It was likely the Romans that first introduced apples to Britain with sweeter, and better taste. After the Romans left, many of the orchards were abandoned with the invasion of the Jutes, Saxons, and Danes. It was not until the Norman Conquest in 1066, that new varieties such as Pearmain and Costard were introduced from France, and orchards were established in the grounds of monasteries. Southern England has ideal conditions for growing fruit such as apples, and the Normans had a strong tradition in apple growing and cider making.
With a resurgence in the manufacture of cider in recent years, it seems ideal to actually use it for baking. This is a recipe for Herefordshire cider cake, however it is likely that similar cakes exist in all cider-producing regions of England. I am using a local Ontario Cider “Local Press“, made from Idared, Empire, Spartan and Royal gala apples.
INGREDIENTS 115g unsalted butter (room temperature) 115g sugar (light brown or caster) 2 eggs 225g all purpose flour 1/6 grated nutmeg ½ tsp ground cinnamon 1 tsp baking soda 200ml cider (or perry)
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the sides of a 8-9″ round baking tin, and line the base with parchment paper.
2. Cream the butter until soft with a mixer, and add the sugar. Allow the mixture to become light and fluffy, 7-10min. Add the eggs one at a time making sure the first is properly incorporated before adding the second.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, nutmeg and cinnamon.
4. Slowly add one half of the flour mixture to the creamed butter-sugar mix. Stir in the cider, then add the remaining flour.
5. Allow to bake for 35-40 minutes, until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin, and placing on a cooling rack.
This recipe produces a somewhat shallow cake, which I served with a mascarpone cream. Whip one one cup heavy cream, then mix in one cup mascarpone and two tablespoons superfine sugar.