As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to appreciate the sorts of cakes that I would have given a wide berth a few years ago. By that I mean those that have a more subtle flavour and can be enjoyed with a nice cup of tea. I still have a place in my heart for the dazzlingly bright and tooth-achingly sweet, don’t get me wrong. But a lot of the time I really want something comforting and dependable. Not a big old show off that makes you feel a little bit icky if you eat too much.
This Pear & Apple Muffin Loaf with Hazelnut Streusel Topping is exactly the sort of cake I’m talking about. Admittedly it does have a bit of kerb appeal, as it were, but it’s not screaming for your attention. Its subtle golden colour puts it in the “don’t look at me” category. But as soon as you cut it open and try a piece you’re certainly not going to turn away and ignore it! It shares that territory with other fruit cakes – like my Dorset Apple Cake or Lemon & Ginger Drizzle Cake.
As you can see from the photos the texture is a nice, light crumb. It’s based on a muffin mix rather than a normal, beaten sponge cake. This is one of those cake batters that benefits from minimal mixing. There is a risk it could get a bit tough if you overwork it. Within the delicate cake are little shining jewels of fresh apple and pear – both of which bring moisture and a lovey fresh flavour.
Here I’ve used a 50:50 mixture of the two, but feel free to tweak the recipe to suit what you to hand. I love pears but rarely buy them as they end up in the compost bin all to often. It’s a shame as the flavour is just about perfect. It’s the fact that they only seem to be perfectly ripe for about 10 minutes before turning into woolly mush. (Eddie Izzard has a very funny routine about this in one of his earlier shows). Indeed, if you turn your back on a pear you’ll soon know about it when you try and eat it! Luckily you can use them when they’re still quite firm here without sacrificing any flavour.
The cake mix is also flavoured with a few autumnal spices – cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg – which are perfect alongside the sweet fruit. It’s then topped with a streusel mixture, which adds a lovely crunch to every slice. Mine is made with freshly roasted and coarsely chopped hazelnuts. The nutty flavour is lovely and complements the rest of the cake perfectly. It’s the most ostentatious thing about this cake, but remains rather understated. But it’s all that’s needed to make a simple cake into something rather wonderful.
Apple & Pear Muffin Loaf with Hazelnut Streusel Topping
For the Streusel Topping
- 60 g Plain Flour
- 50 g Soft Dark Brown Sugar
- 50 g Unsalted Butter cut into 1cm cubes
- 75 g Toasted Hazelnuts coarsely chopped
For the Apple & Pear Muffin Loaf
- 275 g Plain Flour
- 4 tsp Baking Powder
- 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- ½ tsp Ground Ginger
- ½ tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
- 1 tsp Fine Sea Salt
- 175 ml Semi-Skimmed Milk
- 2 large Free-Range Eggs
- 100 g Golden Caster Sugar
- 100 g Unsalted Butter melted
- 175 g Apples peeled and cut into 1cm pieces
- 175 g Pears peeled and cut into 1cm pieces
Make the Streusel Topping
- Sift the flour into a bowl, then add the sugar before mixing well. Rub the butter into the flour/sugar mixture until it forms a texture like wet sand with a few larger clumps – similar to making pastry. Add the nuts and distribute through the rest of the mixture. Put to one side until needed.
Make the Cake
- Preheat the oven to 180°C
- Line a 1.8 litre loaf tin with greaseproof paper. (See recipe notes).
- Sift the flour into a bowl, then add in the baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Stir to combine, then put to one side.
- Mix the milk, eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl, until the sugar has dissolved. Pour in the melted butter, then mix again.
- Sift the flour mixture into the wet ingredients, then fold it in until just combined. Take care to not overwork the mixture, you just want to mix it until there is no visible dry flour remaining.
- Add the chopped apples and pears to the batter and gently fold until combined.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake tin, making sure it’s spread out to both ends. Tap the tin gently on the work surface to help release any air pockets.
- Sprinkle the streusel mixture over the top of the cake batter, forming a thick but even layer.
- Bake in the oven for 50-60 minutes, until cooked through. Check with a skewer after 50 minutes, once it comes out with no uncooked batter then cake should be ready.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 15 minutes, before transferring to a cooling rack.
- When cooled, store in an airtight container. It should keep for a few days, but tastes so nice it probably won’t last that long.
|Estimated Values per Serving|
|of which Saturates||7||g|
|of which Sugars||15||g|
|Note: Nutritional information shown is per serving of the above recipe. Any side dishes or garnishes shown in photos are not included in these values, unless they are specifically listed as part of the recipe.|