Caramel Apple Cake

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Today is definitely a day for staying-in and pottering (if you can). The weather here in Bath is not nice – I’m feeling sorry for anyone who’s come to the Christmas market – get in a pub with a mulled cider is my advice!

I’m going to be making some edible Christmas presents today – more on that soon – but if you feel like doing some baking I have a great cake for you (particularly if you’re still trying to use up a glut of apples).

Apple cake with Caramel Icing

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I love apple cake, it’s delicious and moist because of all the fruit. You can spice it with cinnamon or ginger like the one I made last year (link here) which was really tasty, but this year I wanted to try a variation on the classic ‘toffee apple’ flavour. I had a lot of cooking apples left over so decided to make a variation on Mary Berry’s apple cake, and found a recipe for caramel icing which I thought would go well with it. The result was definitely a triumph! The cake was really moist inside, but with a good crust, and the icing was thick and caramelly (new word) and good enough to eat out of the bowl – there was also lots of it left over which was excellent.

Mary Berry suggests eating the cake warm, in which case the icing could be served on the side, but the cake was delicious cold also and still moist a couple of days later!

Recipe lightly adapted from Mary Berry and BBC food

For the cake:

225g self-raising flour

1 tsp baking powder

225g caster sugar

2 large eggs

½ tsp vanilla extract

150g butter, melted

250g cooking apples, peeled, cored & thickly sliced

 

For the icing:

125g white caster sugar

80ml double cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

160g butter, softened

200g/7oz icing sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 160C. Grease a deep 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin. I don’t own a particularly deep loose-bottom cake tin so I gave it some extra height with a baking paper collar. 

2.  Put the flour, baking powder, sugar, eggs, vanilla extract and melted butter into a bowl or stand mixer. Mix well until combined, then beat briefly.

3.  Pour half of the mixture into the cake tin. Place the apples on top of the mixture, piling most near the centre (they will spread out during cooking. Spoon the rest of the mixture over the apples, again making sure that the centre is well-covered as it will spread out in the oven.

4.  Bake in the preheated oven for 75-90 minutes until the cake is golden and coming away from the sides of the tin. Leave to cool (or eat straight away!)

5.  For the caramel icing, put the caster sugar & 4 tbsp of water in a saucepan and cook over a gentle heat for a couple of minutes. Once the sugar has dissolved, increase the heat and cook the caramel for 2-3 minutes, or until golden. Don’t stir, just be patient! Once golden, remove the pan from the heat immediately and stir in the double cream. The caramel won’t like this and will spit at you so be careful. Stir in the vanilla and then set aside to completely cool.

6.  Cream the butter and icing sugar together for at least 4- 5 minutes until light and fluffy (less if using a stand mixer), then beat in the caramel a little at a time.

Decorate the cake however you want with the icing (or serve on the side if you want to eat the cake warm!)

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Happy Sunday (whatever you’re up to!)

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Bake-Off Wednesdays: Salted Caramel Blackberry Brownies

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The Bake-off’s back (sort-of – it’s a comic relief one)… and what better way to celebrate than with brownies? I had some excellent brownies baked for my birthday recently by my mother-in-law, and they reminded me that I still hadn’t put this recipe up which is a crying shame as it is so tasty. Well here it is:

Salted Caramel Blackberry Brownies

A lot of good words in one sentence.

When my sister, brother-in-law and nephew came to stay a while back, I wanted to bake them something, but my sister is a mega-picky eater so I felt like I couldn’t do anything even vaguely crazy – which made me want to even more 😉 Instead, I thought of a way to satisfy her, and me (and the rest of the family), by making a normal brownie with half of the brownie mix, and putting salted caramel and blackberries in the other half! Success. The brownie mix is really fudgey and tasty on its own which is great, but put a layer of salted caramel and some blackberries in the centre and it becomes ridiculously good.

Recipe taken and adapted slightly from Edd Kimber here

Salted Caramel Blackberry Brownies

makes around 20 brownies (depending on how greedy you/your recipients are!)

180g plain flour

3 tbsp cocoa powder

1/4 tsp salt

300g dark chocolate 65-75% cocoa solids

150g unsalted butter

220g light brown sugar

150g caster sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the salted caramel filling:

150g granulated sugar

125ml double cream

10g salted butter, softened

Pinch of sea salt (to taste)

Handful of blackberries (optional)

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For the sauce: Put the sugar in a pan over medium heat and heat until it turns a dark brown colour – keep an eye on it, as it will burn if you’re not careful. Remove from the heat before it starts to smoke and pour in the salt and half the cream. The mixture will bubble and spit at you (rude) so be careful! Once it’s calmed down, add the remaining cream and the softened butter. Put back on the heat and stir until smooth. Set aside.

For the brownies:  Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a brownie tray and line with baking paper.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl and set aside.

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Put the chocolate and butter into a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until melted, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Whisk the eggs and sugar together until thick and pale in colour.

Whisk in the cooled chocolate/butter mixture.

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Add the flour/cocoa powder/salt mixture and fold until just combined, don’t over-stir – you want some air left in the mixture.

Pour half the mixture into the prepared pan and level out.

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Dot the blackberries over the mixture, then add a thin layer of salted caramel sauce. Carefully spoon over the remaining brownie mixture and level it out.

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Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out almost clean (a few crumbs are fine).

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Enjoy the fruits of your labour – try not to eat them all in one go!

If you want to make normal brownies just leave out the sauce and blackberries, if you want to do half and half just halve the mixture for each type 😉

P.s. If you want to donate to comic relief you can text BAKE to 70005 (for a £5 donation)

Quite Easy Mince Pies

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I’m typing this with the mixed scents of freshly baked mince pies and pine trees in my nose, and the sound of Otis Redding singing ‘White Christmas’ in my ears… it’s safe to say I’m finally feeling Christmassy 🙂

Buying a real tree has definitely helped this year, although we misjudged the size of the tree versus the size of our living room, and now can’t really see the TV. Oh well, the tree is prettier!

If you remember, a while back I posted a recipe for homemade mincemeat – now it’s time to make the mince pies. I make these mince pies every year, and they always get good comments – the pastry is very short which makes them lovely and crumbly, and obviously the mincemeat is delicious 😉

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They’re not the most professional-looking mince pies, but they make up for that in taste.

The recipe they come from calls them ‘unbelievably easy’ mince pies, and although they aren’t rocket science, I would say they aren’t as easy as the title would have you believe – that’s why I’ve called them ‘quite easy’! There’s no need for a food mixer, just your fingers, and the pastry doesn’t need rolling out, just pressing into the trays – this makes them easier (and fun for kids to do), but they do take a while to assemble because of this however, and when trying to make the lids by just squashing them in your palms, there are invariably some cracked lids when they come out of the oven. I ended up rolling out small amounts of the pastry for the lids as I could control the size/thickness of them better that way. I also had half a packet of sweet shortcrust pastry left in the freezer which I used for some of the lids, this meant I could make 24 mince pies instead of 18. (Don’t judge me for cheating slightly!)

They are ridiculously tasty, so without further ado, here’s the recipe:

Recipe taken from BBC Good Food

‘Quite Easy’ Mince Pies

Makes approx. 18

Ingredients

225g cold butter, diced
350g plain flour
100g golden caster sugar
280g mincemeat
1 small egg
icing sugar, to dust

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For the pastry: Put the cold cubed butter and the plain flour into a large bowl and rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (It’s good to have cold hands for this bit!) Add the golden caster sugar and a pinch of salt, and combine well.

Preheat the oven to 200C.

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Lightly grease a cupcake tin (or 2). As the dough is pretty dry and doesn’t have egg or water added to it, I find it easier to knead a small amount at a time, rather than all in one go – a walnut sized piece is enough for each mince pie and a good amount to knead at a time. When pliable, push each ball of dough into your cupcake tin with your fingers.

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Now it’s time to add the mincemeat – about a teaspoonful is a good amount.

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Next, either roll out a small amount of the dough (after kneading briefly) and cut out circles for the lids – a 68mm cutter is perfect, or form a circle from squashing a small ball of the dough in the palms of your hands until it’s the right size (it’s good to have warm hands for this bit). Top the mince pies with their lids, pressing down at the edges to seal – you don’t need to seal them with anything as they’ll stick fine on their own. Brush each mince pie with some of the beaten egg, and put into the preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

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When ready, take out of the oven and allow to cool for at least ten minutes in the tin, they’ll be easier to take out once cooler. When removing from the tin, you may need to trim the edges of each hole, and ease the knife down the side to help release the pie – they should come out easily after this. You can trim the pies after removing them too, to give them more of a uniform shape. Leave on a rack to cool down completely (if you have willpower…)

NB: The mince pies without the cracked lids are the shop-bought pastry tops.

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When ready to serve, dust liberally with icing sugar and make a pot of tea – or some mulled wine. Delicious!

I have plans for one more last-minute Christmas gift idea before the big day, but in case I run out of time…

Happy Christmas!

Bake-Off Wednesdays: European Cakes

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I’m back in my comfort zone with this weeks challenge – no scary pastry or bread, just a nice easy cake…

NB: Last week’s tart did go down well at the dinner party in case anyone was wondering!

I originally thought of making an Italian Polenta cake as I like the grainy texture, but when I was given 3 bags of apples at the weekend I knew they had to be incorporated! So German Apple cake it was.

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This cake is light and moist, with a tasty crumble topping, of which there is also a layer inside the cake. I liked the fact that toasted flaked almonds are used in the crumble – they add another nice texture and flavour. The original recipe uses sour cream, but I had a pot of crème fraiche that needed using, so subbed that in instead. If you’d rather use sour cream, just swap it back.

This has had good reviews from my work colleagues, husband, and a fairly prolific apple cake maker – so it’s safe to say it’s a good one! It will probably be made again, when I run out of other things to use the rest of the apples in…

Can be served warm or cold, and with crème fraiche or sour cream on the side too, if you fancy it.

Original recipe found here

German Apple  Cake

175g/6oz unsalted butter
175g/6oz caster sugar
675g/1½ lb Bramley apples, peeled, cored and sliced
3 large eggs, beaten
200g/7oz plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
150g crème fraiche – loosened with a little milk

Topping:
50g/2oz unsalted butter
50g/2oz soft brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
75g/3oz plain flour
50g/2oz toasted flaked almonds

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1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/ 350°F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 20cm (22cm in my case) spring form tin with baking parchment. Melt 25g of the butter and sugar together in a large frying pan. Add the Bramley apple slices and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until the apples are tender. Leave to cool.

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2. Make the crumble topping by melting the butter and stirring in the remaining ingredients.

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3. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy then gradually add the eggs beating well between additions. Sift over the flour and baking powder then gently fold into the mixture with the creme fraiche.

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4. Spoon two thirds of the cake mixture over the base of the tin, scatter over a third of the crumble mixture and top with the remaining cake mixture.

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Finally, scatter over the Bramley apples and remaining crumble mixture. Bake in the oven for approximately 75 minutes. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a plate/rack.

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Enjoy!

P.S. Next weeks Bake-Off post won’t be on time as i’ll be coming back from a min-holiday in Spain. I will endeavour to make it/post it soon after though…