keeps well for 2 days provided it is served warm. I agree, as the left-over cake does tend to be on the dry side.
If I had a silicon cake pan, I would have used that instead, as I think they are non-stick and flexible enough to easily turn the cake out at the end, without having to faff around with all the extra lining and wrapping needed with a spring-form that will inevitably leak a bit anyway. Plus, all that caramel goodness would then be safely encased and soak into the cake, instead of being a pain to clean up and wasted to boot.
Final verdict: this is a pretty simple and straightforward cake to make, and the taste is a lot like an apple-cinnamon-walnut muffin, but in cake form and with a pretty top. So, a good reliable addition to one’s cake repertoire – nothing poncy, but perfect when homely comfort is called for, with just that little bit of extra something to still be special.