Apple puree is a very versatile thing to have in your kitchen. Made by simmering peeled, cored, chopped cooking apples with a little water until they turn to mush, and then blending to a pale green foamy puree with a silky texture, it has a multitude of uses in cooking. You can add a little lemon juice and a pinch of sugar and turn it into a tangy accompaniment to roast pork. You could mix it with a little maple syrup and drizzle it over ice cream. You can use it, mixed with honey, cinnamon and vanilla, to coat muesli mix before baking to make homemade granola. You can cook it down to form a dark, thick spread that Americans call ‘apple butter’, which is delicious on toast. And you can also use it to make cakes.
Apple puree is an excellent addition to a cake batter. It makes everything so much more moist, while delivering a subtle sweetness that isn’t overpowering and will complement other flavours. You can use it in lower-fat baking to replace some of the butter or oil, because it gives the cake a delicious moist texture. Having said that, this recipe still contains a good quantity of fat, but the apple puree makes it even more magically tender and delicious (and you could probably experiment with scaling down the butter and oil a little if you so desired).
I can’t stress enough how much I love making a one-bowl cake. While baking is generally touted as a therapeutic experience, I often find it anything but. Dirtying a multitude of bowls with weighing out ingredients; chopping and/or toasting nuts; zesting citrus fruits; snapping chocolate; melting butter; these all take time and effort and create washing up, and are often what put me off baking when I’m tired or have had a busy day. Sometimes I just long for a recipe where I can chuck everything in the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer and let the electric beater do all the work for me.
This is one such recipe. You chuck everything into a bowl and beat. Then you bake. It’s that simple. There are a few things, though, that contribute towards making it taste anything but simple. Firstly, this is a bundt cake. Isn’t it just so stylish? Although bundt cakes are no more effort to make than ordinary cakes (although they do require you to purchase the appropriate tin, should you not already be in possession of one), they somehow have more of a wow-factor than their simple non-doughnut-shaped siblings. You can drizzle icing over them in a completely haphazard fashion and they will still look artistic. Result.
Secondly, this cake has an incredibly interesting and complex medley of flavours running through it. There’s a base of flour and sugar, enriched with butter, rapeseed oil and our magical apple puree that gives it a subtle fruity hint. Then you start going spice-crazy: cinnamon, cardamom, ground cloves, ginger and black peppercorns all go into the mix. I bet that last one threw you a bit. Black pepper? In a cake? Trust me, it’s amazing: it gives this incredible warm, spicy kick to the sweetness of the other flavours. Cardamom is also a slightly unusual one to pair with apples, but I’ve been experimenting a lot with this pairing recently and am convinced it’s the next big thing: the two complement each other wonderfully.
Thirdly, the warm, earthy, spicy crumb of the cake is enhanced by a deliciously tangy, sweet ginger icing. It’s a simple mixture of icing sugar and the syrup from a jar of stem ginger globes, but it is, I think, the final flourish that brings this cake together. It’s a very dense, moist, spiced cake and it needs that little hint of ginger sweetness to lift it. It also looks beautiful, drizzled in delicate white stripes over that lovely bundt shape.
If you’re looking for something simple but different to eat with your afternoon cup of tea, this is it. It’s bolstering and filling and deeply satisfying, with its sweet, moist crumb, but it’s also warming and interesting with the complex spice playing around your tastebuds. I’d suggest getting a big bag of cooking apples and making a large batch of apple puree in advance; you can freeze it in 460ml portions ready to whip up this beauty of a cake in no time at all. Minimal washing up and effort; maximum taste, interest and prettiness. A great recipe.
Spiced apple bundt cake with ginger icing (makes 1 cake, serves around 10-12):
- 375g plain flour
- 325g golden caster sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp crushed cardamom seeds (about 8-10 pods)
- 1 tsp salt
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ½ tsp ground ginger
- ½ tsp freshly ground black peppercorns
- 460ml unsweetened apple puree*
- 2 eggs
- 120ml rapeseed or vegetable oil
- 110g butter, melted
- For the icing:
- 3 tsp stem ginger syrup
- 150g icing sugar
*To make apple puree, simmer peeled, cored and chopped cooking apples in a pan with a splash of water until they turn to mush, then put in a blender and puree. You’ll probably need around four large apples for the amount in this recipe, but it’s worth making a big batch and freezing it in portions so you can make this cake (or other similar cakes) quickly in the future.
Pre-heat the oven to 170C. Grease a large bundt cake tin. In a large bowl or using an electric mixer, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and spices. Add the apple puree, eggs, oil and butter and mix until just combined. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for an hour, or until the cake is firm and springs back when pressed with a fingertip. Cool in the tin for half an hour, then turn out onto a rack and cool completely.
For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the ginger syrup and water, a teaspoon at a time, until you have a pouring consistency (if you add too much water just add more sugar to balance it out). Drizzle this over the cake using a spoon. Leave to set, then serve.