The smell of apples baking in a hot oven evokes feelings of nostalgia and transports us back to a time when life seemed more simplistic and enviably slower. For many of us, this would invariably mean a trip back to our grandma’s kitchen.
Whether in a quaint, compact kitchen fitted with antiquated yet functional gadgetry, or in a rustic and expansive farmhouse kitchen, a sturdy old Aga positioned stoically in the corner, exuding its slow and steady heat.
Casting my mind back, I vaguely recall the familiar waft of stewing apples, laced with cinnamon and cloves emanating from my gran’s kitchen. Stewed apples with custard were a regular dessert fixture. In fact, any fruit that had the potential to be stewed and could successfully be doused with pools of custard, was soon converted into the dessert of the day.
Occasionally the apples made it into a pie, for which we were eternally grateful. This brings me to my interpretation of what ‘happens’ to apples in my kitchen. Apart from being one of the healthiest and most convenient snack foods available, they usually end up in some form of baked good. From apple muffins, to Bircher muesli or a Sunday pork roast, there’s never a shortage of things to cook with apples. However, today I thought I’d introduce you to my indulgent and very comforting apple and blueberry cake with burnt butterscotch sauce!
Apple cake is a popular dessert originating from the towns of Dorset and Somerset in England. It was traditionally, a rather plain cake to which sliced apples were added for additional flavour and fragrance. Over time spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg were included to bolster the taste.
Moving further west, we happily encounter the Polish apple cake. Now here is a cake! I think the Polish are onto something. This traditional apple cake consists of a sweet pastry base, filled with spicy apples and topped with meringue. Occasionally, an additional layer of Polish custard is included in the already ample offering. The cake is then served warm with whipped cream, alongside the obligatory coffee.
So although I should patriotically lean towards my British roots, I’m unapologetically jumping ship and going with the Polish. Not to make little of simplicity or frugality, both of which are noble and admirable. Admittedly, it requires skilled creativity to transform so few ingredients into a stalwart that has literally spanned continents and centuries. In this instance, the Polish rendition supports my justification for making this apple and blueberry cake with burnt butterscotch sauce.
Interestingly, Polish Jews who adhered to customary laws of not including meat and dairy in the same meal, made this cake using oil rather than butter. This rendered it an acceptable dessert, following a main course that included meat. Using oil will also keep the cake moist for longer than a butter version, but the texture will be slightly more dense.
My apple and blueberry cake with burnt butterscotch sauce is not rooted in any particular food culture, but is simply a delicious pairing of two fruits that work so well together. With crates of apple varieties on offer, this is the perfect time of year to make use of this versatile seasonal fruit.
For this recipe I’ve used frozen blueberries. These super-fruits are just out of season but fortunately adapt really well to freezing. Blueberries tinge the cake with a luminous violet hue and provide bursts of tart flavour. Soaked with a burnt butterscotch sauce, this cake is instantaneously elevated into an irresistible pudding. It’s just my opinion, but I think Winter ‘pudding cake’ should be a thing.
Sign me up!