It is full on harvest time in our suburban wilderness. The apple and pear trees are full of fruit ready for picking, the peaches are offering up the last of their season’s efforts and the late plums are almost losing their bloom while the citrus and feijoas are have little fruitlets on them.
Most of the apple trees are at the back of our section in the chicken run. It is a bit of a hike your pinny up above your knees and high step through the pumpkins growing rampant through the orchard in order to reach the row of spindly apple trees. This is the second fruiting year so it is exciting to pick up to seven or eight apples off each of the trees.
I wasn’t thinking of picking apples but while I was out snaffling the last of the Peacherines (I wasn’t so keen on planting these hybrid fruits thinking them a bit gimmicky but The Anster won that battle and I am so pleased he did as they are delicious – better than peaches and better than nectarines but that’s a little off-track) the apples were waving out to me, calling “pick me, pick me”.
So I cleaned one of the trees out of fruit and brought them inside. While I was looking for a way to make chilli oil, I noticed a recipe for a traditional Polish cake which was dairy-free. It was the perfect recipe to showcase our home-grown apples.
Google suggests that Polish Apple Cakes come in all sizes and guises, and that this particular style I was making is sometimes called a Jewish Apple Cake. Preparing the apples I was overwhelmed by the intense perfume, as if I was coring and slicing roses. It got me thinking as to what sort of apples I had actually picked.
So once the cake was in the oven, I braved the pumpkin infested orchard once again to count the apple trees and make a note of those which I knew (it helped that the Golden Delicious still had the label attached to the tree, and a Granny Smith is unmistakable). Then it was research into the fruit tree catalogue to see which of the remaining four apples we had ordered it was that I had picked.
The other trees we have are a Calville Blanc D’Hiver, Mother, Hetlina and Cox’s Orange Pippin – I narrowed the apple down to a Mother apple pretty much based on the perfume. The description from the Edible Gardens 2012 Catalogue is:
a widely acclaimed late red apple. Highly recommended for every fruit connoisseur’s garden. It shows excellent flavour which is sweet and has a distinct perfume. An upright grower which tolerates cool summers and cold winters
They could be Hetlinas but they’re definitely not Calville Blanc D’Hiver – I knew I’d regret not writing down which apple we’d planted where! I picked a few apples of the neighbouring tree – the apples themselves look similar, but one smells like apple while the other comes up roses.
I can report quite safely, whether Mother or Hetlina, these are both dessert apples and whichever it is that I used, the cake turned out just fine. Leaving the peel on the apples does cause for a bit of a problem when cutting the cake – a serrated knife worked the best.
In any case – this recipe shall hereafter be the Delicious Apple Cake, because although the recipe states serves 12, if you have a hungry 15-year old male in your house, it will only serve 5.
Dairy-Free Apple Cake (aka Delicious Apple cake)
4 large apples
2 ½ cups sugar
2 t ground cinnamon
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sunflower oil
½ cup orange juice
2 t vanilla extract
3 ¼ cups flour
3 t baking powder
½ t salt
Preheat oven 180ºC
Grease a large rectangular brownie or lasagne tin – approx. 33 cm x 23cm and 6cm deep and line with baking paper.
Wash and dry the apples. Core but don’t peel then slice into very thin slices. Combine 4 T of the white sugar and the cinnamon in a bowl then sprinkle over the sliced apples. Set aside.
Beat eggs in a large bowl, then add the remaining sugar, sunflower oil, orange juice and vanilla extract.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt over the egg mixture and gently combine the two mixtures together.
Pour 2/3 of the cake mixture into the prepared cake tin. Layer over half the apple slices. Spread remaining cake batter over the apples, and then top with the remaining apples.
Bake for about 1 hour until cake is browned and cooked through.
Serve warm or cold with vanilla ice-cream and crème anglaise.