Toffee Apple Cake

Recently it was Bramley Apple week, so I decided to make an apple cake, and found this WI recipe amongst my mil's collection, but to be honest, for me, it doesn't really live up to its name. It needs a stronger toffee flavour, but I liked the idea of enhancing the apple flavour by using Calvados. We love apple cakes, and I have lots of recipes, but this is the first toffee apple cake I've tried.
I had a look online and there are lots of different ideas  - I liked  this one from Rosie Bakes It blog, but there seems to be a bit too much topping for me and she adds dates, just as I did for my Sticky Toffee cake, and I didn't want to use dates - I want the toffee flavour to come from something else. Another idea was to put some Carnation Caramel in the cake mixture - this recipe uses it, one from the Good to Know site.

225g self-raising flour
150g soft butter
150g soft dark brown sugar
50g  mixed nuts, chopped
1 large Bramley cooking apple, peeled, cored and chopped finely
4 tbspn Apple Brandy [ I used Calvados]
2 large eggs
4 tbspn milk
½ tspn cinnamon

50g (2 oz) pecan nuts
1 tbspn demerara sugar

A 20cm springform tin, greased and base-lined

Preheat oven 180°C/Gas 4.

Beat butter and sugar till fluffy; add eggs one at a time. Then add the milk and apple brandy and beat in. Add the nuts and chopped apple and fold in. Fold in flour and cinnamon and mix well.
Spoon into the tin and smooth the top. Decorate edge and middle of  cake with pecan nuts. Then sprinkle over the demerara sugar.
Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or till firm to touch.
Leave the cake in tin for 10 mins before turning onto a wire rack.

In the original recipe the apple was grated, but I chopped it up finely, as I wasn't in a grating mood!
The cake has a good soft crumb, is a light texture, and I like the little bites of apple and the background flavour of the Calvados, but as I said, it could do with something to give it more toffee flavour. There is a hint from the topping and from using the dark brown sugar, but I'm going to see if I can make my perfect toffee apple cake. Watch this space!
I think the cake would make a good dessert if you served it with a toffee sauce.


Orange and Chocolate Mini Loaves

Last weekend we went to stay with our daughter and visited Bluewater shopping centre. There's a great John Lewis store there, and I love browsing in their kitchenware. A few weeks ago, Phil, from the great As Strong As Soup  blog, posted a 'financier' recipe and I hunted everywhere for my financier tin to make some, but couldn't find it, so when I saw a mini loaf one in John Lewis, I bought it. I don't think it's exactly the same size as a financier tin?
We were given a gift pack of several bars of Lindt chocolate, one of them being their Intense Orange bar, so back home I decided to make some little chocolate loaves with orange in my new tin. They're not financiers as they have no almonds in them, but they're good anyway. The original recipe made 6, so I doubled it up.
To add to the chocolate flavour I made a chocolate ganache, and found some orange and lemon jelly slices in the baking cupboard and used the orange ones to decorate the top.

Preheat oven 200C/gas 6 and grease a 6 hole financier or mini loaf tin [or you could use a 450g loaf tin - a 1lb one in old measures]

Put 110g of soft butter, 110g of caster sugar and the zest of a medium orange in a bowl and beat it till nice and fluffy. Add 2 beaten eggs a bit at a time and mix together well.  Sift 75g of sr flour and 25g of cocoa together and add to the batter. Fold in then add 2 tbspn of orange juice and mix this in.
Spoon into the tins and bake for 15-20 mins till firm to touch.
Leave in the tin to cool for about 10 mins then turn onto a wire rack.
To make the ganache, put 50g of orange chocolate and 3 tbspn of double cream in a bowl over simmering water and melt gently, and stir together till nice and glossy [use a wooden spoon].
Spoon some ganache over each mini loaf and decorate with an orange slice.

You get a double hit of chocolate with the cocoa and the orange chocolate topping. The cake has a good soft texture, just the right amount of orange flavour, and is just the right size for an afternoon treat.


Chocolate and Peanut Butter Traybake

This isn't a sophisticated chocolate cake; this is for lovers of milk chocolate and peanut butter. My grandsons were coming for tea, so I made the basic cake and they helped me ice it - or at least one of them did, the other 2 got bored! It's a WI recipe that my mil gave me - I've been sorting out my recipe folders and came across some great recipes I must try, and this was one of them. My grandsons love peanut butter, so to have it in a cake AND in the icing, was great.
It's almost an all in one mixture, as nearly everything goes in the bowl and you beat it together. Then you add the chocolate drops and some milk.

Preheat oven 180C/gas4 and grease and line a 28x18cm tin .

You put 115g of crunchy peanut butter, 115g of soft margarine or butter, 175g of soft brown sugar, 3 eggs and 1 tspn of vanilla extract in a bowl. Sieve together 175g of sr flour and 11/2 tspns of baking powder and add to the bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer for about 2 mins, making sure you scrape the mixture off the sides. Add 80g of milk chocolate drops and 2 tbspns of milk and mix again.
Spoon into the tin and bake for 30-35 mins till golden. Leave in tin for 5 mins then put on a wire rack to cool.

For the fun part - the topping - you melt 80g of milk chocolate with 50g of crunchy peanut butter and 3 tbspns of milk in a bowl over simmering water, or in the microwave. Stir it till it's smooth, and gradually beat in 115g of icing sugar.
Spread this over the cooled cake and allow icing to set before cutting the cake into pieces.

I'm not a great peanut butter fan, but enjoyed these. Good texture in the sponge, and nice contrast with the pieces of chocolate and peanut. Topping is rich, but finishes the cake off nicely.


Chocolate Cake with Meringue

I wanted to make something special for my friend's birthday. She's a great fan of chocolate cakes, so I decided to combine another of her loves, meringue, with a chocolate cake. I looked through my cookery books and online for ideas, and there were plenty of them. Too many were very complicated and had lots of layers. I wanted a much simpler cake, but with a twist. So I decided on  a sandwich cake with a meringue layer on top and in the middle, and there's also some lime curd in the middle to give the cake an extra bit of zing. I bought a jar of this curd from a farmer's market recently, and don't know what to do with it! It's not a very green colour, so really it doesn't look very different from a lemon curd. The flavour seems to me to be a bit sharper.

For the cake  - beat 115g of butter with 115g of caster sugar till nice and fluffy. Add 3 egg yolks one at a time,  then add 100g sr flour which has been mixed with 55g cocoa powder. Pour in 50ml of milk and stir till smooth.
Grease 2 x 20cm sandwich tins and preheat oven 170C/gas3.
Spoon half the batter into each tin and smooth the tops.

For the meringue - whisk the 3 egg whites with a pinch of salt and 1/4 tspn of cream of tartar till you have soft peaks, then gradually add 140g of caster sugar and carry on whisking till the mixture is thick and shiny.

Spoon half of the meringue over each cake and bake for about 20 mins till the meringue is a golden colour. Leave in the tins to cool.

When cool, take out of the tins and put one cake, meringue side up on a plate, spoon on 2 tbpsn of lime curd and smooth is evenly over the cake. Put the other cake on top, meringue side up.

You can't keep this cake for long, so put it in the fridge or use it within a few hours.

It's an unusual cake and was very popular with my friends. The lemon curd is most unexpected, but gives a lovely sharp contrast to the crunchy meringue and the moist chocolate cake. It would make a great dessert, and you could use some cream instead of the curd, or even fruit - I certainly think you need another texture on top of the meringue. Don't think I'd like just 2 layers of chocolate cake and meringue. This is certainly a cake I'll make again.

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