apple, date and caramel cake

belinda jeffery's recipes

My recipes are easy. They’re for the food I like to eat. Simple, fresh, full of flavour and just a bit different. You certainly don't need any great cooking skills for them, you just need to like food and like eating – just like me. The rest is simple.

apple, date and caramel cake

This luscious and surprisingly light cake is chock-full of apple and dates. The thing I most love about it is the slightly toffeed caramel and almond topping, as I’m an absolute push-over when it comes to anything with caramel in it.

Cake
300g (about 2 medium-sized) #sweet apples
200g pitted dates, finely chopped
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup (250ml) boiling water
1 cup (150g) plain flour
1/2 cup (75g) self-raising flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
125g unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup (220g) caster sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
50g roasted almonds or pecans, coarsely chopped

Topping
90g unsalted butter
1/2 cup (125ml) milk
1/2 cup (110g) soft brown sugar
1/4 cup (60g) dark brown sugar
110g flaked almonds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Softly whipped cream or good quality vanilla ice cream, to serve

# Gala, pink lady, and fuji apples all work well

Preheat your oven to 180C, then butter a 20cm spring-form cake tin, line the base with buttered baking paper, and dust the tin with flour.

Peel, core and chop the apples into small chunks, then put them into a heatproof bowl with the dates. Add the bicarbonate of soda and pour in the boiling water. Thoroughly stir everything together, then leave the mixture to cool to room temperature.

Tip both flours and the salt into a separate bowl, and whisk them together with a balloon whisk for 1 minute, then set the bowl aside.

Scoop the butter and caster sugar into a mixer bowl, and beat them on medium speed for 4 - 5 minutes, until they’re light and fluffy. Then, with the mixer going, beat in the egg and vanilla extract. Reduce the mixer speed to very low, and add the flour mixture alternately with the date mixture until they’re both incorporated. Take care not to overdo this mixing or the cake may be a bit tough. Lastly, stir in the nuts.

Scrape the batter into the prepared cake tin and bake it for about 1 ¼ hours, or until a fine skewer inserted in the middle comes out slightly moist. (I know this isn’t the usual instruction for testing a cake with a skewer, normally you would check that the skewer comes out clean, however in this case the topping is spread onto the cake and then it goes back into the oven again to finish baking.)

When the cake is nearly ready, make the topping. To do this, heat the butter and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. As soon as the butter melts, stir in both the brown and dark brown sugar, the flaked almonds and vanilla extract. Adjust the heat so the mixture bubbles steadily, stirring it regularly, for 5 minutes or until it’s slightly thickened. Keep the mixture in a warm spot until you’re ready to use it.

Remove the cake from the oven, and sit it on a cooling rack. Use the back of a spoon to gently flatten the top so that it’s fairly level. Scrape the warm topping mixture onto the cake and use a palette knife to spread it out evenly. Some of the topping will run down the sides of the pan, but this is fine (in fact it makes for some divine chewy caramel bits!). Now just pop the cake back into the oven for 10 - 15 minutes, until the topping is a deep golden brown.

Sit the cake on a wire rack, and leave it cool completely in the tin. When you’re ready to serve it, carefully loosen around the sides with a fine palette knife. Sit a sheet of baking paper on top of the cake (this helps keep the top from getting damaged), and invert it onto a rack. Remove the tin, then invert the cake again onto a serving plate.

P.S. If the almond topping looks a little pale when you lift the cake out of the oven, carefully run the cake, in its tin, under a hot grill to brown the top a little more before leaving it to cool on the rack.

Serves 8 - 10


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