I've been a little lazy this week. Its been a bit of a rough time, as I've been waiting on a few things, and I wasn't able to plan my weeks and cooking as much as I would have liked. I ocasionally get these kind of periods in my life, and I have to slog a bit to get through them. The weather hasn't been particularly kind either, as its been gray, cloudy, with tons of snow (oh, and its only beginning, sob!!) and no natural light of any kind, which usually inspires me to cook.
So, yeah, life's been a bit of a drag, and by the time I've cooked dinner, it's so dark, I really have no time to photograph either. I normally photograph on weekends, when I can find some natural light during the daytime, but the last weekend and this one has been so packed that I've hardly had any time to cook. We headed over to Calgary the weekend before, and had a real blast at the zoo. I wish I'd had some more time to explore the city, but Aditi and I bonded over the animals, and we loved the butterflies. The butterfly enclosure had an ovewhelming fragrance that reminded me of my mum's garden, and it brought back so many memories. We also enjoyed seeing all the Canadian animals, though I realised later that, except for cougars, we've seen practically all the others in the wild, including grizzly bears.
My friend Mike is a wildlife photographer in BC, and you should check out his wildlife and landscape pictures here, well worth a look, and you'll see so many beautiful animals, including the rare kermode bears.
Anyway, to get back to the cooking, this post is one that's been sitting in my drafts for so long, I'd actually forgotten I'd had it already framed, recipe'd, and photographed. I was going through my posts, and stumbled on it, and it brightened up my gloomy day. And so I decided to write it up and share it this week. The recipe is for Mary Berry's Devonshire Apple Cake.
There are many reasons why I love this cake. First off, I bet you all know about my serious girl crush on Mary Berry. I love her, and own quite a few of her cookbooks. I didn't grow up with baking. We (like most Indian families at the time) didn't own a conventional oven, and it was just not something we did very often. My mum did have a countertop oven later on, but it never really worked well. Despite that, mum used to bake a few cakes (the ribbon cake is a particular favourite memory) but this was very rare.
So, when I moved to England, I had no clue how an oven worked. Obviously that meant my baking adventures were few and far between... that is... until this book by Mary Berry came to me, courtesy my cousin who was moving and wanted to get rid of her books. After that, there was no stopping me. After all these years and many many cookbooks later, this Mary Berry book still remains my most cherished and used book, and I think I've made pretty much every single recipe in it. I recently passed on her recipe for scones to a friend, who then told me that those were the best scones she'd made. So all in all, I am a devoted Mary Berry fan. Sadly I am not in the UK anymore, and so was unable to watch the Great British Bake Off which she judged, but I did watch the ocasional smuggled episode :-)
So when I came across her recipe for Devonshire Apple Cake, considering my wealth of apples this autumn, I definitely had to make it. I can say that this is hands down a keeper of a recipe. In fact, it was so good, I actually made it twice already, and rewrote the recipe in cup measures, so I could pass it on to my friends and family here. For this particular recipe, I've made a few changes. I cut the recipe in half and I didn't add the almonds, as I was out, and like I said, its written in cup measures. The original recipe uses weights, and the first time I made it I used the weight measures just to make sure the cake worked (not that I ever doubted a Mary Berry recipe)
The cake was so delicious, that I was lucky to have a slice left over that I could take a picture of. I made a custard to go with it, and it turned the relatively simple cake into a really gorgeous dessert. The second time round, we tried it with a lashing of whipping cream, and it was pretty good too, though I think I preferred the custard with it. My apples had a tart sweetness to them, and I think it counterbalanced the sweetness of the cake perfectly. Both times, I made the cake in a 9 inch round tin, instead of the rectangular one that the recipe calls for, and I didn't think it made that much of a difference.
I love the photos in this post, the first one is of a perfect apple that I picked from Mr M's tree and the second one is Aditi larking about with the apples. Its such a great experience for a child to have, being able to pick fruit and vegetables from our own gardens, and learning where everything comes from. We had so much fun picking the apples and even more fun making all sorts of delicacies with them. We are indeed so lucky to have such generous neighbours, and I am grateful, everyday, to be living here, in this lovely community. Sometimes life does take you in funny directions, and thank heavens for that :-)
Adapted version from Mary Berry
2 medium apples, cored and sliced (peeled if you wish)
A bowl of water + 1 tbsp lemon juice
1¼ cup plain flour
1¼ cup sugar
½ cup butter
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
A few drops of almond extract
¼ cup milk
Preheat oven to 175 C or 350 F.
Place the (peeled) cored and sliced apples in the bowlful of water and lemon juice, to stop them from discolouring.
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and beat till pale and creamy. Beat in the sifted dry ingredients, the almond extract and the milk until well combined.
Grease and line a 9 inch cake tin with greaseproof paper. Gently pour in half the cake batter, smoothing down with a spatula.
Dry the apple slices, and layer on top of the batter. Cover the slices with the remaining batter.
Bake in the preheated oven for an hour and fifteen minutes. If the cake is darkening too quickly, lightly place a piece of foil on top.
Serve warm or cold.
This recipe is linked to Ren's fabulous blogging event, Simple and in Season. I can't imagine a simpler cake, and even better, apples from the neighbour's garden. How much more local can we get?