I don’t often cook food from my Danish heritage. Partly because my mother fell in love with the Middle East and my fathers culture and we were raised mostly with those exotic dishes and partly because I am not really a fan of pickled herring and mayonnaisey salads. Okay so maybe I am being a bit unfair to Danish cuisine here – and I do love a smorgasbord or three – but my mother made very few things from her childhood. This Apple cake however, was one of them and was was baked often. I remember the strong scent of cinnamon wafting from the oven as it baked and waiting in anticipation for a warm fragrant slice.
I don’t think you would expect spices like cinnamon to be so prevalent in Danish cuisine but to a Scandinavian, cinnamon, cardamom, clove, pepper, saffron and ginger are intrinsic to their all-time favourite recipes, handed down from one generation to the next. When the Danish sailors travelled to the Indian Ocean they brought back spices from the East and there are records from as far back as the age of the Vikings that they have been using these spices!
It’s very simple cake to make, and something best served with whipped cream or warm custard and cup of tea. You do need to stew/steam some apples first and I like to use apples like Pink Lady as they hold their shape once steamed/stewed and don’t disintegrate. I also added my own tweak of pushing little balls of rosewater marzipan into the cake batter as I had some left over from a bake 2 weeks ago and it added a really nice little surprise – but its not traditional – or necessary.
Ingredients – 12 Slices
185g unsalted butter, softened
165 g golden castor sugar (I favour Natura sugars unbleached)
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 large eggs, at room temperature
185g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
5 Apples such as pink lady or royal gala), peeled, cored and each cut into 16 slices thereabouts
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cinnamon stick
4 tbsp Demerara Sugar
30g Marzipan (optional – I had some left over so used it up)
Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush the base and sides of a 22 cm (base measurement) springform tin with melted butter and line the base with non-stick baking paper.
Peel, and prepare the apples as above and place in a sauce pan with 1/4 cup water, 2 tbsp Demerara, cinnamon stick and 1 tbsp lemon juice. Cover and bring to steam taking care with the heat so you don’t overcook the apples at the bottom. You want to poach them to they are soft and bendy but not mushy. Place to one side on a plate to cool down. You can do this the day before and even make double and keep the rest in a tupperware for a snack or breakfast with porridge or Natural yogurt.
Using a food processor or an electric mixer to whip the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and creamy – you can’t over do this bit so whip it up for a good 5 minutes.
Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and then add the flour, baking powder & cinnamon mixing on a low speed until just combined.
Place the batter in your prepared baking tin and roll your marzipan into little balls and press them into the batter.
Next layer your apple slices on top however you like, You can just tumble them on top and spread them around but I like to make a bit of a pattern.
Bake in oven for 20 mins and then take it out of the oven and sprinkle the remainder of the the Demerara sugar (2 tbsp) over the top to allow it to caramelise into the apples. If you add the sugar at the start it will burn. Place back in the oven for another 20 mins before taking out to test if cooked with a skewer. You may need another 5 to 10 mins but you don’t want to dry the cake out. Stand in the tin for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with thick cream, vanilla ice cream or custard.