I was born and raised in Dorset and have oftened wondered what the link is between the county and its eponymous apple cake. I’m sure plenty of apples are grown here but it’s never felt like you can’t get anywhere because of all the damn orchards clogging up the countryside. Anyway, putting that to one side and embracing things as they are I think this might the first time that I’ve actualy made a Dorset Apple Cake.
I suspect it’s because I’ve not always been a fan of chunky fruit cakes, but consider me converted. No sooner had I eaten my first slice I wanted to make another one pretty much straight away. It really is that good.
In common with many regional specialities there’s no set way of making a “Dorset” Apple Cake as far as I can tell. Indeed I suspect that the only things it actually needs are some apples embedded in some cake and that is where the arguments can begin.
- Do you use eating apples, with their firmer texture, or cooking apples, that will break down as the cake cooks?
- Do you use brown sugar, for a rich, dense texture, or a more refined sugar, for a lighter sponge?
- Should it contain cinnamon or all spice or no spice?
- Do you top it with apples, nuts or cheddar cheese? And no, I’m not going mad – there really are people who do that.
In this case I’ve chosen a very conservative route and the end result is all the better for it. Light Brown Sugar to give a hint of caramel to the sponge, Bramley apples that melt away into the cake and a distant hint of cinnamon for warmth. It might not be groundbreaking but who cares when it’s like a big baked hug?
Dorset Apple Cake
Like most regional recipes this one has plenty of variations to the ingredients and plenty of opinions on how it should be made. I make no claims for its authenticity but I am from Dorset and this is an Apple Cake, so don't shoot me if you disagree with this version...
For the Cake
- 225 g Plain Flour
- 1½ tsp Baking Powder
- 1 pinch Sea Salt
- ½ tsp Cinnamon
- 120 g Butter softened
- 120 g Soft Light Brown Sugar
- 1 Large Free-Range Egg beaten
- 200 g Cooking Apples peeled and chopped
- 1 Lemon zested
- 25 ml Milk
For the Topping
- 50 g Cooking Apples peeled and sliced
- 50 g Soft Light Brown Sugar
- ½ tsp Cinnamon
- 1 Lemon juiced
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Line a 20cm springform cake tin with baking parchment and put to one side.
Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon together. Rub in the butter using your fingers until you have a mixture like softened breadcrumbs.
Add in the sugar, apples, beaten egg and lemon zest then mix well. Add in the milk a little at a time to bring everything together as a soft doughy batter.
Pour the cake batter into the prepared tin and level it out. In a separate bowl mix together the ingredients for the topping before laying them out on the top of the mix in the cake tin.
Put into the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes until the cake is cooked through and coming away from the edge of the tin. Start checking after 50 minutes as you don't want it to burn on the top.
Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes in the tin before releasing it onto a rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container but bear in mind it's best eaten fresh.
Remember you only need one lemon for this recipe - the zest goes into the cake and the juice is used with the sliced apples on the top.