Today is my last day at home after three weeks off work to recuperate after having my troublesome gallbladder removed. I really thought that I’d use my enforced sick leave far more productively than I have and I had such grand plans. It turns out though that I totally underestimated the effect that losing part of my anatomy would have on my body and it’s only been in the last few days that I’ve started to feel like anything approaching normal. Which isn’t a moment too soon given that it’s now just two weeks (and a crucial day) until we get married.
I had been hoping that I’d get back on track with the blog while I was off sick which has clearly not happened, not least because I wasn’t able to reach down to put anything in the oven for about 10 days. This cake was, however, the last thing that my poor gallbladder helped me to digest before it went on to better things. My surgery wasn’t until later in the afternoon so I was told to eat breakfast that morning. I’m not entirely sure that a slice of cake and a dribble of cream was exactly what my doctor had in mind but it seemed to serve me well enough.
The cake itself is relatively simple, albeit with a long and slow baking time. The recipe is as perfect as you would expect from a Mary Berry recipe although I have slightly tweaked the flavour profile to my tastes (and, it goes without saying, to make it gluten free). I love the contrast between the soft apples in the middle of the cake and the tender crumb. I like to bake it a little on the longer side so that the edges of the cake become a little firm and crisp. Plus the smell as it bakes is pretty dreamy so anything that prolongs that can only be a good thing.
This is a really delicious cake, heavy in vanilla and caramel and filled with gently squidgy apples. I like to play up the warm notes with brown butter and brown sugar but a little spice (ginger or cinnamon for choice) doesn't go amiss either.
- 150g (1 1/3 sticks) unsalted butter plus extra for greasing
- 225g (1 1/4 cups) light brown sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- 150g (1 cup + 1 tablespoon) rice flour
- 50g (1/2 cup) ground almonds
- 25g (1/4 cup) corn starch / corn flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- A pinch of salt
- 2 - 3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and sliced
- Flaked almonds, for the top
- Cream or ice cream, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 140C / 280F (fan). Line a 20-cm loose bottomed cake tin with non-stick paper and grease well with butter.
- In a small pan over a medium heat, melt the butter and allow it to bubble until it turns golden brown and begins to smell nutty. Set aside to cool a little.
- In a large bowl, beat together the cooled butter and sugar until light in colour. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, and add the vanilla.
- In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together all of the flours, the baking powder and salt and fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
- Spread about half the batter across the bottom of the prepared tin. Add a layer of apples, leaving a small border along the edge. It's absolutely fine to add a couple of layers of apple slices - they'll just get all soft and squishy and juicy. Cover with the remaining batter trying to cover the apples as far as possible and scatter with flaked almonds.
- Bake the cake for about an hour and a half until the top is firm and golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a little before removing from the tin - note that the amount of liquid in the cake from the apples means that it's quite hard to move this cake around in one piece so you might want to keep it on the base of the tin. I think this cake is nicest served warm with cream/ice cream but it's delicious when cold too.
Lightly adapted from Mary Berry's Apple Dessert Cake