Happy New Year! I do love even numbers and 2014 is a very even, pleasing number – no less for the significance the number 14 plays in my world. I started dating Hungry Hubby on 14th July 2000, whilst living in a house numbered 14. We have since lived in two more number 14s before we wed on 14th August 2010. As we emerge through the dawn of a brand new year, me and the Hubster are glad to be shot of a challenging 2013 and look forward to the light of a year I just *know* is going to be good. The last thing we did together last year was create and make this cake together.
We don’t “get” going out at in New Year’s Eve – too crowded, too crazy, too expensive. And such an anticlimax once the clock ticks into the next year. So each year we cook together and open a bottle or two and watch something good on TV, cuddled up on the couch. This year, we opted for a very simple dinner. Sea bass cooked with a tiny dot of butter and finished with lemon, served with cumin-seasoned crushed carrots and individual rosemary and garlic potato dauphinoise.
Bubbles were popped and poured. Usually, we opt for steak tagliata from Nigella’s Feast with garlicky, rosemary cubed and roasted potatoes, often served following her prawns picante and alongside a rocket salad and crusty baguette. Pudding is always her molten chocolate baby cakes from How To Be A Domestic Goddess. It is the law!
I think, back in the day, I thought this menu was celebratory and spoke to both our loves – medium rare and well-seasoned meat for hubs, lots of rocket for me (who doesn’t love it with balsamic vinegar and Parmesan, no matter how very “nineties” it seems?) plus a small but powerful gooey choccie pud which satisfies us both, especially as hubs can have ice cream whilst I always prefer double cream. A change is as good as a rest though and we had the perfect excuse to branch out in our new home.
A converted chapel, filled with light, not to forget original stained glass windows and ceilings implausibly high. I’m not remotely religious but we both adore our home and every day, I am thankful for having such a beautiful space to call our own. The day we moved in we noticed a feature which leads to the name we have affectionately given our pad – a mason mark carved into the gate post outside. Yes, that’s an apple!
And so, perhaps inevitably, The Apple Chapel was born!
And this cake is a celebration of the year we found if not a house, then our home.
What we have is an airy, light, tender vanilla yogurt sponge with Bramley apples and pecans nuts, glazed with a brown sugar butterscotch glaze. You can see why we needed a snappier name for it. The temptation was to add cinnamon (it has apple, ergo cinnamon usually follows in our kitchen) or to use the brown sugar in the batter. It doesn’t need it, although it would be lovely I’m sure.
Instead, the vanilla speaks to you as a flavour unmasked by the treacly brown sugar, the pecans smoke their way through the whole of the crumb and fluffy cubes of apple melt onto your tongue. The yogurt and the cooking apple lend a very necessary tang to the whole cakey concoction as all that sweetness needs a sour edge to keep it all delicious, not sickly sweet. You may omit the glaze if you like but served with a pure as the driven snow white double cream or even, Greek yogurt or creme fraiche whilst still warm from the oven is an evangelical experience.
It’s such a moist cake with a fluffy, toothsome crumb that it benefits from a slightly lower, slower bake. My recipe recommends cooking at 160°C on the centre shelf of the oven, no higher, for 50-60 minutes. Don’t open the door until 50 minutes to prevent sinkage. It also works extremely well in a bundt pan – I have a weakness for Nordicware and their fleur de lys bundt is absolutely built to bake The Apple Chapel cake. Actually, since me and Hungry Hubby created this recipe, a lot of my friends have made their very own Apple Chapel cakes. It works well in cake tins of various dimensions and, I’m told, is good enough to eat without the glaze. Not that I’m that self-restrained to know…
The glaze is inspired by but slightly different to the apple and walnut cake Rachel Allen published in her book Cake, as blogged by my friend Thanh on her stunning blog (read it here). I used far less and added double cream to make a brown butterscotch glaze which sets almost on contact with the cake and enrobes the whole in a caramelly, toffee coat which ties all the flavours together beautifully. It is sweet of course so I would recommend you ensure you buy a sour baking apple, not sweet eating ones and if your yogurt is too creamy, add enough lemon juice to give it bite before you measure it out. Flavour, as in life, is all about balance.
So, a very Happy New Year to you all. May it be filled with great love, good food and a little of something of you really, really want or need xxxx
- 200 g soft butter
- 225 g caster sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 250 g plain flour
- 2 tsp rounded baking powder
- 1 tsp level baking soda
- 1 very large Bramley apple cubed just less than 1cm
- 100 g pecans chopped
- 200 g Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 60 g butter
- 120 g soft brown sugar
- 2 tbsp double cream
Preheat oven to 160°C. Grease and line a 8 inch round cake tin or simply grease a 2.4 litre/10 cup bundt tin. I prefer the latter and use an aerosol spray of rapeseed oil.
Cream the butter and sugar until much increased in volume, pale and fluffy.
Beat in the first two eggs one at a time then sift over the flour and raising agents and beat in with the final egg to prevent curdling.
Add in the yogurt and vanilla, barely stir through.
Add the apple and nuts and mix until everything is fully amalgamated then stop.
Spoon gently into the cake tin and flatten the surface.
Bake for 60 minutes no higher than the middle shelf of the oven, check at 50 minutes if your oven runs hot. NOTE – the sugar content and eggs will mean it browns quickly but on the low a temp it should not burn; you want the cake to be well risen, just coming away from the sides of the tin and for it to spring back if gently pressed in the centre.
Cool in tin for a good 30 mins then unmould and place carefully with the help of your biggest flat spatulas/cake lifter (if you have one) onto a serving plate, if serving warm. If not cool fully on a rack before glazing.
To make the glaze, melt the butter, sugar and a splash of water and bring to a bubble until well thickened (5-10 mins of stove side attention required); take off the heat, stir in the double cream (which will sizzle and bubble more) then return to the heat and bring back to a bubbly, thickened texture.
Cool a few minutes then paint and pour over the cake helping it spread with a pastry/silicone brush.
Leave until the surface just sets before slicing and serving.
Have you made the Apple Chapel Cake yet? Foodie friends from all over the world have and they’ve sent me their photos! So the very last image I’m leaving you with is a collage of my readers’ versions of this special cake. Can you see yours? As you can see, you can change up the tin you bake it in and still have a wonderful cake to eat. Thank you all for sharing the images with me – I can’t tell you how much it means to me what you’ve tried and enjoyed my recipes :D xxx