Saturday, 22 October 2011

Apple & Walnut Cake: The Pink Whisk's October Baking Challenge

I've been going apple crazy this month and so when I read about The Pink Whisk's October baking challenge it was great to have another excuse to try out an apple based recipe! I thought about making something involving chunky apples but then thought I would have a stab at an actual appley cake - I don't have the best track record with fruit in cakes so this was a bit of a risk!

I found a recipe for Apple & Walnut cake with treacle icing on the BBC Good Food website (where else?!) and thought it sounded interesting - I wasn't sure how I felt about treacle/cream cheese frosting but decided to give it a whirl.

The cake....
300g plain flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
140g dark brown soft sugar
50g golden caster sugar
250ml rapeseed or sunflower oil
4 eggs
3 apples
100g walnuts, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 150c / gas mark 2, and grease/line two 20cm cake tins.
2. Put the flour, cinnamon, bicarb, and sugars into a bowl, and stir together.
3. Grate the apples (unpeeled) and add in along with the oil and eggs.
4. Beat together, and then fold in the walnuts.
5. Spoon into the tins then bake for 45 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
6. Cool in the tin for a few minutes and then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

The icing...
100g butter - softened
50g dark soft brown sugar
1 tbsp black treacle
200g tub full fat soft cheese

1. Beat all the ingredients together, and then chill in the fridge until spreadable.
2. Use half the mixture to sandwich the cakes together, then the rest to top.
3. I sprinkled some cinnamon and some left over walnuts on the top to decorate.

This cake was hailed a hit, Mike enjoyed it (but of course!) and I deposited slabs of it with my best friend, my Mum, and Mike's parents - all of whom said it was yummy! I wasn't sure how the treacle would taste in the topping but it really gave the cake a different twist and a bit of a tang. It was lovely and moist aswell.

Next time, I will have to let the butter soften more as I was left with little lumps in the icing that I just couldn't shift, which didn't make for a good look... also I would add a more hefty dose of cinnamon, as you couldn't really taste it in the cake so I would have liked a bit more of a spiced flavour to it. My one other whinge was that my icing wasn't as light as the one in the original recipe... not sure if it was the butter I used or if I just didn't beat it enough, but I just didn't think it looked as appetising somehow!

There's still almost a week left to get your apples out and whip something up for The Pink Whisk's challenge - check out the details here, there are some great prizes up for grabs!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Spiced Toffee Apple Cake: What Kate Baked Autumnal Baking Challenge and Giveaway

As soon as I saw the Autumnal Baking Challenge & Giveaway at What Kate Baked's new bloggy home I knew I had to enter! Autumn and winter are my favourite times to bake, because of the weather and also because the bakes and flavours of these seasons are what I like to eat the most!

I sort of ended up baking two different things for this challenge... both of which I will include in this post but the second one is the real entry! I will explain... I started to get my thinking cap on and thought of what a truly autumnal bake would be to me. I thought of apples, toffee, and warming spices like cinnamon. I thought of something chunky to get stuck into while curled up on the sofa with a cup of tea. So this recipe on BBC Good Food for Caramel Apple Loaf Cake seemed perfect and I set about making it. Everything was going to plan and I was so smug and confident that I had found the perfect Autumnal bake that I took it into the back yard in the drizzle and took some photos of it with the leaves! Doesn't it look pretty?

And then I cut into it, and sadly it was not the lovely fluffy delicate cake studded with bits of nuts and apples that you see on the Good Food Website. It was a sticky, foamy mess, and I was devastated. According to Mike, the brave daring cake tester, it was actually quite nice, and I don't know what I'm doing wrong with these kind of cakes as every time I make a cake with chunks/slices of fruit in, the same thing happens! However, it wasn't good enough for a challenge of this magnitude and so here is my real entry....

For any readers of Good Food magazine this will be no stranger as it is this month's cover recipe. As soon as I saw it I knew I was going to make it anyway (and to be honest I don't know why I faffed about with bloody loaf cakes to begin with!).

Spiced Toffee Apple Cake (from BBC Good Food magazine, November 2011)

200g dates
200ml milk
250g butter
280g self raising flour
200g light brown soft sugar
4 large eggs
1 tbsp mixed spice
2 tsp vanilla extract
3 small red apples
squeeze of lemon juice
handful of toffees
icing sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 180c / gas 4 / 160c fan over, and grease and line a 20x30cm baking tray.
2. Put the dates and milk into a pan, and bring to a simmer. Leave for about 15 mins to cool, then put into a blender or food processor and blend to a paste.
3. Put the date/milk paste into a mixing bowl then add the butter, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, eggs, mixed spice and vanilla. Set aside.
4. Quarter and core the apples and slice thinly, adding the lemon juice.
5. Then beat together the cake ingredients until smooth, and tip into a baking tray.
6. Put the apple slices in rows overlapping on the top of the cake - you should fit 2 or 3 rows lengthways.
7. Bake for 45-50 mins - test with a skewer, if it comes out clean the cake is ready. Cool in the tin.
8. Melt the toffees gently in a pan with a splash of milk, stirring, until runny. Dust the cake lightly with icing sugar then drizzle the toffee sauce over the cake.
9. Make a cup of tea, slice the cake into squares, and devour! Mmmmm Autumnal goodness.

This is probably one of my favourite recipes I've made, it tasted a bit like cakey gingerbread and had a definitely kick to it with the spice. Definitely best eaten warm from the oven, but I also think it would also have been yummy with a big dollop of custard. I took most of it into work and one person said, "Mmmm this is just the thing now the weather's turned" - so a definite Autumnal baking win I think!

Thanks Kate for a great challenge, can't wait to see all the other Autumny bakes!
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