The temperature where I am today is about 1ºC. Even with the heating on, I feel I almost need to wear gloves to keep my hands warm enough to type. Definitely the moment for some comfort food.
This was an experiment based on Tamasin Day-Lewis’s recipe for Somerset Apple Cake. I wanted to turn it into a drizzle cake, where a syrup is poured over the oven-fresh cake to imbue it with even more lusciousness and gives the top a lovely glaze. This cake reminds me of weekends spent with friends in the West Country: going on long walks, drinking cider in pubs, table football tournaments, lots of laughter, and sitting round a huge log fire reading the Sunday papers. The perfect morsel for a winter’s day. The chilli gives it a warming kick and the cake itself is wonderfully moist and flavourful, especially when you bite on a cider-soaked sultana.
Firecracker Apple Cake
150ml dry cider
280g plain flour
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
225g unrefined (golden) caster sugar
180g unsalted butter
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
For the syrup:
50ml dry cider
3 tablespoons unrefined (golden) caster sugar
a red chilli
Preheat oven to 170ºC. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line the base with a circle of greaseproof paper.
Soak the sultanas in the cider for at least half an hour. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a bowl. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar for a few minutes using electric beaters until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating as you go. Fold in the flour mixture, the lemon zest and the sliced apples. Stir in the soaked sultanas and the cider.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
While the cake is in the oven, make the syrup. Put the cider and sugar in a small saucepan, add the halved chilli (including seeds), and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Strain to remove the chilli, and pour the liquid evenly over the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. Leave in the tin until completely cold.
This cake can also be served as a hot pudding: loosely cover with foil and reheat in a warm oven, serve with some crème fraîche (laced with a little Calvados or Somerset cider brandy if you like…) or good old-fashioned custard.