Spiced Apple Cake
Updated: May 17, 2018
One of my first waitressing jobs was in a wonderful café, in a little market town near to where I grew up, called Quirky’s Courtyard. It was set back from the main High Street, down a little passageway. Walking into it was like being transported to a completely different place, away from the hustle and bustle of the main road outside.
It was a light, bright and airy space with double doors that led out onto a courtyard patio, with sets of tables and colourful, metal fold-out chairs.
Inside the café, on every shelf and windowsill, there were ornaments, jugs, teapots and cups, and other antique ware that you could peruse and buy whilst sipping tea. But the most wonderful thing about this place was the food. Alongside serving customers, I used to help the owner, Nadine, to make Foccacia in the kitchen. She would hand-craft it into beautiful round loaves, which would be cut into generous wedges for open sandwiches and served to customers warm with the most delicious homemade coleslaw. I loved eating lunch there on my breaks – it was always such a treat.
My most favourite thing of all about Quirky's Courtyard was the apple cake that we served.
I had never tasted cream cheese frosting until the day I tried this cake and it was a complete revelation. The tang of the cream cheese, balanced with the sweetness of the icing sugar, and its light, fluffy texture paired perfectly with the richness of the cake. Nadine’s apple cake was deep in flavour and bursting with currants and apples, with rich undertones which I think came from a mix of spices and dark muscovado sugar.
I would often ask if I could have a slice on my Saturday shifts and would serve myself a portion on a little china plate, which I hid under the serving bench, cake fork at the ready. I would eat it slowly over the course of the day, savouring it until it was all gone.
Evoking this memory made me want to create my own Spiced Apple Cake recipe at home and it’s been so lovely experimenting, just the aromas around the kitchen as my test cakes were baking in the oven were enough to take me back to those weekends spent working in the cafe!
The cake I have developed is lighter in texture than its predecessor, which I think really heroes the apple. and I have used Light Brown Sugar to create a delicate, moist cake, which has just the right amount of apples to cut through the sweetness of the icing. The quantity of apples in the recipe will produce a very apple-filled cake, however if you want less apple and more of the spice flavoured sponge to come through, just omit one apple.
I have used ground cinnamon and freshly ground cardamom pods to give an extra layer of flavour to the cake. In fact, I would be as bold as to say this cake is tasty enough to eat without icing. You could serve it warm with thick custard for the ultimate spiced apple dessert, or simply dust it with icing sugar and enjoy it with a hot cup of tea.
Having said that, I can vouch for the fact that your children, friends and family will also thank you immensely for topping it with this lighter than light, tangy cream cheese frosting!
To finish the cake, I sprinkled ground cinnamon over the top and added homemade apple crisps (recipe below). These are completely optional but look pretty and add a lovely crisp texture against the softness of the cake. They can also be made in advance and stored in an airtight container. The icing adds moisture to the crisps, which can make them soften, so I would add them to the cake moments before serving.