December 29, 2020


 I baked this cake because I was keen to use the lovely new Nordic Ware cake tin that my brother had given me for my birthday.

The idea is that the cake baked in it looks like a classic "Charlotte" dessert.

I looked on the internet for recipes using this tin and the only ones I could find were American ones using cup measurements.  There is in fact also a recipe on the slip cover of the tin, again using cups.  

I have a bit of a thing about cup measurements, having had a couple of failures in the past.  Not quite disasters, just disappointing results.  I wondered if it was because using a cup is not as accurate as weighing in grams.  If flour, for example, has settled in the pack, box or jar, a cup of it will not weigh the same as if it was looser and the same with sugar.  In fact perhaps even more so with sugar.  In any case I tend to steer clear of recipes using cup measurements unless it states the quantities in grams as well.  

So, I looked at the tin and thought it would probably be the right size for my all-time go-to all-in-one sponge recipe, the one in my ancient Homepride Flour Grader's recipe book from the 1970's.  Very early 70's in fact as it has a number of unused coupons inside where you could send off for extra copies at 13/6 each.  That's 13 shillings and 6 pence so pre decimal currency in the UK - ancient indeed.

How do other people get on with cup measurements?

Getting my usual cake release paste into all the nooks and crannies was a bit fiddly and required a bit more patience than I normally devote to the task.  It was important to do it thoroughly otherwise the "sponge finger" effect would not have looked right if it had stuck.

I went with the usual, 150g of everything and 3 eggs, sponge, flavoured with cinnamon.  I fancied using up some cooking apples and some leftover cranberry sauce and one of the recipes I spotted on the internet also added cinnamon which seemed like a good idea.  The quantity of mixture was just about right for the tin and it turned out beautifully.

Of course, the end result using this tin is not really like a traditional charlotte dessert, which would have a shallow cake like base, sides built up of sponge fingers and a fairly deep filling of some kind of mousse.  It's more like an alternative to the old fashioned sponge flan, but with a deeper base.  Or even an alternative to an upside down cake.  But it looks the part, is fun to make and has endless possibilities.


It turned out really well.  The sponge base was nicely flavoured with a hint of cinnamon, the caramelised apples were just sweet enough and the cranberry layer just tart enough.  Definitely a cake I would make again, although there is a huge temptation to experiment with other fillings first.  Well done little brother for giving me a very thoughtful, useful and delightful birthday present!

The cake was excellent served as a dessert with leftover brandy butter and cream.  It would also be good with custard or ice cream and is just as nice on its own with nothing else at all.  (Except maybe a cup of tea or coffee or, better still, a glass of sherry or sweet wine!  It is Christmas, after all!)


For the cake
150g self raising flour
150g softened butter or spread (I used Sainsbury's Buttersoft)
150g caster sugar 
3 medium eggs
1 tsp ground cinnamon

For the fruit topping
2-3 tblsp cranberry sauce or jelly
2 large or 3 medium cooking apples
25g butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 heaped tblsp light muscovado sugar


Prepare the tin by buttering and flouring or using home made cake release paste (see side bar).  You can also use a standard 20cm round tin.  Preheat the oven to 160° C / 140° fan / gas mk 3. 

To make the cake, put all the ingredients into a large bowl and beat together until smooth and well blended using an electric whisk (or use your brand new (ahem) Kenwood food mixer).  You could also just use a wooden spoon, as I did with this recipe for decades, as it beats together quite easily and quickly.

Spoon the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and level the top.  Tap a few times on the worktop to dislodge any air pockets.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and firm.  Leave in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake is cooking prepare the apples.  
Peel and core the apples and chop into large dice*.  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan, add the apples, sugar and cinnamon and cook gently, stirring often, until the dice are soft but holding their shape.  Set aside to cool.

When the cake is cool, spread the top with a thin smear of cranberry sauce or jelly.  Pile the diced apples on top.  Dust with icing sugar before serving.

Cuts into 10-12 slices. 

* Apple slices would also look nice arranged on the top of the cake but they can break up when cooking in the saucepan.

December 15, 2020



The other day I braved a visit to one of our local charity shops.  There were no other customers and I needed to enquire whether they have begun accepting donations again after the last lockdown.  We have been gradually sorting through the contents of my dad's bungalow since he moved into sheltered housing and we're trying to sell or give away anything useful rather than just leave it to the house clearance people to dispose of it.

Of course, while I was in there it was impossible to resist a browse and so I bought this book by Rachel Allen.  I like her recipes and have had a good deal of success with them.  When I got home and picked the book up to feast my eyes out plopped yet another hand written recipe, entitled, quite simply, "apple cake".

This has happened several times before and yet again I felt compelled to try the recipe.!

The ingredients were much like a basic sponge recipe but with added apple.  It didn't say if the apple should be chopped or sliced and no tin size was given.  It sounded like a normal 2lb loaf tin or 20cm round tin would work but I decided to use my Tala Bundt tin as it's good for normal quantities of cake mixture (as opposed to the greater volume required for most of the Nordic Ware tins).  It was time for it to have an outing, having been lurking in the depths of the wardrobe for some time.  (I now store my Bundt tins in the wardrobe as they are awkward things to stack and take up a disproportionate amount of space in a kitchen cupboard.)

One of the things that made me want to make the cake is that it called for wholemeal self raising flour.  This is something that I happened to have in stock, a rogue purchase from the previous lockdown when, flustered and not concentrating, I picked it up mistaking it for bread flour.  I used golden caster sugar instead of white and also assumed the 5g of chopped nuts was a mistake and it was meant to be 50g.  The cooking time given was 1 hour but mine was done in 40 minutes so it was a good job I decided to check!  It was probably using the Bundt tin that caused it to cook more quickly.

It was lovely.  With the wholemeal flour and the chopped nuts it had a distinctly nutty flavour and was quite delicious.  It wasn't overly sweet either, in fact you could almost consider it "good for you"!  The only thing I might change for next time would be to maybe increase the amount of cinnamon to make it a bit more spicy.  I could have dusted it with icing sugar or even given it a drizzle of icing but leaving it plain as it came out of the oven seemed just right for its wholesome appearance and flavour.  Definitely a cake I will be making again.  


As it turns out, I am not all that thrilled with the Rachel Allen book.  A glance through it didn't inspire me to make anything in particular so it may well end up back at the charity shop!


175g wholemeal self raising flour
175g golden caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
175g soft margarine or butter (I used Anchor Spreadable)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
50g chopped mixed nuts
1 cooking apple of about 250g, peeled, cored and diced
1 tblsp demerara sugar 


Preheat the oven to 170 C / 150 fan / gas mk 3.  Butter a 2lb (900g) loaf tin, 20cm round tin or a small Bundt tin.  

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at a time with a little of the measured flour.

Mix the spice and baking powder with the flour and fold into the mixture.  Finally add the chopped apple and the nuts and mix well to combine.  Spoon the mixture into the tin, level the top and, if using a loaf tin or round tin, sprinkle the demerara sugar on top (omit with the Bundt tin as the top becomes the bottom).  Give the tin a few sharp taps on the worktop to settle the mixture and avoid any air bubbles.

Bake for 40 minutes to 1 hour until done.  Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Cuts into 10-12 slices.