Shirley’s ap­ple cake recipe

Sunday Herald Life - - CONTENTS - By Shirley Spear

VERY sadly, most of us have all lost a fam­ily mem­ber or a close friend to can­cer. This heart-break­ing dis­ease has no bound­aries and can af­fect any­one at any time in many dif­fer­ent ways. The good thing is we now talk about it openly and share the chal­lenges it brings for our loved ones, sup­port­ing them how­ever we can, while as­sist­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tions which do so much ad­mirable work for pa­tients and their de­pen­dents.

The World’s Big­gest Cof­fee Morn­ing takes place in peo­ple’s homes, work­places and other com­mu­nity venues through­out Scot­land on the Septem­ber 29. So­cial me­dia has shared many posts about how mem­bers of the pub­lic can host lo­cal events to raise funds for Macmil­lan Can­cer Sup­port. Many peo­ple will gain from these oc­ca­sions, new friend­ships will be made and many laughs shared on the day. If you have not al­ready done so, sign up for your cof­fee morn­ing kit and have fun get­ting or­gan­ised for this im­mensely worth­while cause. You can learn more about this and the ex­cep­tional work of Macmil­lan at www.macmil­lan.org.uk

Home bak­ing is al­ways best at this kind of get-to­gether, but if you are not con­fi­dent and don’t have much time, this is an easy recipe, given to me by a very close girl­friend whom I lost to can­cer when she was still quite young. It seemed des­per­ately un­fair to lose her and I of­ten think about what we would be like to­gether to­day, sup­port­ing each other with grand­chil­dren now, in­stead of our brand new babies. She left two won­der­ful sons and a very lov­ing hus­band, whom I have lost con­tact with over the in­ter­ven­ing years. How­ever, I think they would be pleased to know I still have Jac­qui’s ap­ple cake recipe in an an­cient and dog-eared recipe folder, writ­ten in foun­tain pen in her im­mac­u­late hand-writ­ing.

We once of­fered this cake for af­ter­noon tea at The Three Chim­neys, served with Chan­tilly cream flavoured with cin­na­mon sugar. That much-han­dled sheet of pa­per is also cov­ered in notes writ­ten in red ink in the tiny hand­writ­ing of an­other friend, Anne, who worked along­side me at the restau­rant for a few years, bak­ing beau­ti­ful cakes and great bread. She was a math­e­ma­ti­cian and her hand­writ­ing has all the hall­marks of pre­ci­sion work­ings on quan­ti­ties and costs in­volved in pro­duc­ing Jac­qui’s orig­i­nal do­mes­tic recipe to suit our com­mer­cial needs.

When Ed­die and I left Croy­don to move to Skye, Jac­qui and her hus­band, an editor on BBC Ra­dio’s World Tonight pro­gramme, moved to Glouces­ter­shire. We took over a restau­rant and they opened a cof­fee shop on the ground floor of their new home in the mid­dle of the vil­lage street. It was a quirky old house built over three storeys with a long nar­row gar­den which ran steeply down to the banks of the River Sev­ern. We had met through hav­ing our babies at around the same time, both far away from home and with­out our own mums to lean upon. We shared lots of babysit­ting, tears and frus­tra­tions, moans and groans about the con­stant round of wash­ing and soak­ing nap­pies. We also had a keen in­ter­est in cook­ing, shared all kinds of recipes, suc­cesses and fail­ures, good laughs and many mugs of cof­fee.

Jac­qui had been a stew­ardess on Laker Air­ways, one of the UK’s first in­de­pen­dent, no-frills air­lines which at­tempted to break the mould. She trav­elled across Europe and the At­lantic, glam­orous in her scar­let uni­form and bowler hat. We were both at a loss when landed with our “new” jobs as house­bound, young mums and neigh­bours in Croy­don. In those days there was vir­tu­ally no child­care or nurs­ery school pro­vi­sion and ev­ery­one sup­ported each other, or vol­un­teered to run play­groups and other ac­tiv­i­ties for tod­dlers. This was also the era when us­ing nat­u­ral, whole­meal in­gre­di­ents was very fash­ion­able for home cooks.

Crisp, sharp-tast­ing cook­ing ap­ples such as Bram­leys are a must for Jac­qui’s recipe, but bet­ter still, if you have ap­ples grow­ing in your own gar­den these would be per­fect for this fam­ily cake which goes as well in­side a lunch­box as it does served with a cof­fee or tea, or with cream for a dessert. Warm or cold, it tastes de­li­cious.

I have added some ground hazel­nuts and ex­changed raisins for chopped dates to my spe­cial pal’s orig­i­nal recipe. I also added a crunchy top­ping, but a dust­ing of ic­ing sugar would be per­fect too. The last line on the pa­per, added in Jac­qui’s hand­writ­ing reads: “Un­beat­able eaten fresh – but keeps very well.” Cof­fee morn­ing or not, I would urge you to give it a go. AP­PLE CAKE (Serves 12) 225g self-rais­ing whole­meal flour 50g ground hazel­nuts 175g de­mer­ara sugar 50g med­jool dates, stoned and chopped small 1½ tsp ground cin­na­mon 110g salted but­ter 150ml milk 2 medium eggs 225g cook­ing ap­ples, weighed when peeled and cored Finely grated zest of 1 or­ange, plus juice of ½ Method 1. Pre-heat oven to gas mark 4, 180°C. Line a 25cm square (or round) bak­ing tin with parch­ment pa­per 2. Place flour, ground hazel­nuts, sugar, cin­na­mon and dates in a mix­ing bowl. Grate the pre­pared ap­ple on the coarse side of the grater into the same bowl and pour over the or­ange juice. Add the grated or­ange zest and mix to­gether. Clean fin­gers are best for this job. 3. Melt the but­ter in a small saucepan. 4. Mix the milk and eggs with a whisk in a sep­a­rate bowl or jug. 5. Pour the warm but­ter over the other in­gre­di­ents, fol­lowed by the milk and eggs. Mix thor­oughly with a wooden spoon. Pour into pre­pared tin, spread roughly into the cor­ners. Bake on the mid­dle shelf for 65-75 min­utes un­til golden and firm to touch. Cool on a wire tray be­fore re­mov­ing from the tin and dredg­ing with sieved ic­ing sugar, then serve. AL­TER­NA­TIVE TOP­PING 25g hazel­nuts, sliced thinly 1 rounded tbsp de­mer­ara sugar ¼ tsp ground cin­na­mon Method 1. Mix to­gether the hazel­nuts, de­mer­ara sugar and ground cin­na­mon. Sprin­kle on the top of the cake for the fi­nal 10 min­utes of cook­ing time. CHAN­TILLY CREAM FOR SERV­ING 125ml fresh dou­ble cream or whip­ping cream 1 rounded tsp ic­ing sugar, sifted to­gether with ¼ tsp ground cin­na­mon Method 1. Add ic­ing sugar and cin­na­mon to the cream and whisk un­til soft peaks. 2. Serve a spoon­ful with the ap­ple cake as a dessert, or add a lit­tle lux­ury to a slice of cake with cof­fee. Shirley Spear is owner of The Three Chim­neys and The House Over-By on the Isle of Skye www.three­chim­neys.co.uk

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