today is Easter Sunday! a day with a promise. that we may also share in the hope and peace of our risen Christ. a day where families come together to eat, pray and love. as a child, my dad would buy me a large Easter chocolate egg, come every Easter. and i would look forward to cracking it open and nibbling on the petite pieces of sugary toffee, candy and marzipan it would contain amidst little strands of cellophane, confetti and yes, glitter! i would save the large chocolate egg shell for until the end, and slowly but surely devour it with every enticing bite. and this right there, was my little share of happiness! i don’t look at Easter eggs the same way anymore, they had their place in my childhood and that’s about it! in my journey to adulthood, i’d begun to resent overly cloying, sugar-inducing-coma treats (be it chocolate or otherwise) and take to more milder notes, read bittersweet chocolate and likewise. and that is how i like my baked goods too, flavourful but not in an overpowering way.
this Easter, i was planning on baking something that did not have the traditional carrot or coconut in it. i was also looking to put to good use a bottle of blackcurrant liqueur or creme de cassis that was handpicked with love all the way from Dijon, France by a loved one! i had almost decided on going with a flourless chocolate cassis cake, after having done one final roll call on the ingredients. and then off i went grocery shopping for the week ahead. and whilst at it, a crate of red glossy gala apples caught my fancy, and before i knew it, it had me planning on an apple cake, having long forgotten the bars of dark chocolate and sticks of butter back on my kitchen countertop that were waiting to be bain-marie-d!
i’ve talked about my love for bananas and banana bread. anything apple in fruit comes next. be it apple pie, apple crumble, apple crisp, apple strudel, or simply a good old apple cake. i once baked a modest breakfast apple kuchen (German for cake), for a German colleague who came calling on his first ever trip to India. and when he came back for a second helping, i knew i had had, his approval! (i can’t help but also make a mention of a large jar of Nutella that he spotted on my kitchen counter and my Nutella bread pudding that he polished off with equal allegiance – and that was quite “das Frühstück!”).
the key ingredient to a good apple cake is cinnamon. i wonder how one got around to marrying the two flavours. all glory be to him! of all spices, cinnamon is my favourite. next comes star anise, and nutmeg, a close third. cinnamon spells warmth and almost always figures in winter treats. but a good apple cake is welcome anytime in the year!
as always and in keeping with my minimalistic principle, simple staple pantry ingredients go into making this apple cake. butter, sugar, flour, eggs and cinnamon. this time around, i substituted light brown muscovado sugar for castor for a typical Danish apple cake or Æblekage preparation. and it payed. with a moist, tender crumb from the butter, brown sugar and apple, and the caramelized walnuts adding to crunch. and that is besides the aromatic cinnamon notes wafting through your home, filling up your senses – an added incentive, and one that comes with the joys of home baking!
adapted from SBS Food – Danish Apple Cake and Global Table Adventure – Danish Apple Cake
185g butter, softened at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown muscovado sugar
1/3 cup light brown muscovado sugar
3 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
185g all purpose flour
2 large gala apples, peeled and cored and thinly sliced into wedges
1/3 cup walnuts
preheat the oven to 180°C. brush the base and sides of a 22 cm (base measurement) springform tin with butter and line the base with parchment paper.
use a stand or hand mixer to beat the butter, 3/4th cup sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy. add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. sift together the flour and baking powder. add to the butter mixture and fold in until just combined. do not overmix.
combine the extra 75 g (⅓ cup) light brown muscovado sugar, cinnamon and walnuts and set aside. spread half the cake batter over the base of the prepared tin. arrange half the apples over the batter and then sprinkle with half the cinnamon sugar. repeat with the remaining cake batter, apples and cinnamon sugar.
bake in preheated oven for 55-60 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer. let the cake stand in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack and having it cool completely.
i baked this after a short nap late evening from after the grocery shopping and feared i would not finish in time for the Easter vigil mass. the cake was just about done and i managed to get it off the tin onto the cooling rack in between dressing for mass. and after i was home (from mass) almost midnight, the cake was sitting at room temperature waiting to be transferred into an airtight container to be sliced the morning after on Easter for breakfast. i was glad i went with baking this instead of the chocolate cassis cake, i couldn’t have afforded to be high so early in the day after all!
Happy Easter, everyone!