Tag Archives: fruit

Toffee Apple Cake

No one likes it when people moan about how busy they are (because hey, isn’t everyone incredibly busy? It feels like half of the people I know are currently ill from stress induced lurgy) but – real talk – life feels ever so slightly chaotic at the moment. I feel as though I live in a world of deadlines, stress and poor sleep patterns occasionally disrupted by the occasional visit to the pub. I’ve found myself desperately inhaling gigantic portions of spinach in an attempt to keep my iron levels up so I don’t fall asleep underneath my desk. It’s come to the point where I’m actually looking forward to my eight hour flight to New York (#humblebrag) next Tuesday as it will be eight hours where I can read, watch crap TV and drink cheap wine without worrying that I should be somewhere doing something.

I’ve mentioned before that when life gets too much for me to handle, I head to my kitchen to indulge in a bit of displacement-therapy baking. Baking-hell-hath-no-fury like a woman who’s on a deadline and is procrastinating by making a gigantic cake. This was the case in my kitchen last Saturday where I was putting real life at bay by closing the door and attempting to cook with every perishable ingredient I could find. The nice people at Fruitdrop, an office fruit delivery service, had recently sent me a box stuffed full of apples, plums, oranges and bananas. After eating a fair amount of the fruit (and forcing giant carrier bags full of bananas onto my colleagues), I decided to make a Bonfire night inspired Toffee Apple Cake.

I’ve adapted this recipe from one I saw on the Great British Bake Off. While the cake on there is an exotic creature full of caramel crowns and orange zest, this is a slightly more homely offering. However, looks aren’t everything, and this is full of squidgy toffee flavour (helped in no small part by the demerera sugar used in the sponge), warm, sweet wintry spices and a good whack of booze (I used Courvoisier, but any brandy will do. If you’ve got any Calvados hanging around, I’d suggest throwing that in there.) The proof of any pudding is in the eating, and when I took this cake to a party on Saturday night, it was quite gratifying to see it all gobbled up. If you want to get fancy, you could always smother it in custard, or a butterscotch sauce, but I preferred to just eat chunks of it whole while standing by my stove and basking in the radiance of a bit of much-needed-me-time.

Toffee Apple Cake


Adapted from a recipe originally seen on the Great British Bake Off

You will need:

For the toffee apple topping

  • 200g caster sugar
  • 3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into medium-sized wedges (they should be roughly the thickness of a pound coin)

For the cake

  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 125g demerera sugar
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 medium free-range eggs, at room temperature
  • 60ml tbsp whole milk
  • 2 shots of brandy (I used Courvoisier)
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Make It!

  1. Thoroughly grease a medium sized springform cake tin (I like to spray the tin with spray oil for this – it works a treat.) Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.
  2. For the topping, put a small saucepan over a high heat. Add the sugar and three tablespoons of water and cook until it the sugar melts and turns amber – do not stir at any point, although you may want to give it a quick swirl towards the end to ensure that all the sugar is browned. Remove the pan from the heat and carefully pour the toffee into the lined baking tin, taking care to cover the base completely. BE CAREFUL – hot molten sugar can burn you quite badly, and it’s also a bugger to get off surfaces once it’s cooled. Place the apple wedges in three rows on top of the toffee.
  3. For the cake, beat the butter, demerera sugar and soft brown sugar until pale and fluffy. Sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda and add a tablespoon of this to the butter mix along with one egg. Mix until combined and repeat the process until all the flour and eggs have been used. Stir in the milk, brandy, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. Pour into the cake tin and gently smooth with a spatula.
  4. Bake the cake for 40-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean. Using oven gloves, place a cooling rack over the tin and flip the cake over, making sure that you take care not to burn yourself on any hot caramel that may leak from the tin. Leave to cool for five – ten minutes, then remove from the tin and set aside to cool completely.
  5. Cut yourself a big slice of this bad boy and enjoy.
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Strawberry and Black Pepper Jam

I’m sure that you’ll all be thrilled to hear that my jam making obsession continues apace. Indeed, at the rate I’m going, I foresee that every house in Bootle will contain a jar of my jam by the end of June. But hey, if you’ll allow me to blow my own trumpet for a moment (*toot-toot-toot*), this is bloody good jam. So good in fact that when a friend of mine tried it for the first time on Friday, he then proceeded to scoff half a jar of the stuff in a oner. I didn’t know whether to be proud, or fear that he was purposefully trying to give himself Type 2 diabetes.

I made this Strawberry and Black Pepper jam especially for the Northern Quarter Street Party which I attended last Friday in lieu of actually watching the Royal Wedding (hey, why watch the TV coverage when you can just read Twitter instead?) Here’s a pro tip for you readers – when doing a jam making session for the general public, don’t go out to the Darts the night before with your almost husband and get totally smashed on cider. Or, for that matter, wear a billowy full skirted dress which has a horrible habit of blowing up at the slightest puff of wind (apologies to anyone I accidentally flashed my knickers at by the way. Don’t worry, I’m embarassed for you too). I’d like to say that the idea for it came to me in a dream, but instead it was developed after I remembered how well strawberries, balsamic vinegar and black pepper go together, and that they had the potential to make a sensational jam.

Firstly, strawberries are macerated overnight in some lemon juice, sugar and balsamic vinegar until they turn nice and syrupy. Then, they’re cooked down with some black pepper to create something which will make your tongue tingle and your tastebuds pop with joy. The pepper should just add a little bit of a tingle to this jam – it shouldn’t overpower the strawberries, but instead just add another dimension to the sweetness of the final product. I’ve been taking to plopping tablespoons of this stuff on my grilled cheese sandwiches of late. And if you’re thinking that sounds a little out there, all I’d say in response to that is that don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Trust me on this one. I’m a jam maker.

STRAWBERRY AND BLACK PEPPER JAM (Makes roughly two jars)

Strawberry jam recipe adapted from Sophie Grigson

You will need:

  • 500g strawberries
  • 500g granulated sugar
  • The juice and zest of half a lemon
  • Five tablespoons of ground black pepper
  • Four tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of butter

Make It!

  1. The day before you wish to make the jam, top and tail the strawberries, before chopping them in half. Cut off any soft spots or brown spots on them, and discard any berries with bruises, or are turning mushy.
  2. Place the strawberries into a large bowl with 250g of the sugar, two tablespoons of lemon juice and the balsamic vinegar. Turn carefully to mix and coat well, then cover in the fridge overnight to macerate.
  3. The next day, place a saucer into the fridge to chill – you’ll need this when you come to test the setting point of the jam. Pour the strawberries, their juice and any residual sugar juices into a very large pan or preserving pan, remembering that the mixture will rise as it boils. Add the remaining 250g of sugar, the rest of the lemon juice, the butter and the black pepper. Cook the mixture over a medium heat – ut should start to bubble and froth quite vigorously. Skim the froth off the top of the pan with a ladle, and be sure to keep stirring the jam vigorously so it doesn’t stick and burn.
  4. After around twenty five minutes or so, your jam should be starting to set. To test it, place a small amount on the cold plate and leave for thirty seconds. If it crinkles, then it’s done. If the mixture is looking too thin, cook it for another few minutes to obtain a thicker consistency.
  5. Pour the jam into sterilsed jars either via using the ladle, or via (my new favourite piece of equipment) a jam funnel, making sure that you wipe the excess from around the sides. Cover the top with surface of each jar with wax discs to create a tight seal, before screwing the top onto each jar.
  6. Sealed jam should keep for up to a year when stored in a cool and dry place. This jam goes very well on toast, when used in a victoria sponge, or just eaten out of the jar with a large spoon.
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