apple caramel Granny cake recipe
11:00 a.m. 28 August 2022
Apples, apples…everywhere. At least they are like I type. The bargains are strewn all over my parents’ garden because of a bumper harvest. Half will be fodder for the sheep in a nearby field and the rest will be carefully inspected for wasps and other creepy critters before ending up in the chutneys, cakes, juices, pies – and the fruit bowl, of course. .
I was a regular bargain picker in my youth. My father would arm me with a black bucket and send me out into the late summer sun to rummage through the grass in search of ‘good’ ones. To this day, I feel like I’m taking my life in hand with darts as I carry out this task!
British apples are something to celebrate. There are so many strains in the UK, many of which have incredible origin stories to tell. If you have room in the garden (there are dwarf rootstocks available), I urge you to seek out a local orchard project or group, planting a native tree on your plot. There really is nothing quite like taking a walk outside and picking your own.
If that’s not possible, look for British apples at greengrocers and farm shops. One of my favorites is the juicy Worcester Pearmain, which has a slight hint of strawberry.
Granny apple cake
(For a 20 cm cake)
As a teenager, I worked in what was considered an upscale weekend pub chain to fund my obsession with Rimmel lipsticks and Impulse body spray. I don’t think the customers realized that much of the food came from a faraway, nameless factory somewhere. Or that the dessert was reheated and prepared by the same lady in charge of the dishwashing station.
A favorite was the “granny apple caramel” – a thick pie crust filled with custard, thick apple puree, caramel and a crumbly top. I thought it looked awful, but we used to sell out regularly.
This recipe is a tribute to that pud… albeit in a more refined version, with a base of buttered cinnamon and brown butter shortbread, a vanilla sponge, homemade apple butter and caramel. You can make your own caramel topping, but I used Tiptree’s Salted Caramel Spread. If you can get your hands on a tub of Halen Mon Salted Caramel, that’s also downright gorgeous.
For the shortbread
150g unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
150g plain flour
Big pinch of sea salt
For the sponge
175g butter or spread
175g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
175g self-rising flour
3 large eggs
For the apple butter
600 g cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Big pinch of ground nutmeg
For the icing
125g icing sugar mixed with 1 tbsp apple butter and 1/2 tsp cinnamon
Salted Caramel Spread
First prepare the apple butter. Pop the apples into a saucepan and add half a cup of water. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the lid and add the sugar, vanilla and spices. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the apples are broken down and you have a thick, rich, creamy spread. Let cool. You will only need about half for the cake. The rest will keep in the fridge for a week and will be delicious on ice cream, for breakfast with Greek yogurt or even served with roast pork.
Set the oven to 170°C and line two 20 cm sponge cake moulds. Make the shortbread. Start by melting the butter. Simmer for about five minutes in a pan until it takes on a little color. Skim any scum off the surface. Pour into a bowl and stir in the sugar. Add the cinnamon, salt, flour and cornstarch and mix.
Press into one of the lined molds and bake for 30 minutes.
While cooking, combine all sponge ingredients in a bowl and whisk until thick and smooth. Also divide in two. Once the shortbread cookies are baked, pour half of the cookie mixture over them and pour the rest into the other pan.
Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool completely.
Once cooled, spread a layer of salted butter caramel on the bottom of the pie (the piece of shortbread) then coat with apple butter in a thick layer. Cover with the second half of the cake.
Mix the ingredients for the filling, spread on top and enjoy. It’s superb slightly warmed with a jug of custard on the side.