Culinary Adventure: Caramel Apple Cake (it looks and tastes like heaven)

I thought I’d stop being an over-achiever in the kitchen just for one day by eating leftovers tonight, but I found a recipe for this caramel apple cake and thought I HAD to give it a try (that and I happen to have two apples sitting on my kitchen counter, left from an earlier apple pie experiment that I wasn’t completely satisfied with). The site is in Chinese, so it’s my translation and some tips from my previous cake-making experience.

For the caramel: half a cup (125 grams) of sugar, some water (just enough to wet the sugar)
One or two apples
250 grams of butter, taken out of the fridge a while before
125 grams of sugar
200 grams of flour
half a teaspoon of baking powder
4 eggs
20ml of milk

1. Make your caramel by putting the sugar and water into a deep and small pan. Put the heat on high. Do NOT stir. Swirl the pan from time to time instead. Pay close attention to the pan, since it can go from a nice amber color to completely overcooked and burnt faster than you can say Mississippi. Once it’s a nice amber color, pour it into your pie/cake tin. Grab the tin by the edge since the caramel is boiling hot to avoid burning your hand (though why would I know if I didn’t do that myself…). Swirl it around in the tin so that it is evenly spread. Act fast because caramel solidifies very fast! Once it cools down, it’ll become a hard shell.

2. Peel the apples and cut them into thin slices. Leave the slices in water with either a bit of salt or lemon juice for a while. Take the slices out and arrange them nicely in the tin.

3. Lightly beat the eggs till the yolk and white are combined.

4. Cream the butter and sugar (this is a very tedious process. Basically you have to beat the butter till it becomes light, fluffy, and slightly whitish. In the beginning the butter will cling onto the beater. I always get it off with a fork, only to have it back onto the beater in about 5 seconds. If you repeat this process enough times however, the mixture becomes so fluffy that you can easily shake it off. Another tip is to use butter that is wrapped in paper. Any “farm” butter will work better. Try to squeeze the butter a bit when you go butter-shopping. Pick the softer kind).

5. Slowly incorporate the eggs into the butter and sugar, making sure it is well-mixed.

6. Sift in the flour and baking powder, mix everything with a rubber scraper.

7. Mix in the milk before pouring the content into the tin, smoothing it out with the rubber scraper (though don’t panic if it is not completely even. My mixture was not at all runny, and I was worried the cake would come out weirdly-shaped. Within the first 3 minutes in the oven however, it just evened out).

8. Bake for 35 minutes at 170 degrees Celsius (around 350 Farenheit).

9. Let it cool down a bit before getting it out on a plate. The caramel needs some time to solidify a bit again. I am also going to quote Julia Child about how you need the courage of your convictions when you flip anything over. I was probably only 98% convicted this time, because some droplets of caramel ended up on my kitchen counter (which was then scraped off and licked clean, but you don’t have to know about that…).

10. And voila, that’s your caramel apple cake! The most fantastic thing with this cake is it can be cut/eaten warm! You don’t have to waste two hours staring at it before making the next move. Enjoy with some tea or coffee, since it is quite rich.

Finally, if you keep the cake in the fridge (you normally don’t have to, unless the weather is very hot), pop the slice into the microwave for 30 seconds before eating it. That makes a BIG difference.

Bon appetit and keep me posted if you give this recipe a try!

Culinary Adventure: Banana Walnut Cake

Part of the reason why I started this blog is because I have recently found empowerment in running my own kitchen, and I want to keep track of my progress as well as sharing some ideas. Back when I was growing up, my mother would never let me go in the kitchen because “it was too small.” Even after we moved to a bigger place when I was 12, the kitchen was still entirely her territory. However, in the meantime, she would always taunt me for my lack of basic cooking skills. I guess I had a bit of complex about cooking from that. Fast forward to my life in Europe, the mother of the family I lived with till this July was a bit of a kitchen Nazi. She seldom let us do things in the kitchen either, and I was always eating what she prepared. Which is of course something to be grateful about, but I still never really got to cook.

I only really started cooking when I moved in with my boyfriend this July. He can cook too, but he always exaggerate when he does, preparing elaborate dishes which take 2 hours or more to get ready, or making the portion way too big. Just to be able to eat when I’m hungry, I took the task over. And guess what, I’m not going to deny receiving an education is empowering, but after having done that for the first 26 years of my life, I have found that running one’s own kitchen is no less effective in achieving empowerment. But that’s a debate I’m not going into right now. Right now I’m going to share my banana walnut cake recipe.

One of my friends went to Australia for a year, and met this girl whom was dubbed as the “banana walnut cake girl” in her dormitory. She was let in on the secret of banana walnut cake, and I got the recipe from her, so here we go:

125g unsalted butter, melted.
150g caster sugar
2 eggs
60g walnuts, chopped (I like the chunky texture so I broke them with my hands. If you like them finer you can easily pack them in tin foil or a zip-lock bag before smashing them with something heavy. Even rolling a beer bottle over them will do).
3-4 very ripe bananas (again, if you want to do this mess-free, you can wrap them in a zip-lock bag first. However, I just put them on a plate and smashed them to a pulp with a spoon)
175g flour, sifted
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate powder
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (I have homemade vanilla sugar, which I made by putting a vanilla pod into a jar of sugar, so I used it to replace some of the sugar you need for the recipe instead)

1. Preheat oven to warm 170˚. Lightly grease a loaf tin and line with baking paper (my tin is 26, 11.5, and 7cm. It’s just the right size for the amount of ingredients).
2. Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl with a whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy (this is the most laborious part. However, I have found that better-quality butter, which often comes in paper wrapping here in Europe, is softer and easier to work with). Beat in the egg one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
3. Mash the bananas and whisk into the mixture.
4. Add the walnuts and continue to whisk till well-mixed.
5. Fold in the dry ingredients, making sure to sift before adding to mixture.
6. Fold in the vanilla essence (which, as you already know, I didn’t do).
7. Pour the mixture into the tin and smooth the surface. Bake for 1hr or until a skewer (a knife or a toothpick will do) comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake. Remove from the tin and turn out onto a wire rack. Leave to cool.

Leaving the cake to cool was actually the most annoying part. We sat there for hours, staring at the cake while inhaling the fragrance. The minute it was OK to cut it without ruining the whole cake, I did, and it was divine. My boyfriend did say it got better the next day, because it’s a bit crumbly when it’s not completely cool, but the carbohydrates-eating monster in me was satisfied and happy anyways.

Give it a try. It’s definitely better than any cake you can purchase, and it’s easy to do!
(Tango definitely agrees with me on this one. He is usually uninterested in human food, but he was sniffing this rather enthusiastically)