Tuesday, September 14, 2010

No Egg Apple Cake

My husband is a very intelligent man, yet sometimes he asks silly questions. Like, how many apple cake recipes do you have on your blog?

It was innocent enough, and the answer is, not many (yet). But from a man who adores apple cake in every way, shape and form, to a slightly defensive woman who likes to cook it for him and do the dishes afterwards, it was perhaps a question better left unsaid.

Lucky for him, my passion for apple cake obliterates any hint that I have too many recipes. After all, there is an apple cake for every eventuality. There is Kay's Apple Cake, dense with mixed spices and served with vanilla hard sauce, perfect after dinner. It tastes deeply American, and every time I bite into it I am taken right back to Kay's kitchen, where I revel in her conversation and bask in the most joyful, infectious laugh I have known.

There is my mother's Apfelkuchen, a simple cake topped with overlapping rings of apple, which brings back memories of childhood in a little house full of people and papers and orange carpet tiles.

There is also her Danish apple cake, a favourite with adults and especially my father. Mum poured half the cake batter into the tin, layered it with apples, walnuts and ground ginger, then spread the remaining batter over the top. It looks lovely when you slice it, and is heady with ginger; I made it last year for an anniversary picnic held in her memory.

There is the beautifully moist and failsafe apple cake in The Ultimate Cook Book, which I have made dozens of times in a dozen different ways: with white, brown or coconut sugar; with walnut or vegetable oil; with sultanas and without; with cinnamon, cloves, ginger or a mix. Its dense texture makes it very portable – a good one for a picnic – and its size, great for a group.

And then there's this cake, the unobtrusive cake which tells a Wednesday friend that I love them without being splashy; the cake that makes children smile and adults settle into their chairs and begin to tell stories. It's a morning cake, no big deal, just something to share over coffee; or to slip into a lunchbox near the end of term when kids are flagging and could use a little lift.

It happens to have no egg and no dairy, so it's handy for kinder parties and allergic children, not to mention those hairy vegan friends who could use a little sweetening.

No Egg Apple Cake/Vegan Apple Cake

- 150g sultanas (optional)    
- 350g apple sauce or apple purée (I use canned apples, and leave the chunks intact)
- 180g sugar
- 280g plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground cloves
- pinch of salt
- ½ cup unflavoured vegetable oil (NOT olive oil)
- 2 tbs golden syrup

If you are using sultanas, boil the kettle. Place the sultanas in a small bowl, and barely cover them with hot water. Leave to soak for at least 15 minutes, three days if you get sidetracked as happened to me recently.

Place the apple purée and sugar into a large bowl, stir well, and leave to macerate for 20 to 30 minutes.

While things are soaking and macerating, position the oven rack near the bottom of the oven. Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease and flour a ring tin.

Sift the flour, bicarb soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt into a bowl. Whisk to combine.

Add the oil and golden syrup to the apples, and mix well. Add the flour mixture and sultanas, including any dribbles of syrupy water*, and fold together quickly and gently, lifting up mixture from the bottom of the bowl as you stir.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin. Smooth it gently with a spatula, then quietly slide it into the oven. Close the oven door with dignity. Because the raising agent is bicarb soda, it begins to rise the instant the liquid hits the bicarb. If you bang it about, you will lose the bubbles and thus the rising. Be not afraid, but be quiet.

Bake for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin for at least 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge, invert over a cake plate, and serve.

*If you did not barely cover the sultanas with hot water, but instead drowned them, drain them before adding them to the mixture.

(Local: sultanas, apples,. Not local: sugar, flour, bicarb, spices, salt, oil, golden syrup.)

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