We’re coming to the end of the true apple season here – although I’m sure we’re still going to see plenty of apples in the shops – but the Apple Man at the St Albans Market has finished up his selling for the year. He and his partner were picking and selling almost 1,000 kilos of apples a week between the stall at their farm gate, St Albans Market on Saturdays and the bigger Riccarton Market on Sundays. He told me, on one of our many chats as the Boyfriend circled the market for the third time, that they grow lots of different varieties at their farm near Oxford. Therefore, unlike the big commercial orchards, the apples cannot be picked all at the same time and put into cold storage until the time comes to sell them. Instead they work on a more gradual picking and selling programme so that the apples that you buy from him at the market are often only picked earlier that week. As he bid me farewell, he said that he will be back in March with some early ripening apples. Something to watch out for – if I’m here!
In the last few weeks, before he ended up, he was selling big three kilo bags of Braeburns so there was always a hurry on to get the previous week’s bag eaten before the weekend came around. I had been doing some research into American food writer Patricia Wells, who lives and writes about Paris and Provence, and discovered a recipe for what she calls The Apple Lady’s Apple Cake in The Paris Cookbook.
It’s a simple recipe – just make a cinnamon (my addition) and vanilla-scented batter, throw in the apples, cook for a while, top with a sugary mixture and then finish back in the oven – but its taste belies its simplicity. It can be whipped up in ten minutes and, if you use good, crisp eating apples, the short cooking time means that they still have a bite in them by the time the Apple Cake makes it to your plate.
The Apple Lady’s Apple Cake
Plain flour – 70g
Sugar – 65g
Baking powder – 1 tablespoon
Salt – a pinch
Cinnamon – ½ teaspoon
Vanilla extract – ½ teaspoon
Eggs – 2, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil – 2 tablespoons
Milk – 80ml
Apples – 4, good sized apples (about 1kg) cored, peeled and cut into thin segments
Sugar – 65g
Egg – 1, lightly beaten
Butter – 45g, melted
Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Butter a 23cm/9inch springform pan and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and stir to blend. In a separate bowl mix the vanilla extract, eggs, ol and milk. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and stir until well blended. Add the apples and mix well, ensuring that the apples are well coated with the batter.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin. Place in preheated oven and bake for about 25 minutes, until firm and golden.
While the cake is baking, mix the sugar, egg and butter for the topping in a small bowl. Remove the cake from the oven at the 25-minute mark and pour the topping mixture on top of the cake. Return to the oven and bake for approximately 10 more minutes, until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm.
Leave to cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife along the sides of the pan and, leaving the cake on the pan base, remove the rest of the springform tin. Serve at room temperature with ice-cream, cream or – my preference – thick Greek yoghurt.
Adapted from The Paris Cookbook by Patricia Wells.