I made a nice cake today.
It’s the time of year where our favourite fruit – mangoes are starting to come in, other fruits will have to make do while we impatiently await its peak when we can buy them by the tray. In fact, we’re so obsessed that one year my sister requested sliced mangoes on a plate instead of cake; and one time we used the power cut as an excuse to scarf down 5+ refrigerated mangoes before they would supposedly go bad: electricity was back in a mere hour. I imagine there’ll be plenty of opportunity to profess my love for the amazing goodness that is mangoes, but today belongs to the classic apple.
The idea of apple crisps came from the ever-inspiring Poires au Chocolat. Slow-baked apple thins sprinkled with raw sugar and cinnamon – Emma brushed hers with sugar water but I a) was too lazy and b) thought the larger crystals of raw sugar would add crunch. The sugar, of course, dissolved into the apples – the slightly more complex flavour was the consolation prize.
I wasn’t too keen on the frosting masking the brown-buttery fruitiness, but still wanted to balance the sweet compote with creaminess in the form of the last of the homemade mascarpone. Speaking of compote, the tender chunks of vanilla-infused pear add a layer of depth texture-wise, contrasted with the grated apple in the cake.
I don’t know if there’s a discernible difference in the pictures today ̶c̶o̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶y̶ ̶a̶l̶l̶ ̶l̶o̶o̶k̶ ̶s̶h̶i̶t̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶m̶e̶ , but I did actually use a real camera today. A 10+ y.o. Olympus, but still.
More than often I’m struck with sonder – the realisation that every passerby has a life as complicated, full and real as mine, revolving around countless people and memories special to themselves. It’s the kind of deep stuff I think to myself when stuck in traffic on the bus for 40+ mins – that happened on Thursday.
One of my favourite people who I’m lucky enough to be friends with has commissioned me to make their birthday cake. I was completely ecstatic and honoured, and I still am, but still have a very hazy idea of what it’s going to be. The specifications were only: vanilla, chocolate and caramel with no frosting on the sides. Good thing I still have a month to brainstorm, but any ideas would be really appreciated.
Apple cinnamon layer cake w/ pear compote (makes a teeny 5″ 3-layer cake)
For the brown butter apple cake:
60g unsalted butter
20g coconut oil (or other lightly flavoured vegetable oil)
80g brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
78g whole eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
75g plain flour
35g cake flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
50g buttermilk (or 25g milk + 25g plain yogurt)
120g grated apple (~1 huge apple or 2 small)
For the cinnamon mascarpone frosting:
1 tsp lemon juice
10g icing sugar
1/4-1/2 tsp cinnamon, to taste
For the caramel pear compote:
1 heaped tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 medium/large pear, cut into small 1cm chunks
pinch of cardamom
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste
Prepare the apple crisps so they can bake while they oven’s preheating and the batter is being mixed. Place slice of apple (no more than 3mm) on a baking tray and lightly sprinkle with raw sugar and cinnamon on top. Put in the oven at 130C/265F and bake until dry and crisp, about 30 mins. Flip the crisps halfway and sprinkle the other half with cinnamon too. Pull the tray out and turn up to 180C/350F.
As with any great cake, start by browning the butter in a pot large enough for the entire batter. Melt butter over medium heat, cover with lid and let it turn brown on medium heat. It’s ready when it’s turned a deep golden colour and stopped splattering. Add the oil, sugar and salt while still hot. Let cool down and add the eggs (to weigh partial eggs, crack and beat 2 eggs until homogenous first) and vanilla. Sift in the flour, baking powder and soda, stir just until no more flour is visible. Stir in the buttermilk, and lastly the grated apple (with most of the juice squeezed out).
Pour batter into a lined 5″ tin and bake in the preheated oven for about 25 mins or until done. Cool completely before assembling.
To make the frosting, stir the mascarpone with lemon juice until smooth, then sift in the icing sugar and cinnamon and stir until combined. Keep in the fridge until assembly.
For the compote, heat the butter on medium heat until melted and bubbly. Add the pear and let caramelise slightly, then stir and add the sugar and vanilla and cardamom. Let the pear soften (only one way to test it) until tender but not falling apart, about 8 mins. Let it cool completely.
To assemble, slice the cake into however many layers you like (2 to 4 for my pan size). Spread on 1/2, 1/3 or 1/4 of the frosting on the bottom layer, depending on the number of cake layers. Distribute the frosting so that it forms a rim on the outside so that the inside can contain the pear compote. Repeat up to the top layer, where instead of compote, arrange apple crisps prettily.