Four years ago this month, we moved a little bit further West along the South coast of England to a village in Devon so that my husband could take up a residency in clinical veterinary pathology at Exeter. When we moved, we had one daughter and a cat. Our ‘new’ house in Devon was dilapidated and old-fashioned with aluminium window frames, Imperial plumbing and rubber-coated electrical wiring.
Four years on and our lives have changed immeasurably. Two daughters and a son have taken control of every room in our house with their arsenal of toys. The rooms they run through are newly built and refurbished after a rennovation project that has taken the best part of the last two years to complete. I have several more grey hairs (hmm … I wonder why) and far fewer good nights of sleep 😉 .
Every year on the anniversary of our move, my husband has taken a variety of baked goodies into work to share with his colleagues. This year, he requested an appple cake.
Living in Devon, I thought it might be symbolic to try a recipe for Devonshire Apple Cake that I found in a cookbook by Margaret Wilson. As if to prove Melinda’s theory of the British and their propensity for dried fruits, the recipe does indeed include a substantial amount of raisins and currants in addition to the namesake apples. Inspired by Melinda’s observations, I not only soaked these in water before using them in the recipe, but also added a tot of whisky left over from our Burn’s Night celebrations (it worked well and the dried fruits were deliciously plump and moist, but perhaps apple brandy would have been more in keeping …?!).
A word of warning: the recipe stipulates using an “8-inch shallow cake tin”, which in my mind translates to something like my 8″ x 1 1/2″ pan. The little line drawing underneath the recipe in my book shows a circular cake, so I assume that the pan is intended to be round. When I came to fill my 8-inch shallow cake tin with the batter, it was obvious that my idea of ‘shallow’ is somewhat less generous than that of Margaret Wilson as my poor little pan was soon drowning under an engulfing splurge of cake mixture. I hastily dug out some cupcake cases from my newly-organised baking shelf and scooped out a good 7 cupcakes-worth of batter from the pan. Fortunately for me, this near-disaster at least provided me with some miniature samples of my own to taste – my husband and his colleagues devoured the cake-proper today, leaving not a single crumb.
Devonshire Apple Cake (adapted from a recipe by Margaret Wilson)
225 g (8 oz) plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp mixed spice
275 g (10 oz) mixed sultanas, raisins and currants
450 g (1 lb) cooking apples, peeled and chopped
150 g (5 oz) unsalted butter
175 g (6 oz) light muscovado sugar
pinch of salt
caster sugar for sprinkling
grated rind of 1 lemon
2 tbsp Devon cider
Grease and line an 8-inch shallow cake tin with parchment paper. preheat the oven to 325 degrees F/170 degrees C.
Soak the dried fruit in hot water (plus a tbsp of whisky or apple brandy) for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the apples in the cider until they are soft and mushy. Mash any remaining lumps with a fork. Leave to cool.
Cream the butter, sugar and lemon rind in a large bowl. Gradually beat in the eggs.
Sieve together the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Fold in alternately with 225 ml (8 fl oz) of the apple sauce (feed the remainder to your youngest child 😉 ).
Strain the dried fruit and stir into the mixture until evenly incorporated.
Place the mixture in the prepared cake tin (until no more than 3/4 full – use any remaining mixture to make cupcakes 😉 ). Sprinkle the top with castor sugar.
Bake in the centre of the oven for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (note: my own ‘shallow’ cake was done in 40 to 50 minutes; the cupcakes took 12 minutes). Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack.