Apple Day at Rosemoor

And the wind sprang up and the sky grew dark … and it rained …


and rained …


and rained …


and rained …


and rained.


But small children never seem to mind the rain. They eagerly pull on their welly boots and rush outside to splash and jump in muddy puddles. Soaked through and dripping, they are unconcerned by such grown-up worries as colds and coughs and sneezes, and are unburdened by the practicalities of ensuring they have a dry change of clothing packed safely away in rucksacks on every outing.

Which is perhaps just as well, since our visit to the annual Apple Day hosted by the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Rosemoor last weekend was certainly a wet one.

I had only been to Rosemoor once before, nearly five years ago when we first moved to Devon. Back then, we were a family of three, although we were only a few months away from becoming a family of four. In my heavily pregnant state, I waddled around the gardens one afternoon with L while O was busy in his new job. There was little to see – it was March and the beauty of the gardens was still deep in its winter sleep. Only the name tags marking places in the soil gave a hint of what the gardens would become in the Spring.

On that visit, I was particularly intrigued by the fruit and vegetable gardens. Although they were seemingly populated by nothing more than empty, dead twigs, my imagination was kindled by the sheer variety of fruits that were planted there. With each step I took, I discovered apples and pears with magical, evocative names that never appear on the supermarket shelves. Barnack Beauty, Shenandoah, Lady Sudeley, Yellow Ingestrie.

Last weekend, I finally had an opportunity not only to see these fruits growing at Rosemoor, but also to taste them. Despite the steady rain that poured persistently throughout the day, we joined the damp, waterproofed crowds at the garden’s annual Apple Day. Inside a large, dry marquee, tables were stacked high with a myriad of different varieties of apple. Slices for tasting were laid out on paper plates alongside tasting notes and harvesting information. Some apples were soft and sweet while others were crisp and tart. Each variety left a different aftertaste, from nutty to aniseed.


There were dessert apples, cooking apples, juicing apples and apples for making cider. Stalls around the sides of the marquee provided a platform for producers and artists from Devon to show their apple-related products. At one stall, rivers of the purest apple juice gushed from a noisy mulching machine.

“Four parts Cox to one part Bramley,” the producer proudly told us. Whatever the secret, this was the most glorious apple juice I have ever tasted. Its sweetly crisp aromas filled my senses with apple even as the juice was being sloshed from the jug into my glass. It was as if I’d buried my nose deep into the apple blossom and drunk from the very essence of the fragrant fruit.


And then out into the rain to the orchards where the bare patches of soil of my last visit were now bursting abundantly with redolent apples of all varieties.


That evening as the geese flew overhead on their journey out to sea, I made a spiced autumnal apple cake in celebration of this rainy Apple Day.


Apple Day Cake

3 ounces seedless sultanas
100 milliliters dark rum
2 ounces unsalted butter
5 ounces castor sugar
2 ounces light muscovado sugar
7 ounces peeled, cored and diced apple (1 medium Bramley apple)
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 ounces eggs, weighed without shells (3 medium eggs)
5 ounces plain (all purpose) flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Put the sultanas in a small bowl and cover with the rum. Leave to soak for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350 degrees F / gas mark 4 with a rack set in the centre of the oven.

Grease and base-line a 20 cm (8 inch) round cake pan.

Melt the butter and sugars together in a small saucepan (or in the microwave, stirring frequently) until smooth and runny.

Place the melted butter and sugars together with the apple, grated orange zest and vanilla in a large bowl. Beat to combine.

Add the eggs gradually, beating after each addition to incorporate. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Place the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon in a separate bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until well incorporated.

Drain the sultanas well and reserve the rum (set aside). Add the sultanas to the apple mixture and stir to combine.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven for 45 to 50 minutes. A tester inserted into the centre of the cake should have few crumbs attached when removed (it is a moist cake, so the tester will not be completely clean). Remove from the oven.

Let the cake stand in the pan for 10 minutes before removing from the pan and placing on a wire rack.

Brush the top of the cake with a small amount of the reserved rum. Cool on the wire rack before slicing and serving.

Leave a comment


  1. Dad

     /  October 15, 2009

    Cor – brings back memories of my Mum’s James Greaves apples and her Bramleys, but that was many years ago!
    I hope L, M, T and O enjoyed their just desserts.
    Pip, pip.

  2. Jeannette

     /  October 16, 2009

    That sounds like just the type of cake I really love! A moist, cut and come again kind of cake! Sounds like an interesting visit to Rosemoor, pity about the rain! I visited the gardens some years ago and would like to go again sometime, there’s a bit of everything there, isn’t there? Hope you and your family are keeping well.

  3. Annie

     /  October 16, 2009

    I’m hundreds of miles from Devon but your evocative description transported me to the Rosemoor Apple Day in the rain. Love your use of language and your appreciation of apples! I’m going to make the cake – it’s now called Kate’s Apple Day Cake!

  4. They did, Dad 🙂

    Apart from the usual runny noses of this time of year, we’re all doing well, Jeannette 🙂 Rosemoor is well worth a visit – there’s even a new woodland play-park area for children!

    Thanks for leaving such a lovely comment, Annie. I hope you enjoy the cake as much as we did 🙂

  5. Kate, this is such a wonderful post. I love the photographs. I could almost feel the rain and the fragrance of the apples! Really beautiful.
    I love all the different varieties of the apples. How fun it would be to be able to taste the apples and understand the differences in flavour and texture.
    I have a little apple tree out in the garden which has been a pretty poor cropper the last 5 years (Red Falstaff variety). It gets ripe in October and is a bright jolly red. I actually had 10 apples to use this year and they made a wonderful pie. I felt very Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’ish!
    I am actually, by pure coincidence, going to visit a local Cox Orchard and buy some apples today. Where I am originally from, Oregon, we grow orchards of apples. So it always makes me feel a bit homesick, but in a fond memories kind of way.
    I love the look of this cake. It looks the perfect thing to have today. I like that it has dark rum in it. Cheers x

  6. I went to the apple farm today and they had quite a few varieties there. At least 20 were available. I got some Ribston Pippens and Greensleeves variety.
    I made your cake with the Ribston Pippens and we had it for a tea time treat. It was delicious! It was a perfect cake. x

  7. I’m so pleased you liked the cake, Melinda – thanks for letting me know! My parents have an apple tree in their garden that I planted from a pip when I was about 4 years old. I simply ate an apple and pushed one of the pips from the core into the ground and it grew! The tree has moved house with them twice and I have even eaten apples from it – it’s funny to think that they have come directly from that apple I ate so very very long ago (I’m extremely old, you know … according to my children, that is 😉 ).

  8. Kate
    I am new to your blog although I have seen Rose’s photo of her trip there and also remember reading a while ago about your microwaving flour. You are such an elegant writer and I thoroughly enjoy reading about your trip to the apple orchard. I too visited an orchard a couple of weeks ago as my husband and I do each year and picked Northern Spy, my favourite pie apple, and some Macintosh for eating. The orchard I visit here in southern Ontario grows 5000 dwarf variety of apple trees which are much easier to pick from although it is still difficult to reach the apples that grow on the very top of the tree. I was in total awe this year of the abundancy of apples on the branches, their weigh causing the branch to bend toward the ground. I was able to fill our bag from one tree and could have filled many more. Our summer had been cold and damp but it proved to do wonders for the apple crop. I don’t bring my camera anymore as I use to when my children were small, but how I wish I had this time.
    Your cake it lovely and looks very similar to the one I baked on the weekend. This recipe sounds lovely.
    Good-by for now

  9. Welcome to A Merrier World, Oriana 🙂 We’re planning to plant an apple tree in our front garden soon and have been wondering which one to go for – a dwarf variety would be ideal for us as we don’t want the tree to grow too big directly in front of our house. We too have had cold and summers in the last few years, so hopefully an abundance of apples will be a tasty recompense for the lack of sunshine!

  10. I just love all of those rain shots, particularly the first one.

  11. hi kate i just sent you my entry for sugar high. its my first time on your blog!! its wonderful, completely my kind of place, love your pics, if a rain can look this good, the i love the rains! and so many apples! lovely!

  12. Thanks for your lovely comments!
    And I look forward to reading your SHF entry, rajani.

  13. Murray Heasman

     /  September 14, 2011

    This takes me back to my childhood. My dear aunt and uncle had a James Greaves in their garden and the day I discovered it I remember munching through at least six in a row, standing under the tree. They were so sweet and I can’t remember having any other apple to compare. Does anyone know where I can buy some please?


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