To me, baking is intrinsically seasonal. It may not seem so when you first start thinking about it, but it does make sense! Some flavours, colours and textures are right for different times of year- pastels and citrus in spring, floral and fruity in summer… And in Autumn – the dark rich oranges and reds, which suggest to me deep, warm flavours. As the chill sets in, few things can rival the pleasures of home baking. There are so many wonderful flavours to enjoy in autumn, and it’s an opportunity to bake using the fruits of the season. Blackberries, pears, elderberries, quince and pumpkins are all in season at this time of year, so we are spoilt for choice!
It is the classic English apple, though, that we really do have in abundance at this time of year. There are so many wonderful varieties with their Old English names- Cox Pippin, Newton Wonder, Worcester Pearmain… Driving through the villages at this time of year, every other house seems to have a large box of apples at its gate, with handwritten signs reading ‘Please Help Yourself’. There are so many things you can make and bake with apples, so I want to share with you one of my favourite Autumnal recipes.
There’s something wonderfully nostalgic about toffee apples- the sweet caramel crunch, the juicy apples within. These Toffee Apple Pop Cakes are the perfect solution for bonfire parties and echo the flavours of real toffee apples. You can use any cake recipe, although here an apple cake is dipped into a soft caramel. Make a day or two ahead and keep in the fridge until ready to serve. The pops are handheld, bitesize and incredibly tasty- and they’re not too hard to make.
Makes 30 pop cakes.
FOR THE CAKE:
100g unsalted butter, melted and cooled, plus more for the tin
300g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
200g light muscovado sugar
3 dessert apples
squeeze of lemon juice
3 eggs, lightly beaten
100ml whole milk
FOR THE BUTTERCREAM:
175g unsalted butter, softened
225g icing sugar, sifted
FOR THE TOFFEE COVERING:
160g white caster sugar
200ml double cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
30 lollypop sticks
hundreds and thousands
Preheat the oven to 170°C/ fan 160°C/ 340°F/ gas mark 3 ½. Butter a 23cm square cake tin and line the base with baking parchment. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon and stir in the sugar. Peel, core and finely grate the apples. A lot of excess juice may come from the apples, it is very important to squeeze this out using a tea towel, or you will have a soggy cake! To stop the apple from browning, squeeze over a little lemon juice and combine.
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and mix in the grated apples, eggs, melted butter and milk. Stir until just combined, but do not over-mix. Tip into the tin and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a skewer emerges clean. Stand the tin on a wire rack for a few minutes, then turn out, remove the papers and cool completely.
To make the buttercream, in an electric mixer or in a bowl using a hand-held whisk, beat the butter until really pale and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and beat for at least 5 minutes more.
To make the pops, crumble the cake into a large bowl, removing any crusty bits. Mix in enough buttercream to hold the crumbs together. You may not need all the buttercream, but this is the quantity I used. Roll the mixture into about 30 balls. Place the balls on a tray lined with baking parchment and chill for several hours, or overnight.
Meanwhile, make the toffee covering. Place the sugar and 60ml water in a small, scrupulously clean, heavy-based pan over a gentle heat. Ensure all the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and bring to a boil. Watch all the time until it turns a beautiful golden caramel colour and thickens. Remove from the heat, stand back and add the cream and vanilla. It will splutter and seize, but keep stirring until you have a smooth shiny caramel. Allow to cool for a minute or two. Place each lollypop stick into the caramel, then insert into each cake and dip into the caramel, covering completely. Place on a tray and return to the fridge to set. Re-shape the pop if it’s cracked slightly. The toffee apple pops will keep in the fridge for a day or so. When ready to serve, roll each in a tray of hundreds and thousands to cover.
- The above recipe is taken from The Birthday Book by Fiona Cairns, published by Quadrille (£18.99, hardback) Photos © LAURA EDWARDS
- Fiona Cairns’ new show, The Home of Fabulous Cakes, airs each Sunday at 3.55pm on ITV1. The programme features recipes from her two popular books, Bake and Decorate (Quadrille 2010) and The Birthday Cake Book (Quadrille 2011)