No one likes it when people moan about how busy they are (because hey, isn’t everyone incredibly busy? It feels like half of the people I know are currently ill from stress induced lurgy) but – real talk – life feels ever so slightly chaotic at the moment. I feel as though I live in a world of deadlines, stress and poor sleep patterns occasionally disrupted by the occasional visit to the pub. I’ve found myself desperately inhaling gigantic portions of spinach in an attempt to keep my iron levels up so I don’t fall asleep underneath my desk. It’s come to the point where I’m actually looking forward to my eight hour flight to New York (#humblebrag) next Tuesday as it will be eight hours where I can read, watch crap TV and drink cheap wine without worrying that I should be somewhere doing something.
I’ve mentioned before that when life gets too much for me to handle, I head to my kitchen to indulge in a bit of displacement-therapy baking. Baking-hell-hath-no-fury like a woman who’s on a deadline and is procrastinating by making a gigantic cake. This was the case in my kitchen last Saturday where I was putting real life at bay by closing the door and attempting to cook with every perishable ingredient I could find. The nice people at Fruitdrop, an office fruit delivery service, had recently sent me a box stuffed full of apples, plums, oranges and bananas. After eating a fair amount of the fruit (and forcing giant carrier bags full of bananas onto my colleagues), I decided to make a Bonfire night inspired Toffee Apple Cake.
I’ve adapted this recipe from one I saw on the Great British Bake Off. While the cake on there is an exotic creature full of caramel crowns and orange zest, this is a slightly more homely offering. However, looks aren’t everything, and this is full of squidgy toffee flavour (helped in no small part by the demerera sugar used in the sponge), warm, sweet wintry spices and a good whack of booze (I used Courvoisier, but any brandy will do. If you’ve got any Calvados hanging around, I’d suggest throwing that in there.) The proof of any pudding is in the eating, and when I took this cake to a party on Saturday night, it was quite gratifying to see it all gobbled up. If you want to get fancy, you could always smother it in custard, or a butterscotch sauce, but I preferred to just eat chunks of it whole while standing by my stove and basking in the radiance of a bit of much-needed-me-time.
TOFFEE APPLE CAKE
Adapted from a recipe originally seen on the Great British Bake Off
You will need:
For the toffee apple topping
- 200g caster sugar
- 3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into medium-sized wedges (they should be roughly the thickness of a pound coin)
For the cake
- 225g unsalted butter, softened
- 125g demerera sugar
- 100g soft brown sugar
- 225g self-raising flour
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 4 medium free-range eggs, at room temperature
- 60ml tbsp whole milk
- 2 shots of brandy (I used Courvoisier)
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- Thoroughly grease a medium sized springform cake tin (I like to spray the tin with spray oil for this – it works a treat.) Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
- For the topping, put a small saucepan over a high heat. Add the sugar and three tablespoons of water and cook until it the sugar melts and turns amber – do not stir at any point, although you may want to give it a quick swirl towards the end to ensure that all the sugar is browned. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the toffee into the lined baking tin, taking care to cover the base completely. BE CAREFUL – hot molten sugar can burn you quite badly, and it’s also a bugger to get off surfaces once it’s cooled. Place the apple wedges in three rows on top of the toffee.
- For the cake, beat the butter, demerera sugar and soft brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda and add a tablespoon of this to the butter mix along with one egg. Mix until combined and repeat the process until all the flour and eggs have been used. Stir in the milk, brandy, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour into the cake tin and gently smooth with a spatula.
- Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Using oven gloves, place a cooling rack over the tin and flip the cake over, making sure that you take care not to burn yourself on any hot caramel that may leak from the tin. Leave to cool for five – ten minutes, then remove from the tin and set aside to cool completely.
- Cut yourself a big slice of this bad boy and enjoy.