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feel good food that's good for you


I’ve just realised that it’s been almost two months since I posted something sweet. I know, what was I thinking: man cannot live by tofu alone. It’s not even as if we never have anything sweet and I have to expend great brainpower coming up with a recipe. For example, the last sweet thing I ate was on Saturday. As it was only three ingredients – none of which I had anything to do with making –  it probably doesn’t count as a recipe. But it was scrummy, & obviously easy, so I will share it with you: Rachel’s Organic Greek-style Coconut Yogurt topped with blueberries and a crushed Nairn’s Ginger Oatcake (thanks to Yvonne Mc for that genius idea).

Irritatingly, and as is not infrequently the case, a little smidge of yogurt was left in the cardboard pot BY SOMEONE WHO SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS, so that when I was wanting a sneaky snack – a la Nigella and her dressing-gown fridge forays –  the yogurt to oatcake ratio was not the most satisfying. One teaspoon does not a snack make. Note to all would-be smidge leavers: either scrape out that last wee bit or chuck it in the bin – don’t get your mother’s hopes up. I’ve since gotten over the disappointment, can you tell? 


My previous sweet thing was again something not made by myself, not even assembled by myself. It was in fact one of the French special offers at Lidl. Readers, it was macarons, and they were delicious. In my defence I purchased these little coloured ellipses of gorgeousness for Miss R and her chums to enjoy pre school rock concert. (Teenaged girls of course always need encouragement to be even more hyper before events where they will see hair-gelled boys playing guitars and peacocking about on a stage.) And as I had never had them before I needed to sample the macarons to make sure they were not spit-outable. They were not. I had four – one in each flavour – just to make sure.

Before this experience I was a macaron virgin. Yes, I’ve said it. I had never knowingly eaten a macaron. Even having been to Paris, home of said delicacy, I wasn’t tempted. I saw them artfully stacked in the come-hither windows of Fauchon and Laduree but could never see past the, as I think, gaudy colours or the thought that they may be like meringues (of which I am not fond). But at £2.99 for a box of 12, I though it worth a punt. Big hit with the girls. We kindly saved a couple back for Mr A, a man more inclined to cheese plates than banoffee pie, who declared them delicious. So, here I am, waiting for the Lidl French special offer to pass so that I can once again visit Lidl for sensible purchases of grapes and toilet paper. I don’t want to be that person who freezer-dives for the last box of macarons. But maybe you go and buy them, before I change my mind.

Back to my original  dilemma: the next sweet recipe. Well, the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that my last cakey thing was apple and oat bars. Some of you seemed to think it was a nice recipe, quite seasonal. Thank you. So you would be right to ponder the wisdom of posting another apple cake recipe when there are plenty of other fruits that can be dessertified, never mind sampling the universe of chocolate recipes that exist. But I can’t resist sharing with you a cake that my dear Aunt Ruth fixed for us when we visited her in October. Although we were visiting my Dad in Florida, we flew up to Nashville, Tennessee to visit his sister and her family. Aunt Ruth is a superb Southern cook,  gracious and  traditional. And, as is the case with her counterparts below the Mason-Dixon line she feels it a dereliction of heritage to serve no fewer than eight dishes at a time. And that’s just for breakfast.

One of the standout dishes was this apple cake. In her version – borrowed from a 1977 church cookbook – she skewers the top and pours over homemade caramel sauce. Although it was really good (I mean really good) we prefer it without the extra sweetness. But maybe that’s because we had it after said eight dishes. I have included the sauce but that really does take it into the realms of special treat. With or without the rich and gooey top it goes extremely well with a dollop of thick half-fat creme fraiche, or even some frozen vanilla yogurt. As with a lot of fruit enhanced cakes it actually gets better after a day or two. That’s certainly the case with the caramel version: my Aunt didn’t stop apologising about it being dry (it was no such thing of course, she’s just a very Southern, self-deprecating cook) until day three of its diminishing existence. Fresh out the tin it is light, but matured a few days it is super-moist and fudgey textured. Try both versions and be your own judge. You can see the top is crackly and light, even without the glaze.


Old-fashioned Fresh Apple Cake


We ate the ‘full-fat’ version of this (with caramel glaze) during a visit to my Aunt Ruth’s house. It’s a lovely, moist cake, with no pretence to being particularly healthy, especially if cloaked in the crackly-soft caramel glaze. We are a bit wimpish when it comes to sweet things, so prefer it sans topping, but do add it if you are so inclined. I’ve only slightly tinkered with the ingredients – lessening the sugar and fat by a smidge (I didn’t want to change the texture, which is divine) and adding a whisper of cardamom. Leave out the cardamom if you can’t get it, but I think it makes this cake extra special. Other options that would be good are cinnamon (doh), nutmeg, or a pinch of allspice. The original recipe, from the 1977 Goodlettsville (Tennessee) Church of Christ “Favorites of Friends’ cookbook, sticks with vanilla extract. I’ve kept the original American cups measurements, but if anyone doesn’t have measuring cups, let me know and I will ‘translate’. 

Make in a 9 inch by 13 inch by 2 inch pan

¾ c rapeseed or other quality flavourless oil
1 ¾ c sugar (I used half unrefined white and half brown)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp vanilla (I used ¾  tsp of Steenberg’s organic vanilla powder but I recommend using Neilsen-Massey vanilla extract for ease of  availability – but Steenberg’s vanilla is wonderful, and no alcohol)
3 c flour (I used refined/finely milled spelt)
1 tsp baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp fine salt
¼ tsp ground cardamom (heaped)
2 c tart apples (Granny Smith’s or Bramleys), peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 c pecans, chopped (I dry-toasted these in a pan first)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk oil and sugar until it leaves a trail; add the beaten egg and vanilla. Sift the dry ingredients and add to the liquid ones. Fold in the apples and nuts. Pour the fragrant mixture into an oiled 9x13x2 pan and bake at 300F/150C for 1 hour and 15 minutes, checking at one hour. It should look a bit bumpy and buoyant. Make the glaze (if using) just before the cake is finished baking.

Caramel Glaze (option)
1 c light brown sugar (lightly packed)
1 tsp vanilla
½ c butter 
¼ c evaporated milk

Put the butter and sugar in a double boiler and blend well. Add the evaporated milk and bring to a boil; add the vanilla. Spread over the warm cake. You can skewer holes in the cake but it should soak in well if the cake is warm. The cake keeps well in a airtight tin, improving in texture and taste after a day. 


6 thoughts on “Old-fashioned Fresh Apple Cake

  1. julietfitz says:

    That looks great! Aunt Ruth’s version was always a fave and I’m sure this is just as good. Glad to have the recipe.

    1. Thanks m’love. I hope Ruth approves of the cardamom (sacrilege). I expect to see a photo of your own baking on fb! (I’ll sneak onto Miss R’s acct – shhh)

  2. Karen says:

    You cannot beat a good old fashioned bake now and then Kellie and that looks fabulous and just right for this time of year.
    Karen

    1. After a few spicy/unusual recipes I thought this one would be a good contrast. You’re right, sometimes ‘old-fashioned’ is just the ticket. Thanks for visiting 😀

  3. Ann says:

    There are always a couple of apples lurking in the fruit bowl in need of a good recipe and this is IT.

  4. Faith says:

    A lovely cake! The texture is wonderful and I love your addition of cardamom. Thanks for sharing a family recipe — they’re always the best!

If you have time, I would love to hear from you. Thanks so much!

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