The Netherlands: Caramel Apple Waffle Cake

Netherlands flag outline

When I was younger, my father usd to go to the Fotokina trade shows in Amsterdam every year, and when he returned he would invariably have brought us back stroopwafels, the iconic caramel waffle biscuits flavoured with cinnamon. Whilst relatively commonplace in England today, back then they were a novelty, and we used to excitedly anticipate his return with these lovely little biscuits. This following cake takes inspiration from these treats, and combines them with sticky caramel apples (to allow you to feel slightly more virtuous!)

The cake is made in a waffle maker, which makes this cake very quick to make in comparisons to many others. These are layered with caramel apples and a salted caramel cream.

Caramel Apple Waffle Cake

Ingredients:

Cake Waffles

  • 4oz plain flour
  • 4oz caster sugar
  • 4oz butter
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs

Caramel Apples:

  • 2oz butter
  • 4 tbsp caster sugar
  • 4 dessert apples

Salted Caramel Creme Filling (taken from here):

  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 cups of icing sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup of caramel

To make the cake waffles, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla essence and eggs and mix thoroughly before sifting in the flour and baking powder. Beat the mixture until a smooth batter is formed –  add a tablespoon of water if the btter is too thick. Preheat your waffle maker and make the waffles following the instructions specific to your model. As a general guide the waffles will likely take about 2-3 minutes. Set aside to cool whilst you make the other components of the cake.

To make the caramel creme filling first beat the butter until light and fluffy. Add the sugar and salt and cream together before adding the caramel. Combine the mixture and keep cool until needed.

Make the caramel apples by peeling and coring the apples before cutting them into segments. Melt the butter in a pan before adding the apples and caster sugar. Cook or about 10 minutes, tuning occasionally until the apples are caramelised.

Assemble the cakes by spreading a waffle with the caramel cream and adding a layer of caramel apples. Spread a second waffle with the caramel cream and decorate with apple slices before placing on the top to complete the cake.

France: Apple Tarte Tatin Cake

Flag of France

France is known throughout the world for its patisserie, with some of the most famous desserts originating from this culture. Macarons, gateaux, eclairs – the list goes on. As a consequence I was really spoilt for choice when designing this cake. I settled on tarte tatin eventually though an artistic point rather than an edible one – I loved the idea of trying to create the decoration out of he top of the cake itself, rather than covering it with other things, as is so often the case.

This cake is a variation on an upside-down cake, a design of cake which is seen as ‘retro’ these days. The bottom of the cake tin is covered with caramel, and the apples are arranged in a flower pattern on the top of this. the cake mix is then placed on top of this and the whole cake is then baked in the oven. A second cake contains a layer of pastry cooked on top of the cake, much like a Bakewell tart. The two cakes are then sandwiched together with caramel creme patisserie, and the finished cake is decorated with sugar decorations.

This cake involves a significant amount of work with hot sugar and caramel so care must be taken. You must not use a springform tin to make the cake as the hot caramel may leak through the joins, causing danger of burns. For your safety, ensure that you use a solid, well greased tin and that you use oven gloves and great care!

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 225g (8oz) salted butter
  • 225g (8oz) golden caster sugar
  • 225g (8oz) self-raising flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 eggs
  • 60ml (4 tbsp) whole milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Toffee apple topping:

  • Butter (for greasing)
  • 200g (7oz) caster sugar
  • 3 large Grany Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced into 1cm slices
  • Zest of one large orange

Pastry Disc:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g icing sugar
  • 125g butter, cut into small cubes
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 splash of milk

Caramel Crème Patisserie:

  • 6oz sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 ¼ ounce cornstarch
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ ounce unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Salted Caramel Shards

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 2 pinches sea salt

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 180˚C/350˚F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line a 9 inch baking tin and set aside.

Heat the sugar and 3 tbsp water in a pan over a high heat until the sugar has dissolved and turned a rich golden brown colour. Do not stir this at any point, as the sugar will crystallise. Remove from the heat and pour into the lined baking tin, ensuring that the base is completely covered. Arrange the apple wedges on the top and cover with a third of the orange zest.

Make the cake by beating the butter, sugar and the rest of the orange zest until fluffy and pale yellow in colour. Mix in the eggs on at a time, before sifting in the flour and bicarbonate of soda. Add the milk and vanilla extract and stir well to combine.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Place a cooling rack over the top of the tin and invert, being careful to avoid any caramel that may fall out. Remove from the tin and set aside to cool completely

To make the pastry disc, sieve the flour and icing sugar into a bowl. Using your fingers, work the cubes of butter into the mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Mix in the orange zest. Add the eggs and milk, and mix to form a soft dough. Lightly flour this dough.

Pat the mixture into a thick disc and flour it. Wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface to approximately 5mm thick. Cut the dough to the same size as the cake, and place in the cake tin to ensure an accurate base. Prick all over with a fork and add baking beans to the case to ensure that the pastry does not rise up. Bake in the oven at 180˚C/Gas Mark 4 for about 15-20 minutes, checking constantly to ensure it doesn’t burn.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the pastry circle from the tin and leave to cool on a baking rack.

Combine 5 ounces of the sugar and the water in a small, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil, brush down the sides of the pan with water, and boil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until caramelized. The sugar will be fragrant and a deep amber color when it is caramelized. Remove the pan from the heat and dip the bottom into an ice water bath for a second or two. Slowly stir in the milk. Return the pan to low heat and stir until smooth. Increase the heat to medium and heat to a simmer.

Meanwhile, whisk together the cornstarch and remaining 1 ounce of sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk in the egg and yolks. Continue whisking while adding the hot caramel mixture in a thin stream. Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan and cook, whisking constantly, over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, or until it thickens and just comes to a boil. Immediately strain through a fine mesh sieve into a clean bowl and stir in the butter and vanilla. Press plastic wrap directly onto the surface and refrigerate.

To make the caramel shards, put the water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat up. don’t stir, but swirl the pan occasionally. Allow the sugar to gently caramelise before quickly pouring onto a lined and greased baking sheet. quickly tip the sheet to ensure complete coverage, and sprinkle with sea salt. allow to cool completely before breaking into shards.

Assemble the cake by placing the pastry circle on the serving plate and covering with a layer of caramel crème patisserie. carefully place the cake on top, and decorate with caramel shards.

Apple and Vanilla Mini Muffins

As I type this, the sky outside is grey as steel, with no trace of this ‘supposed’ summer. I suppose this is what you get for living in the North of England, but still I can’t help but yearn for the sun that *should* be coming!

Mini Muffins 2

Last week though, the sun came out. The sky was blue and I didn’t have to have a cardigan and coat when walking to school. In this midst of this weather I wanted to make a cake that fitted the summer atmosphere, and these mini muffins fitted the bill. The size makes them easy to  eat in the hot weather, and the flavours are redolent of the heat of a British summer. A vanilla cake with chunks of apple, topped with a vanilla whipped cream topping, these muffins will fill that small gap when our summer finally arrives.

Mini Muffins 1

Apple and Vanilla Mini Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 2oz butter
  • 2oz caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2oz plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5oz ground almonds
  • 1 small apple, cut into tiny dice.
  • 75g whipped cream
  • 1/2 vanilla pod
  • Flaked almonds, to decorate.

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 5 and line a 12-hole mini muffin tray with liners.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat thoroughly. Add the flour, baking powder, ground almonds and diced apple and mix until well combined. Add teaspoonfuls of the mixture to the cases and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, turning after 20 minutes to ensure they don’t burn on one side! Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.

Once the cupcakes have cooled completely, scrape the seeds out of the vanilla pod and add to the whipped cream. Whip until holding soft peaks before spooning into a piping bag fitted with a round nozzle. Pipe a small amount onto each mini muffin and decorate with flaked almonds.

 

Armenia: Nutmeg Cake

Even on publishing this, I’m still unsure about the correct category to place this recipe in, namely Europe or Asia. Straddling the two continents, there seems to be disagreements about where best to place this country. I am going with Europe as (a) Max says so, and (b) apparently it is said to have the most in common with Europe.

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This cake is apparently very popular in America, where many Armenian people have emigrated to, (and formed bands – during my research I discovered that System of a Down are originally from Armenia) and is sold in many places on the West Coast.  However, whilst I have found many, many recipes for Armenian Nutmeg Cake (seriously, type it into google!), I cannot find many traces of it in traditional Armenian cuisine. The question stands then – is this truly Armenian? Answers on a postcard please. What I can tell you though, is that this is delicious.

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Nutmeg Cake

Ingredients:

  • 15oz/450g plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/ tsp salt
  • 6oz/165g butter
  • 12oz/350g light brown sugar
  • 360ml sour cream
  • 240ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 5oz chopped walnuts

Apple Filling:

  •  3 eating apples
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 tbsp water

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/Gas mark 4, and grease a loaf tin.

Using a food processor, briefly mix the flour, nutmeg, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Mix in the brown sugar, sour cream, milk and eggs. Transfer the mixture  to a bowl and fold in the chopped walnuts before scraping into the pan. Bake for 45-50 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the pan.

To make the apple filling, heat all the ingredients in a small pan until the apples are soft and the liquid has evaporated, adding extra water if needed to ensure a softened filling. Use a long-bladed serrated-edged knife to cut the cake in half, and spread the bottom half with the apple filling. Top with the second half of the cake, and  using a stencil, sift icing sugar over the top of the cake to create a pattern.

Luxembourg: Apple and Plum Cake

Flag of Luxembourg

As a country, Luxembourg is very small and sandwiched in the middle of three much bigger powers, namely France, Germany and Belgium. Added to this, over 37% of the population consists of people who have emigrated from countries such as Portugal, Belgium, Italy and the former Yugoslavian states. The country is trilingual and children have to gain certification in German, French and Luxembourgish before graduating secondary school. As this might suggest, the cuisine of this country is just as varied, taking inspiration for all of these cultures, ranging from German peasant dishes to the more sophisticated French cuisine.

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Two of the central ingredients in Luxembourger cuisine are apples and plums, which sounded to me like a great combination – cake planned! The recipe was adapted from here, and consists of a delicious combination of cake, topped with apples and plums, and covered generously with custard, which soaks though the whole cake, creating a lovey moist texture. I love most things to do with custard, but this one is particularly good.

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Apple and Plum Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 300g/10oz flour
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 110g/40z salted butter, cubed
  • 120ml whole milk

Fruit:

  • 2 braeburn apples, thickly sliced
  • 2 firm plums, cut into large segments

Topping:

  • 2 eggs
  • 240ml milk
  • 6oz caster sugar

Garnish:

  • 2 tbsp apricot jam
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tbsp icing sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C/Gas mark 5 and line and grease an 8in round tin. Don’t use a springform tin for this recipe as all the delicious custard mixture will leak out, and that would be very sad…

In a food processor, gently pulse the sugar, baking powder and flour together until combined. Add the butter and continue to pulse until it forms small lumps. Add the milk gradually until the mixture forms a soft dough. Take this out of the food processor CAREFULLY (we don’t want it to turn red!) and press into the pre-prepared tin.

Next prepare the fruit. Peel and slice the apples and press firmly into the dough. Do the same with the plums, arranging in a pattern of your choice – this will be the decoration of the cake, so make it pretty!

Whisk together the eggs, milk and sugar for a few minutes until completely combined, and then  pour over the cake, ensuring an equal coverage – you don’t want one part to be sodden whilst the other is bone dry! Bake for 55-60 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Whilst the cake is still warm, gently heat the apricot jam and water together, and brush over the top of the cake. Sift icing sugar and cinnamon over the cake and serve. As you can see from the pictures, the cake is a very rustic-looking cake, and so don’t worry if it isn’t completely neat at the edges! You could add cream, berries or more custard, but it’s also very delicious just eaten as it is – warm and delicious!

[Note on removing from the tin – the custard can sink down to the bottom of the cake and make it look uncooked at the bottom, so use your judgement on removing the cake as to whether it looks like custard or uncooked cake mix! If it is cooked for the amount of time stated and the skewer comes out clean it should be cooked well]