October 26, 2014


apple and walnut cake

For our most recent meeting of Loire Valley Clandestine Cake Club the theme was “the taste of autumn”.  For me that means reluctantly leaving behind the apricots and strawberries of summer and indulging in the warmth of spices, nuts and autumn fruits.  Ginger and treacle remind me of Bonfire Night, cinnamon and cloves bring back lovely memories of making a Christmas cake with my grandmother.  It’s a truly wonderful, aromatic time of year.

In the garden of our new French house we have fruit trees, something that I have never been lucky enough to have before.  Red plums, cherries, golden mirabelles, apples and walnuts are all there.  By the time we moved in the plums and cherries were all done but I was able to harvest a small basket of apples and two huge boxes of walnuts.

apple and walnut cake4

Sadly the walnut tree is doomed.  It is way too close to the little house – the renovation project that seems always come with any old French house.  We have to have a new fosse (septic tank), as the existing one was condemned when we bought the house, and the roots of the walnut tree will interfere with the positioning of the new system and the drains for the little house.

So for this year we have a bumper harvest of walnuts but from next year we will be back to raiding the trees around the village for a few bagfuls.  C’est la vie!

I was keen to bake a cake that used both the apples and the walnuts from our new home so Googled  “apple and walnut cake” and found this recipe on the BBC Good Food website.  The cake was simple to make and turned out really well in our makeshift oven arrangement.  I took notice of some of the comments on the website and decided to reduce the amount of treacle in the icing, just a bit.

In France I can’t find golden caster sugar so I just used white, and the soft brown sugar available here looks something like a cross between the light and dark varieties you can get in the UK.  It’s tempting to bring ingredients to France from the UK but sooner or later I’m going to have to make do with what’s in the shops here – it will be interesting to see if there’s a huge difference in the flavour if I make it again with the exact ingredients in the recipe.

apple and walnut cake5

On the table it could be mistaken for a coffee and walnut cake, but looks can be deceiving!  The apple and walnut flavours were clearly distinct and the icing was delicious.  Definitely a cake I shall be making again and the icing could be used on many other cakes I think.

I am also offering this cake as my entry for this month’s Random Recipe Challenge from Dom at Bellau Kitchen, whose theme for October is an internet search.  You can read the details here.

apple and walnut cake3


300g plain flour

1tsp ground cinnamon

½tsp bicarb

140g soft dark brown sugar

50g golden caster sugar

250ml sunflower oil

4 eggs

4 small dessert apples, unpeeled and grated

100g walnuts, roughly chopped

For the icing

100g softened butter

50g soft dark brown sugar

1 dessert spoon black treacle

200g full fat cream cheese


Preheat the oven to 150C / 130 fan / gas mk 2.  Butter and line the base of two 20cm cake tins.

Put the flour, spice and bicarb into a large bowl.  Stir in the two sugars, making sure there are no lumps.  Add the eggs, apple and oil and beat well together until combined.  Fold in the walnuts and divide between the two baking tins.

Bake for 45 minutes or until done.  Cool in the tins for a few minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

To make the icing, put all the ingredients together in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy.  Use half to sandwich the two cakes together and spread the other half on top of the cake.  Decorate with walnut halves if you like.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.


  1. what a beautifully bucolic French lifestyle you paint there... my Aunt in France also has a walnut tree growing in her back garden and I clearly remember baskets full of walnuts drying out in her living room. This is a stunning cake, with all the depth and warmth of the flavours of autumn. Gorgeous. Thanks so much for entering random recipes this month x

  2. Having tasted the cake I can vouch for the fact that it was delicious, and the flavours definitely came through.

  3. The cake was delish and I will be making it myself at some stage, since I have all the ingredients.

    There are two types of soft brown sugar available in France -- vergeoise brune (dark) and vergeoise blonde (light). I never bothered with golden castor sugar even when I had it available in the UK. It's just regular castor sugar with a teeny bit of molasses added back after its all been processed out to begin with.

  4. Now that looks so good and so seasonal too. I've struggled with the differences between British and French sugars in the past. There seems to be a much bigger difference in flavour and texture between brands of supposedly similar sugar in France. I was baking some cakes once in the south of France once and I did find something very close to a golden caster sugar although I wouldn't claim that the flavour was quite the same as the British version. Good luck with the fosse septique.

  5. Gosh, that looks good. Such a shame about the walnut tree, but you just don't have a choice. I would love to have a walnut tree....