Two sets of friends coming for dinner announced they were celebrating birthdays that weekend – I offered to do a birthday cake for pudding and the brief came back – anything but chocolate.
This clearly completely threw me because I am all about the chocolate, and barely know where to begin when it’s removed as an option. I wanted to create something which was a cake, but could double as a pudding – and at this time of year it needed to be warm and comforting, whilst still with an element of celebration to it.
And this was the result – a sticky toffee apple cake with salted caramel sauce – which can either be served warm with ice cream, cream or custard or cooled with the sauce drizzled over for more of a tea-time affair.
The sauce can be made a couple of days in advance and stored in the fridge then reheated. The cake will also freeze well or keep for a few days in an airtight container.
For the cake
100g pitted dates
175g soft butter
120g light muscovado sugar
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking powder
100g pecan halves
50g ground almonds
For the sauce
175g soft brown sugar
300ml double cream
1/4 tsp sea salt flakes
Preheat the oven to 160. Grease and base line a 23cm round springform cake tin.
Boil a kettle. Roughly chop the dates, put them into a small bowl, then cover in the boiling water and leave to soak.
Cream together the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Mix the flour, spices and baking powder in a separate bowl. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar one by one, mixing well and adding a little of the flour mix in between each egg.
Add the rest of the flour mix to the bowl, and mix well.
Finely chop 50g of the pecans in a small food processor, and add to the bowl along with the ground almonds, folding them in with a wooden spoon. Peel, core and chop one of the apples, and fold it into the mix. Drain the dates in a colander, using a fork to squeeze out most of the liquid. Fold them through the mix as well, then pour the batter into the cake tin, smoothing over the top with a spoon.
Peel, core and finely slice the second apple, and arrange the slices in a circular pattern around the cake. Top with the remaining pecans, and a sprinkle more of brown sugar
Bake in the oven for 45 mins to 1 hour, checking and covering with foil after 30 minutes if the top is browning too quickly.
The cake is done when a skewer comes out clean.
For the salted caramel sauce put all the ingredients into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar and butter have melted. Turn up the heat and bubble for a couple of minutes until it’s turned a lovely golden colour, then serve drizzled over the cake with a dollop of ice cream or a couple of spoons of custard.