An apple cake, to eat warm or cold

You know about my surfeit of apples. This is one of the other ways I’ve been using them up, with a recipe that wobbles tenderly between pudding and cake, something to be eaten warm at the end of an autumn dinner or cold with a cup of something, either at tea time or better yet, at breakfast like a sybaritic bircher muesli.

When the cake comes out of the oven its quite soft. That’s the moment to serve it with some good vanilla ice cream or clotted cream. As it cools, it firms up a little and then it’s good with thick cream or yoghurt (or simply on its own, if it’s Lent or something).

When I was thinking about this recipe, I had in my mind a simple apple cake, with chunks of apple and just enough sweet cake mixture to hold them together. This I based on Marie-Hélène’s Apple Cake from Dorrie Greenspan’s Around My French Table (if you have even the tiniest of a glimmer of a Francophile in you, you should have this book. It’s a treasure), adding a bit of cardamom because I love it with apples, and a slosh of applesauce for texture and because I have jars and jars of it. Then I thought scattering on a streusel topping would be good, partly because I just like the word streusel and also because adding a little walnut crunch to the sweetness is always a good thing.

 Warm, it’s more like a pudding, cold it’s more like a cake.

For the cake:
140g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp salt
4 apples*
2 large eggs
150g caster sugar
3 tbsps dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
120g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus a little more for greasing the tin
150g cooked, puréed apple

For the streusel:

60g plain flour

60g unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
60g light muscovado sugar
60g shelled walnuts, chopped

* It’s good to use a combination of apples if you can, for the combination of textures and flavours. I used a Bramley, a James Grieve and a couple of Cox’s.

Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C Fan/Gas 5. Grease a 23cm springform tin with some of the butter. Line with baking parchment and butter the parchment. Place the tin on a baking tray.

To make the streusel, in a small bowl rub together the flour and butter until roughly combined – you still want the butter to be in quite big pieces – then mix in the rest of the ingredients. Set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cardamom and salt together in a bowl until well combined and aerated.

Peel the apples, core them and cut them into large-ish chunks. Wedges of about 3-4cm are about right.

Put the eggs and sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer with the whisk attached (of course, you can do this by hand if you prefer. It’s not one of those cakes which is terribly arduous). On a medium speed, whisk them together until light and foamy – a ribbon of batter should remain on the top of the mixture for a second or two when you lift up the beaters. Whisk in the rum and vanilla. 

Remove the bowl from the stand mixture and with a spatula, first stir in half of the flour then half of the butter. Gently fold in the remaining flour, then the butter until only just combined. Fold in the applesauce, then the cut apples just until they’re evenly coated with batter. Scrape the mixture into the tin and smooth it down gently. Sprinkle on the streusel topping and bake for 50-60 minutes – it should be golden on the top and feel slightly springy to the touch, but still have some softness to it.

 Scattering on the streusel.

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge of the tin, release the catch and carefully remove the cake. Gently peel off the parchment and either serve warm as a pudding, with ice cream or clotted cream, or cold, with whatever you like. It will keep, covered, for a couple of days.