This is a cake I’ve been wanting to put on the blog for about 3 years, since I heard a friend rave about it non stop for an entire evening, having eaten it that day – “It’s so MOIST! And the apple! And it melts in your mouth…. oh the ICING! Mmmmmmmnomnomnom” is a roundabout summary of that evening’s conversation. This is an Ottolenghi classic from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook and is an absolute dream to make. Last weekend I was heading to my parents house for the weekend and had a conversation with Mum about how many wonderful Bramley cooking apples she had dangling off her apple tree that had to be put to good use. My brain went YES. APPLES. OTTOLENGHI. CAKE. And that was that. The time had come. Love me some seasonally appropriate cake.
Now the first time I made this cake, the icing messed up. Or I messed the icing up. Specifics aren’t important. I had followed the recipe to a t and still, my icing curdled. I tried beating it more, I tried chilling it, but alas, it had split and there was no saving it (that I knew anyway). It tasted amazing, but just looked a bit…. blobby. Luckily I’m in a very fortunate position that means I work with some hugely talented bakers and pastry chefs, so off I trotted to our head pastry chef at work and complained. The star that he is, he tested the icing recipe and shared some tricks with me to get a wonderfully smooth and glorious cream cheese maple icing. This means I’ve made a couple of little changes (a-la-Remi the pastry chef) to the icing method in this recipe but these worked really well for me and produced this magical maple cream cheese icing you see before you.
Ottolenghi Apple & Olive Oil Cake with Maple Icing
Quantities: Serves 6 – 8
Timings: About 3 hours with baking and cooling time, 30 mins hands on time.
Kitchen Stuff: 20cm springform or loose bottomed (teehee) cake tin, electric hand mixer or stand mixer, baking paper
280g plain flour
½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 ¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda
120ml olive oil
160g caster sugar
½ vanilla pod, opened lengthways and seeds scraped for use or 1 tsp vanilla extract
2 free range, lightly beaten
3 Bramley cooking apples peeled, cored and cut into 1cm dices
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 free range egg whites
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g light light brown soft sugar
85ml maple syrup
220g full fat cream cheese (I like Philadelphia), straight from the fridge.
1. PREP: Preheat your oven to 170C. Grease a 20cm springform cake tin and line the bottom and sides with baking paper. Put the sultanas in a little saucepan with the 4 tbsp water on a medium heat and simmer until all the water has been absorbed and your sultanas are plump and juicy.
2. FLOUR ETC: Sift the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda together into a bowl and set aside.
3. OLIVE OIL: Put the olive oil and sugar into a large mixing bowl and your vanilla essence / vanilla pod seeds. Beat the oil, sugar and vanilla with an electric hand mixer (or using the paddle attachment on your free-standing electric mixer if you’re lucky enough to have one) then gradually add your beaten eggs. The mixture should be smooth and thick at this stage. Mix in your diced apples, sultanas and lemon zest, then lightly fold in the flour mix.
4. EGG WHITES & BATTER: Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until they have a soft meringue like consistency. Fold them carefully into the cake mix in two additions, losing as little air as possible. Pour the batter into your prepared cake tin and smooth the top evenly with a palette knife (you want to avoid a dome when baking). Place in the oven and bake for 1 ½ hours until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
5. CHILLED CAKE: Once the cake is cool (I put mine in the fridge after about half an hour to help with the cooling process) you can assemble it. Remove the cake from the tin and use a large serrated knife to cut it in half horizontally. You should end up with two similar sized discs. Ottolenghi advises that if your top half is particularly domed, you can always shave a bit off to level it (I don’t mind a bit of a dome personally…). To pick up your top cake half, slide two long knives under the cake top from each side, or two large spatulas, and use this to lift the top half onto another plate. Leave the knives/spatulas under the base and use them to lift the cake top back onto the bottom half after icing.
6. ICING: To make the icing, beat together the room temperature butter, light brown soft sugar and a tbsp of the maple syrup until light and airy. Don’t over-beat it! You can do this by hand, with an electric mixer or in your kitchen aid using a paddle attachment. Add the cream cheese straight form the fridge and beat just until smooth and combined. Add the remaining maple syrup and mix until all incorporated.
7. MAKE IT PRETTY: Using a palette knife, spread a 1cm- thick layer of icing over the bottom half of the cake. Carefully place the top half back on. Put the rest of the icing back on the top of the cake and use your palette knife to make it look pretty. Lasts very well in the fridge!