Did I ever tell you guys that I went to France when I was 15? Yes I am officially one of the 6 luckiest people in the world and I have my extremely generous parents to thank for that. If it makes you feel any better I totally can’t afford it now!
While we were there, we stayed at a Chateau (I know, I know, so lucky!) in the Normandy region. And I don’t know if you know this, but in Normandy they’re kind of famous for apples.
And when I say kind of, I mean incredibly, justifiably famous for apples. This is the home of Calvados, a delicious apple brandy that I urge you to get your hands on as soon as you can, and a million other apple-y delicacies.
Just do a search for Normandy Apple Recipes – there’ll be a million tarts, as well as pies, cakes, puddings, and savoury dishes. And they’re all uniquely delicious in the way that so much French food is.
But I never did find the particular recipe that I was looking for. It was for a dessert. A dessert I tasted in Normandy. An apple dessert that was dense, buttery, with juicy pieces of impossibly-apple-y apple, embedded in a tender cake or pudding base.
No amount of research could turn up a recipe that sounded like the one I was looking for.
It certainly didn’t help that Alain, the Chateau owner, claimed to have found the recipe written down in his attic. I didn’t put much store in that, as he also made a lot of other claims, which were charming in an old-french-guy way, but probably not true.
If I had been a little older I would definitely have asked for the recipe, but alas I was 15 and too busy maintaining an air of studied aloofness and cool (right guys?).
I remembered sliced pieces of apple, hints of almond, lots of butter and no crust. Just a flat, tender, dense pudding-cake.
So, I set about trying to recreate that cake from memory. And you guessed it, friends – this is it!
It is my absolute favourite, never to be tweaked or changed again, most delicious apple cake of all time. It is intensely buttery, and moist. It is redolent with chunks of sweet, tart apple. It is crunchy with almonds, and a scattering of sugar on top. And the whole thing is fragrant and soused with vanilla beans and rum.
This cake is my exact taste-memory of that time in France. And for me, it’s totally perfect. I’m pretty sure you’ll like it too! Shout out to me if you try it, I’d love to hear what you think.
- 3 medium granny smith apples (or whatever kind you like)
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
- pinch of cinnamon
- 1 tsp rum
- 1 + ½ sticks (150g) butter
- ½ cup (110g) caster sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1¼ cups (185g) plain flour
- ¾ cups (85g) almond meal
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp rum
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
- ¼ cup milk
- ⅓ cup whole almonds, chopped
- Sugar, to decorate
- Preheat the oven to 375F/180C and grease a 9 inch/22cm springform cake tin.
- Peel and core the apples, then quarter them and slice them into thickish pieces.
- Toss the pieces with the sugar, cinnamon and rum and set aside while you prepare the batter.
- Cream together the butter and sugar, until they are light and fluffy, then add the eggs and beat them in well.
- Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and slowly mix or fold until everything is well combined. The batter will be very thick.
- Scrape 2 thirds of the batter into the greased cake tin, and spread it evenly over the base (it will seem like there's not enough, but there is).
- Scatter the apples evenly over the cake mix, and then dollop over the remaining batter in a haphazard way. If some apple pokes out, that's great. Scatter over the chopped almonds and bake for 40-45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out without any raw batter clinging to it.
- Leave to cool for at least 10 minutes in the tin, before carefully unmolding it and scattering over a little sugar to decorate. This is best served warm.