Our recent trip out to Stanthorpe, three hours north-west from where we live, took us into the heart of a cool climate wine and orchard growing area – and, at this time of year, laden apple and pear trees that are dripping with ripe fruit. In fact, right now our local Mullumbimby Farmers Market is full of this luscious autumn harvest where I picked up a load of baby pears for baking, some delicious eating and cooking apples and a bag of freshly picked pecans – then I thought of this cake.
With a busy family, I am often wearing my grandma hat to my seven little darlings and picking them after school, which means the first thing they are going to ask me when they walk in the door is “what is there to eat”. A vegemite sandwich is good, but homemade cake puts a real smile on their little faces. This cake may seem a little strange (coconut??), but go with me – it’s really good. I’ve made it a few times now and refined the recipe so its easy to make and doesn’t involve three processes and as many bowls – not the kind of recipe for me! It was also an opportunity to get out my favourite teapot.
Recipe Italian Spiced Apple and Nut Cake
- 2 cooking apples, peeled and cut into small chunks and tossed in a bowl with juice of half a lemon
- 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup sultanas
- 1 cup pecans or walnuts
- 1 tbs brown sugar
- 1/2 cup shredded coconut
- 1 1/2 cups plain wholemeal flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1tsp cinnamon
- 1tsp grated nutmeg
- 3 eggs
- 150 g best butter
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 tbs amaretto liqueur (or substitute with 1tsp vanilla or almond essence)
- Icing sugar for dusting
- Set oven to 180oC
- Grease 23cm (9″) round cake tin and line with non-stick baking paper (what did we do without this stuff?)
- Peel and cut apples into small chunks. Add to lemon juice and set aside in LARGE mixing bowl.
- Add sultanas to the apple mix.
- Toast pecans in oven for 5 minutes. At the last minute, add the coconut and toast with the pecans FOR ONE MINUTE ONLY – otherwise it will burn.
- Tip pecans, coconut and 1 tbs of brown sugar into mortar and pestle and lightly crush. The smell, at this stage, is divine!
- Add to the apple mixture and stir well and set aside
- In a food processor, cream together the butter and 1 cup brown sugar until light fluffy.
- Add eggs, one at time and process until creamy
- Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg and process until thoroughly combined
- Tip this mixture into bowl with apple mix. Add Amaretto and fold all together. Add pinch of salt.
- Turn the mixture into prepared cake tin.
- Bake in centre of oven on 180oC for about 45 minutes or until cake is firm to touch and skewer comes out clean.
- Sprinkle with icing sugar when cooled
- Serve with thick yoghurt or whipped cream
NOTE: I recently read an interesting memoir by Italian/Aussie, Zoe Boccabella, called Mezza Italiana whose grandfather migrated to Australia as a 14 year old and became an apple orchardist in Stanthorpe. Well worth a read – has family recipes in it too and this cake was evocative of her story.