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.
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.
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.
300g plain flour
1tsp ground cinnamon
140g soft dark brown sugar
50g golden caster sugar
250ml sunflower oil
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.