There has been more baking than you would expect going on chez nous lately. We are up to our eyes in dust and scaffolding here in France, with major work on the house going on. Roof repairs and five new velux windows; four replacements and one brand new one (in the bathroom - how we put up with no window in the bathroom for eight years is now baffling). Followed by decorating in the master bedroom and a new carpet.
The whole house is affected. The carpet extends into the walk in wardrobe so that has had to be emptied. The stuff from in there has more or less filled the living room. The furniture from the bedroom has filled everywhere else. Oh the joys of home improvements!
Before the work started I volunteered to make a couple of cakes for the Tea Garden at a local event. The French love British cakes, it seems. French patisserie is a thing of wonder but British home baking always sells well around here.
All of my cookbooks are safely under dust sheets so I resorted to the internet for ideas. I was going to make Phil's apple cake recipe (see here) as I've been hankering after making it ever since he posted it. But then I spotted one by Miranda Gore Browne, a former GBBO contestant from a few years ago, called caramel apple cake, and remembered my golden rule of bake sales. That the cakes slathered in the most icing sell the best. Sad but true (in my experience - see here). I'll risk giving the link for the recipe here as the recipes on the Sainsbury's Magazine website do tend to not disappear or turn into something completely different.
It took longer to clean down the kitchen sufficiently than to make the cake. I didn't make the apple crisps to decorate the cake as per Miranda's original recipe because a) for me they were possibly a step too far and b) the timing was wrong. I was making the cake the night before the event and it occurred to me that the crisps might not be quite so crisp by the time the cake was on sale. I scattered a few fudge squares over the cake instead.
However, they looked so pretty in the picture that the next time I make this cake I will definitely give them a try.
I also had a lightbulb moment regarding the conundrum of making cakes to recipes I had not tried before that were destined to be given away. I used a spoonful of the mixture to make a separate muffin. That way I could taste the cake myself and make sure I was not presenting something inedible. Why did I never think of that before?
Consequently I can confirm that the cake is delightful and the icing is fabulous - very, very sweet but delicious, so I shall definitely be making this recipe again. Like many apple cakes that contain chunks or slices of apple, the cake was quite fragile. Even when completely cold the top layer developed a crack when I lifted it on top of the bottom layer, as you can see in the picture. Luckily the icing disguised it pretty well! Apple cakes that contain grated apple tend to hold together much better - or maybe it's due to the variety of apple. The recipe stated Bramley apples but I have never found them for sale in France so I used Reinette apples instead.
At 10.00 when I delivered my cakes the Tea Garden was a sea of cake and the first few customers were trickling in. When I returned at 5.00pm to collect my plates it was still in full swing but the only cakes left were a few slices of fruit cake. Amazing. I was dead chuffed when my friend who was helping on the counter said that the first slices of cake sold were of my caramel apple cake!
For the cake
500g cooking apples
zest and juice of 1 lemon
225g unsalted butter, softened, or spreadable butter
225g caster sugar
3 large eggs, beaten
200g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
50g ground almonds
1 tsp mixed spice
For the buttercream filling
100g unsalted butter, softened, or spreadable butter
200g icing sugar, sifted
2 tblsp caramel, either from a tin of Carnation caramel or a jar of Bon Maman confiture de lait
1 tblsp semi skimmed milk
For the caramel icing
75g unsalted butter
75g icing sugar, sifted
1 tblsp caramel (see above)
a handful of fudge pieces (optional)
Preheat the oven to 180°C / 160° fan / gas mk 4. Butter two 20cm sandwich tins and line the bases with baking paper.
Peel the apples and chop into 2cm dice. Toss the pieces in the lemon juice to prevent browning and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and lemon zest, either by hand or using a hand held mixer. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Fold in the flour, baking powder, ground almonds and spice. Tip in the diced apples, draining off any excess lemon juice first and mix well to evenly distribute through the mixture.
Divide the mixture equally between the tins and bake for 25-30 minutes. Leave to cool in the tins for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Be careful as they are quite fragile.
While the cakes are in the oven make the caramel buttercream by beating all the ingredients together until smooth and well combined.
When the cakes are out of the oven make the caramel icing by putting all the ingredients into a medium saucepan. Heat gently until melted together and smooth. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
When the cakes are cold, place one onto a serving plate or cake stand and spread the top liberally with the buttercream.
Place the second cake on top and pour the still warm caramel icing over, allowing it to dribble down the sides. Decorate with the fudge pieces (or any other decoration of your choice).
Cuts into 10-12 slices.