Are you afraid of baking? Don’t be: it is one of the most comforting things I know. Today I slogged through a massive pile of washing-up, steadfastly ignoring the baby-monitor screeches in the corner (we do not love controlled crying around here, no sir). Then I started weighing out flour, and was instantly soothed.
I used to be afraid of baking, and if you are too, remember that Sophie Dahl said ‘baking is a science’. There are mad-scientist types who instinctively understand the alchemy of it and can throw recipes to the wind, but if you’re not one of those people (and I am not), treat it like a science. Be exact about your measurements and method. And also, practice makes better. I only have about a one-in-three success rate, but whatever you make will at least be edible, especially if you live with a Timothy.
Anyway. That aside, here’s Apple Streusel cake from the Hummingbird Bakery. Doesn’t that sound exciting? It’s a sponge cake with apple slices baked into it and then finished off with a sugary crumble topping. Apple crumble cake, hello. I’m not sure it could be better.
[N.B. – it definitely could be better if I worked out how to bake CUSTARD into it. Can this be done? Oh, it should.]
We start with the crumble topping, which begins with my very favourite hand-crampy task of rubbing butter into flour and cinnamon. Thankfully it’s quite a small amount so doesn’t take as long as usual. Once you’ve rubbed sufficiently, you add the same amount again of light brown sugar. It’s a surprisingly sugar-heavy ratio, but it’s all for a purpose, so panic not.
Then you put that aside and mix up the sponge cake, which is a butter/sugar/egg/vanilla/flour mixture, and quite quickly done with an electric whisk. It makes a thick, cream-coloured batter that is then spread over the bottom of a cake tin.
The middle section is made up of apple slices. I used just two apples in the end and was grateful, because I have an incredible knack for ramming the apple corer into the apple and missing the core entirely. It’s a gift. One day I will find a use for it.
Finally your pre-prepared crumble topping is sifted over the top, and it goes into the oven for 35-45 minutes.
It was the oven time that threw me. After 35 minutes, I dutifully took it out and poked it with a knife, and a big splurge of cake batter came pouring out. Gosh, I thought. Not even nearly done. So I put it in for another twelve minutes, after which the sponge had gone dry (groan) and the cake had risen in the middle and not the sides. There was a not-very-pleasing crumbly circus tent look to the whole thing. Hmm.
Still, we judge things by taste around here, and it’s just as well, really. The sponge was indeed a little dry, but the baked apples offset it as well as they could, and the crumble topping was looooovely. The high sugar content makes the topping crystalise in the oven, so it crunches delightfully in your mouth. If you don’t work out how to put custard in the cake itself, it would definitely be fabulous on the side.
Deliciousness: A little less cooking time to improve the sponge, and this would be a winner. Though I think, on the whole, I do prefer this recipe for apple cake. It’s denser and moister.
Complexity: If you’re a dab hand with an apple corer, it’s easy as pie. My electric whisk made the sponge prep quicker, but you could easily do without one.
Washing-up pile: Nine items. Two mixing bowls, but not much else.
Casualties: Everything that could possibly occur with an apple corer did, in fact, occur. Perhaps it’s time to get one of those special machines?
Older Cakery Bakery archives are here.