Friday, 16 November 2012

Spiced sticky toffee apple cake

For the first meeting of the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club, I made a lovely spiced sticky toffee apple cake. The theme for the club was The Great British Fruit Off, so anything with fruit was suitable. I made a practice run of this cake the week before and it passed all the taste tests with flying colours, and it went down well on the night too.

It's lovely as a cake, although I think it would be really good warm, with a little custard, as a special treat. It really is like a sticky toffee pudding.

200g dates, roughly chopped
200ml milk, plus a splash
250g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
280g self-raising flour
200g light soft brown sugar
½ tsp baking powder
4 large eggs
1 tbsp mixed spice
1 tsp vanilla paste
2 eating apples
squeeze lemon juice
handful of toffees

Heat oven to 180C/160C fan. Grease and line a 20 x 30cm baking tray with baking parchment.
Put the dates and milk in a small pan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside for 15 mins to cool.
Whizz the date mixture to a smooth purée in a food processor or blender, then scrape into a large mixing bowl. Tip in the butter, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, eggs, mixed spice and vanilla, and set aside while you prepare the apples.
Quarter and core the apples, then slice quite thinly, tossing in a little lemon juice as you go (although I only had lime – oops!).
Beat together the cake ingredients until smooth, then scrape into the baking tray, and smooth the top. Arrange the apple slices, overlapping in rows, on top of the cake.
Bake for 45-50 mins until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tray.
When you’re ready to serve (as the sauce is best when it’s warm and runny), put the toffees in a small pan with a good splash of milk and gently melt, stirring, until runny. To finish, dust with a little icing sugar, then drizzle sauce all over the cake. 

You can find this recipe in Good Food Magazine (November 2011 issue). You can also find another fab version by Gingerbread Boy, one of my Twitter pals, here. Love his opening photo! 

A mention to the Tobie Norris, in Stamford, Lincs, where our cake club was held. It was a great venue and the staff really looked after us. Plus, their presentation of a pot of tea was top notch. Loving the Le Creuset crockery and the mini milk bottle is just to die for. 

It's taken me a while to upload this post as I've had a sudden hit of bad luck. I ended up in hospital for most of last week, after unexpectedly having surgery to remove my appendix, and am currently resting at home recuperating. I'm not a good patient when I'm ill - I find it hard to rest and do nothing while I recover, so instead tend to try to do more than I can manage and then set myself back again. I'm not eating much, and can't move a lot, so baking anything is out of the window both as I can't physically manage it and I don't want to eat the results anyway. Sucks. 

Saturday, 3 November 2012

The Great British Fruit Off

The first meeting of the Stamford Clandestine Cake Club could not have gone better. Twelve bakers got together at the Tobie Norris, in Stamford, Lincs, for a very fruit evening.

As the inaugural event, we were all a bit unsure about how the evening would pan out. It was a complete success and everyone got on brilliantly. The cakes were amazing – everyone went to such a lot of effort and there were no disasters, even if the bakers themselves thought there had been.

The Tobie Norris was a welcoming and generous host venue. It’s a brilliant pub that serves the most amazing pizzas, in a beautiful old building that’s thought to date back to the 13th century when there was a medieval hall on the site. The staff were all intrigued by the notion of a cake club and asked all about it. Their service was second-to-none and brought all our drinks up to our hidden room, to save the bakers’ legs climbing the stairs and balancing cups of tea. The room itself was atmospheric and full of character – just like the club members!

The theme was ‘The Great British Fruit Off’ – a nod to everyone’s favourite BBC TV programme, and a chance to indulge in some lovely autumnal fruit flavours. As this was our first meeting, I wanted to pick a theme that had a lot of variety to it and would offer everyone a chance to try something traditional, favourite, or completely brand new. We had a great range of cakes:
Sticky toffee spiced apple cake
Pineapple upside-down cakes x2 (one light and fluffy, the other with a brilliant crunchy caramelised crust – the baker thought it was burnt, when in fact the crunchy bits were a highlight of the evening)
Fruit loaf
Disaronno cherry cake
Spiced apple cake
Sticky orange marmalade cake
Raspberry Bakewell cake
Rich chocolate fruit cake
Apple and almond cake

Selection of cakes
All were delicious, and everyone tried a piece of each – we were all suitably caked out by the end of the evening. We spent two hours chatting non-stop about cake, baking, and other cakey themes. One member is the editor of Making Cakes & Bakes magazine and hopefully our club will make an appearance in its pages in the future.

My spiced sticky toffee apple cake
Thank you to everyone who attended and here’s to a long and happy future for the Stamford CCC. There are so many lovely potential venues in this gorgeous Georgian town and so many cake themes to enjoy – here’s to the next meet!