Happy, happy Saturday! I hope that you are keeping warm and snuggly (or nice and cool if you’re in NZ - my family is at the beach right now).
We are still in full swing of apple season here, so I wanted to share this apple cake that has been in my family for as long as I can remember! The recipe is loosely based on one from a tattered old book at home that I don’t know the name of (will update as soon as I can) that is bookmarked with bulldog clips and cake batter (the best sort of books), and is for an apple and raisin cake. I tweaked and tweaked the recipe, playing around with the ratios until I was happy with it, and then I went ahead and fancied the whole thing up with an ombre walnut praline buttercream.
The cake itself is dairy free, and is made with whole wheat and all-purpose flour, which gives it a lovely sturdiness. It comes together super easily, and is studded with chunks of apple. The crumb is tender, thanks to the oil in the mixture. I used my favourite oil for baking - Filippo Berio Extra Light Olive Oil. The Extra Light Olive Oil is super light in taste, which makes it the perfect sub for a ‘neutral’ oil in baking, where vegetable or canola oil would usually be used. I’ve used it before for deep frying, and it performs amazingly in so many baking applications. It is what I keep in the house now for baking - I highly recommend that you make the switch from a veggie or canola oil to an extra light too.
The cake would be amazing finished with just a simple dusting of powdered sugar, but I wanted to add in this buttercream after we made a walnut praline last week and realised just how delicious it is. The process is a little complicated, but the end product is so worth it. Praline is made by caramelising nuts (it is often done with hazelnuts), and then processing them in the food processor until you form a paste. I then stirred that through a Swiss Meringue Buttercream, and added some cinnamon to some of the buttercream to give a nice ombre effect which was perfect for piping onto the cake. If you like, you can skip the ombre step and just give the cake a coating of the praline buttercream - either way is delicious.
I see this as a choose your own adventure situation - the cake alone is so delicious just as is, or you can fancy this up for a perfect holiday dessert that is great for using up those apples that you have hanging around in the back of your fridge after you accidentally ended up with too many last time.
A few wee tips:
There are a couple of options for you here, depending on how involved you want to get.
Make just the cake, dust with powdered sugar (v delicious option)
Make the cake, give it a plain Swiss Meringue Buttercream frosting by leaving out the praline. (Also v delicious, slightly more involved)
Make the cake, make the walnut praline, skip the ombre piping step and just spread the buttercream onto the cake and sprinkle with some cinnamon.
Go all out and do an ombre piping situation with the buttercream.
The cake is super moist from the oil and the apples so can be made the day before and stored in the tin until you are ready to go.
The walnut praline recipe makes more than you will need in the buttercream, but it is super, super delicious and you will use it up, I promise
The process of the praline looks a little scary but I promise it isn’t. You make a sugar syrup, then add in the walnuts and mix it until the sugar forms back into a golden caramel. It does take a bit of stirring, but it will happen!
I found it the easiest by far to do the praline in a stainless steel frying pan - a cast iron skillet should work too, you just want something wide enough so that you have as much contact as possible between the nuts and the surface of the pan
To get the ombre effect, I made the buttercream and removed some so it stayed white. I then added in the praline, mixed it through, then removed half and added cinnamon to the rest so that I had three shades.
I used a wilton #104 tip and three Ateco #862 tips for the star bloops!
Apple Snack Cake with Ombre Walnut Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream
- Makes one 9” Cake -
300g brown sugar
3 eggs, at room temperature
180g Filippo Berio Extra Light Olive Oil
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
675g diced apple, cut into 1cm cubes (about 4-5 apples)
250g whole wheat (wholemeal) flour
140g all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
450g walnuts (whole or pieces is fine)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
½ tsp salt
Walnut Praline Swiss Meringue Buttercream
125g egg whites
200g granulated sugar
¼ tsp kosher salt
455g (16oz, or four sticks) unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
150g walnut praline paste
2 tsp cinnamon
- PROCESS -
Preheat the oven to 350°f / 180°c. Grease and line a 9” square cake pan with parchment paper.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a bowl with an electric hand mixer, beat together the eggs and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
Add the Filippo Berio Extra Light Olive Oil and the Vanilla Bean Paste, and mix to combine. Add the apples and fold in using a rubber spatula.
In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Add to the mixture and fold in with a spatula until combined.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared cake pan, and smooth down. Bake for 50 minutes to an hour, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely in the pan.
Measure out the walnuts into a bowl and have them nearby ready to go. Line a baking sheet with silpat or parchment paper.
Combine the sugar and water in a wide skillet or frying pan (stainless steel or something white is best so you can see the caramel).
Bring the water and sugar to a boil, and then cook on medium until the mixture registers 245°f / 118°c on a candy thermometer, washing down the edges with a pastry brush dipped in water as needed.
Once the syrup reaches temperature, add the walnuts. The mixture will crystallise and form a white coating on the outside of the walnuts - this is normal. Cook over medium heat, stirring very frequently, until the sugar eventually melts and turns into a golden brown caramel that coats the nuts. Watch carefully so that it does not catch.
Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and allow to cool.
Once cool, place the caramelised nuts into the work bowl of a food processor. Add the salt and the vanilla bean paste, and pulse to break down the nuts. Process the walnuts for 2-3 minutes, or until a smooth paste forms, scraping down as needed. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Transfer into an airtight container until ready to use.
WALNUT PRALINE SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM
Place the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer or a heat proof bowl. Place over a pot of simmering water, ensuring that the water does not touch the bowl. Heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture registers 160˚f / 70˚c on a thermometer and the sugar has dissolved. Carefully transfer the bowl to the mixer, and fit with the whisk attachment. Whip the egg whites on high until they are snowy white and fluffy, 8-10 minutes. Add the butter one chunk at a time. The mixture may look curdled - but just keep mixing! Once all the butter is incorporated, mix on high for a further 10 minutes. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated.
Once the buttercream has finished mixing, and is smooth and silky, mix for a further 2-3 minutes, then switch to the paddle attachment and mix on low for one minute to remove any air.
Remove a third of the buttercream and set aside. Add in the walnut praline to the remaining buttercream, and mix to combine. Remove half of of the walnut praline buttercream and set aside, then mix the cinnamon into the remaining buttercream to give you a darker brown shade.
Spread the surface of the cake with a thin layer of the walnut praline buttercream.
Fit piping bags with a range of tips - I used a #104 tip for the wriggles, and then 3 Ateco #862 tips for the bloops. Transfer the buttercream into the piping bags.
Pipe a combination of wriggles (using the 104 tip), and blobs onto the surface of the cake - I found that it was best to pipe the wriggles first, then fill in with the blobs.
Chill well - allow to come to room temperature an hour before serving. Cut with a sharp knife, wiping the blade between cuts.
Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.
Thank you so much to Filippo Berio for sponsoring this post! All opinions are my own.