I love Tarte Tatin. I think it is just about the best apple dessert in the known universe. I don’t know about you, but there is something about apples and caramel that makes me go a bit weak at the knees.
I also happen to be quite partial to cake, as you may have noticed from some of my previous posts. So it is only natural that I would try and come up with what would be the love child of saucy Ms Tatin and naughty Mr Cake.
This recipe is the result of a lot of trial and error. The trick was to figure out how to incorporate the caramel element into an apple cake.
I knew I couldn’t use a similar technique to Tarte Tatin: lining the cake tin with caramel wouldn’t work, as a cake needs baking for longer than a tart, and the result would just be a burnt, blackened mess.
I toyed with the idea of filling the cooled cake with some toffee cream, but this would just be a layer cake, and although probably delicious, this wasn’t what I was going for.
An attempt at caramelising the top of the cake at the end of the baking time wasn’t very successful: it looked good, but the taste wasn’t what I had in mind.
I realised that I needed the caramel to be baked in somehow, so the apples would take on the toffee flavour, like in Tarte Tatin. But I was a bit stuck as to how exactly I could achieve this.
And then I came across a recipe by Edd Kimber, for salted caramel brownies, where a salted caramel filling is baked between two layers of brownie dough.
I knew it wouldn’t work in quite the same way with apple cake, as the density of the batter is different to the one of brownie batter, and the caramel filling would end up mixing with the bottom layer during baking. And, guess what? This was exactly what I needed!
The next trial was a resounding success, and the addition of the butter and almond glaze ensured the top of the cake stayed moist and golden. So, with thanks to Mr Kimber, here is the recipe!
You will need:
For the salted caramel:
175g caster sugar (unrefined if possible)
A large pinch of sea salt flakes
150 ml double cream
10 g unsalted butter, softened.
For the cake:
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 eggs of about 60 g each
360 g self-raising flour (or the same weight as the eggs; the same goes for the rest of the ingredients)
360 g caster sugar
360 g butter, softened
For the glaze:
100 g butter
3 tbsp sugar
50 g ground almonds
Make the caramel: in a large, non-stick frying pan, heat up the sugar over a medium heat until it melts.
Try and avoid stirring at this stage as it would crystallise. Keep a close eye on it, and as soon as it takes on a dark copper colour, take it off the heat and add the salt and half the cream. Be very careful as it will bubble up fiercely, and caramel burns are very painful!
When the mixture has settled a bit, add the rest of the cream and the butter. (If your caramel is lumpy, put it back on a low heat and stir until smooth). Cool in a glass jug or bowl.
Peel the apples, then dice two of them and slice the other two.
Preheat the oven to 190 C/ fan180 C/ gas 5-6. Butter a rectangular cake tin of 31 x 18 cm, line with baking paper, then lightly butter the baking paper (a tin with a removable bottom, or even better, with removable sides is ideal here; I use a Silverwood multi-size square tin which works brilliantly Alan Silverwood).
Make the cake batter: in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, then the eggs one by one, mixing thoroughly between each addition. Add half of the flour, mix thoroughly, then add the other half.
Assemble the cake: Pour half the batter into the tin, then scatter the apple cubes on top, and press lightly with your fingers to make them “sink” a bit.
Pour the caramel over the cake batter, being careful to avoid the sides. Try and spread it as evenly as you can, but it doesn’t need to be too neat.
Now pour the rest of the batter over this, make sure you cover the caramel completely. Decorate the top with the apple slices, and push them in a bit.
Put the cake tin into your preheated oven, and prepare the glaze. Gently melt the butter, then mix in the sugar and ground almonds. When the cake has been baking for 20 min, quickly pull it out of the oven, spread the glaze all over, and put in back into the oven. Do this as quickly as you can to avoid losing too much heat.
Leave the cake in for another 30 to 40 min (so 50 min to 1h in total), or until golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out dry. If you think your cake is browning too quickly, cover the top with foil and continue baking.
Cool in the tin for at least 20 min, then carefully remove it from the tin, remove the paper, and cool on a rack. Be very careful as this cake is very moist, and therefore quite fragile!