I get my love of baking – and cooking – from my Mum. It’s probably the haze of childhood memories but I don’t remember her needing to look up recipes. She just knew how to make perfect Yorkshire puddings, or a lovely coffee and walnut cake. (Parents knew stuff when I was little. Again, it might be the haze of time and the halo effect but I think grown-ups now have lost that confident aura of competence. Most of us seem to stumble from moment to moment catching glimpses of realisation along the way without any real sense of how the world works. Perhaps it’s a different calibre of grown-up – perhaps my generation are all a bit lost and rubbish.)
Everyone thinks their Mum is the best in the world, but sorry folks, I’ve got this one and mine just is the best 🙂 As well as my love for baking, I like to think I’ve inherited her sense of kindness and fairness and the little bits of sociability that I possess are definitely all hers, although I’ll never in a million years manage to be as popular or as well loved as she is: she can’t pop to the shop in our village without bumping into someone she knows through the places she’s worked or the interests and hobbies she enjoys. She’s wickedly funny, bright and clever and compassionate and kind, fierce and loving and precious to me in ways that are beyond my ability to describe. She’s my Mum.
Today’s recipe is for her birthday cake: it’s not for a couple of weeks, but various timing issues meant this was the nearest weekend when we could meet up. We were going to have another wander around the sculptures in the Botanic Gardens and then whisk Mum off shopping for her birthday present. (It’s a big birthday.) However, that was not to be – she’s been in hospital since Wednesday so plans were changed. I’m worried – but trying to keep a lid on my worries and what do I do best when I’m upset and stressed? I bake. So I made this. It’s my second attempt at tweaking and inventing – it’s based on the cinnamon cake with blackberries from earlier in the summer – but the added flavours worked perfectly in my head, one of those lovely moments when you’re juggling ideas and they just slot together perfectly. I wanted something celebratory and autumnal and it seems to have worked: I left the cake tin when we went to visit yesterday and she had a slice after her tea. She said it was lovely, and has since also reported back that the rest went down extremely well with the staff on the ward!
Happy (early!) Birthday Mum. Love you to bits. Feel better soon!
Cinnamon, hazelnut & apple cake
6″ cake, Adapted from an 8″ recipe here.
- 50g hazelnuts – toasted in a hot oven for 5 minutes until golden brown, roughly chopped
- 1 Bramley apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- 2 eggs
- 110g caster sugar
- 30g golden syrup
- 100g wholewheat flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 100ml cold milk
For the filling
- 50 ml double cream
- 1 tin Carnation evaporated milk with caramel* – you’ll only need 2 tablespoonfuls though.
- Sea salt flakes, just a pinch
- Icing sugar to finish
- Butter and line a 6″ round cake tin, and heat the oven to 180C/350F/ gas mark 4 (same for fan-assisted).
- Prepare the hazelnuts and apples and set aside.
- Using the whisk attachment on an electric mixer, beat the eggs with the sugar and syrup until pale and thick, and the mixture falls like thick ribbons when the beaters are lifted from the bowl.
- Sift the wholemeal flour, baking powder and cinnamon once, tipping back any bran that the sieve collects. Add the milk to the beaten eggs and whisk, then add the flour and whisk again until just smooth.
- Stir in the chopped hazlenuts and finely sliced apple. It will look like this is going to sink and be atrocious – it won’t.
- Pour this into the prepared cake tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 45 minutes (if you need to stop it burning, cover the top of the cake with foil for the last 10 minutes). When a skewer inserted comes out clean, remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
- Lightly whip the cream and stir the salt into 2 tablespoonfuls of the caramel. (Stir gently. Don’t liquify the caramel like I did, or it’ll all run out! Keep it spreadable if you can.)
- Slice the cake across horizontally and spread the cream on one side, the caramel on the other. Again, I didn’t do this – hence the runny caramel in the photos!
- Lightly dust the reassembled cake with icing sugar – I also then dusted a little extra cinnamon in a line over the top to make it look prettier!
* I probably could have made my own caramel but I don’t think I’m at that level of expertise yet! Plus this was made at 6am on Friday in my usual #BakingBeforeBreakfast slot and the idea of boiling sugar up before work didn’t appeal. The caramel-in-a-tin is AMAZING though. I have cunning ideas for using up the leftovers…