Sunday, December 03, 2006

Apple Gingerbread with Cinnamon Icing

Well, I'm afraid it has been a little while since my last post. Of late it has been difficult to find a weekend with enough time free to research, write, bake and photograph, but I am aware that my opportunities for doing so may decrease further in the near future. Many weekends recently have been taken up with house-selling and house-purchasing activities; or we have been out and about test driving pushchairs or cot viewing. We are expecting our first baby in February, and all spare time seems to be focused on him/her, and relocating to Hertfordshire ahead of the big event (and possibly before Christmas). But today, I am making cake whilst the sun shines, and I have been inspired by the new county that I hope to be living in soon.

Hertfordshire is one of southern England's apple growing counties. The first commerical plantings of Cox's Orange Pippins were established there in the 1860s. The crisp, sweet and sharp, russetted dessert apple became one of the most popular varieties and is widely available today. I had bought a quantity of Cox's and Bramley apples with which to make some mincemeat, and having spent a morning in the kitchen inhaling the fug of warm spices, cider and the rich sweetness of cooked apples, I felt ready to bake a little something for immediate consumption (don't you think that 'fug' is the perfect word for cider related activities?).

My recipe is from the book 'Farmhouse Fare' by Countrywise Books. First published in 1973, it is a collection of country recipes gathered by the readers of 'Farmers Weekly' magazine. The recipes had been collected by the magazine since its launch in 1934; generally from the wives and daughters of farmers - those stalwart ladies at the heart of rural communities, who make good use of locally available ingredients, and produce from their own fields and livestock. My particular recipe was sent in by a Miss Mary MacDonald of Inverness-shire (Scotland), but it struck me as being the perfect recipe to capture something of the combination of apples, sweetness and spice that I had scented the house with whilst simmering my apple mincemeat.

225g cooking apples (or strong flavoured dessert apples, such as Cox's Orange Pippins)
75g Demerara sugar
112g golden syrup
75g butter
175g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 egg

For the icing:
175g icing sugar
2-3 dessertspoons of warm water
1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.
2. Grease and line an square or oblong cake tin (I used a loaf tin).
3. Peel and slice the apples, and put into a pan with 1 dessertspoon of sugar, and enough water to stop them from burning.
4. Stew gently until tender. Mash up and leave to cool.
5. Put the golden syrup, butter and the remainder of the sugar, into a pan and warm over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Leave to cool.
6. Sift the flour and the spices into a large basin.
7. Whisk the egg in a smaller bowl, add the cooled syrup mixture and continue to whisk until well mixed.
8. Add to the flour, along with the apple pulp. Stir well and then turn into prepared tin.
9. Bake for about half an hour.
10. Allow to cool a little before turning out of the tin. When fully cooled, prepare icing.
11. Sieve icing sugar and cinnamon into a bowl.
12. Mix with enough water to form a thick coating consistency.
13. Spread over the top of the cake and leave to set.

The gingerbread was a pale sponge, rippled with the flesh of the cooked apples. Lovely and moist. I was concerned that the quantity of cinnamon in the icing might be too tongue numbing, but it was perfect. Icing sugar is so saccharine, that the cinnamon had to fight hard to match the sweetness. The spiced icing complemented the cake extremely well, and added an extra flavour to the whole. This could be a nice alternative to the heavy fruit cakes served at Christmas time, perhaps with the addition of a handful of raisins. Plastic Santa is optional.


Catherine said...

This looks like a wonderful recipe. I will try this!

Jeanne said...

Oh, what's not to like here! You are right - it's a very festive combination of flavours and the cake looks delightfully moist.

I think I might try and adapt this recipe to make something I remember from childhood but doubt whether my mom every wrote down the recipe. I think she called them ginger squares, and it was a slab of pale gingerbread, studded with glace cherries and candied ginger, iced with a plain sugar glaze before being cut into squares. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe!

And congratulations on impending motherhood! I didn't even know you were expecting - which shows how scarce you've been at blogger gatherings lately... ;-)

dottyspots said...

Congratulations on your pregnancy :0) I'd recommend something like the Mamas and Papas pram that converts to a pushchair - it's great and it makes a difference to baby when they're facing you. I'm also a sling fan and try to use one when poss (my back has been playing up of late) - I've 4, so have had some practice on the baby front!

AnnaW said...

Catherine, do give it a go. I think it that it was one of my best bakings for a while. Even my husband liked it!

Jeanne - yes, I'm afraid I have been low on the foodblogging horizon for a while (as low as a walking hill can be). Your mom's gingerbread sounds good. I used to love my mum's gingerbread too, and it was also a treat to have a corner piece, still warm, after the evening meal.

Dottyspots - thank you for your tips! We think that we have chosen a pushchair now, although there are so many bamboozling options. The sling seems like a good alternative for times when taking a pushchair would be less practical (i.e. travelling on the tube).

Mama Lamb said...

I cannot wait to try this cake...I am sure my three will love it. My middle son currently loves to bake, so I think we will try it over the coming holidays. That is the absolute best part of mothering.. sharing passions and loves with ones children. My passion for things British has certainly been passed along to the next generation...along with my love of sweets, apples, reading a book by the fire. HOw exciting for you to be starting with your own little person! Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Ohio in the United States. I enjoyed finding your site!

Your photos caught my eye first. Your baked goods look scrumptiously homemade (that is a compliment) with flavors to match.

Your recipe reminded me of my mother's
Fresh Apple Cake recipe from 35 years ago. I don't think this is a family recipe - back then it was common to try new recipes from women's magazines.

Thanks for the memory.

Anonymous said...

Great blog - good to see you back

Anonymous said...

I had trouble getting logged, but I see it worked.

Just wanted to say I had checked your site a few times, so really glad you have been able to post.

I am in Florida right now, but come from the Cotswolds and your information was news to me. You learn something everyday!

I took down your Bakewell Tart recipe and am eager to try it.

Anonymous said...

This looks and sounds like a delicious recipe, definitely going on my must try list. :)

Ari (Baking and Books)

Eva said...

What a great cake! I made this last week for the work christmas part....unfortunatly I had to substitute demerara with cane sugar as they don't seem to have any dark sugar in switzerland but it still tasted great. I'm proud to say it was one of the few ones that wasn't left the next morning :-) and congratulations on veing pregnant, that's very exciting news. My fried swore by her baby seat rucksack (not sure what the proper name is) for publick transport. She said it was great for her as it gave more support when he got older, plus it fits shopping and the baby really likes it cause he's high up so can see lots of stuff

Anonymous said...

I didn't know your blog specially britain's food. It's nice and the recipes are great !
hmmmmmmm your cake is beautiful.
Thanx :-)))
(sorry for my bad english)

Anonymous said...

This recipe looks absolutely yummy. Congrats on your impending mom-ness! I love your site and have only been reading it for awhile. I grew up in Ohio -- thinking of Coco, the blogger up above -- and this recipe also reminds me of yummy treats I baked in my girlhood. Thank you for great recipes, lovely photos and your time! Kathy Riley Williams, Kentucky, USA

Anonymous said...

Anna, your blog has been tagged. It's a game to connect up interesting blogs and introduce people to new ones. I've been lurking here for ages, so I thought I'd introduce you to my friends... To read more, visit my blog at

AnnaW said...

Thanks for all the positive comments. Wishing you all a happy Christmas, and I look forward to sharing more recipes and history in the New Year.

A x

Anonymous said...

hi. i just moved to london recently and i have no idea where to get my ingredients (like cake flour and stuff like that). i tried looking in sainsbury and tesco and was always very disappointed at their limited selection.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering if you have any suggestion...
really nice blog you have here!

Anonymous said...

I'd been meaning to try this cake for a while, and finally got around to baking it today. It was delicious! So moist, and with enough apple in it so that it could still be tasted and hold its own against the ginger. And the cinnamon icing complimented the cake surprisingly well!

It was enjoyed by all who tried it, so thank you for sharing the recipe.

You have a wonderful website. I'm a Brit but some of the cakes are new to me too! And learning the history of them is fascinating...

Happy New Year!

AnnaW said...

Hi Jacqueline,

I do get most of my ingredients from local supermarkets. The really large stores carry a good range of flours and sugars etc. I buy some flours from local stores specialising in organic foods (both in Ealing). If your local supermarkets are only very small, then they do carry a limited range of everything. It is worth checking out local convenience stores to see what range they stock. I am lucky to have local shops stocking Japanese, Polish and Middle-Eastern foods, so can often get ingredients that even the largest supermarkets don't have.

Happy New Year to you too Becky! So pleased you and your tasters liked the cake.

Anonymous said...

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I’ve just started a blog – please have a look when you get the chance and let me know your thoughts. I’d appreciate being put into your favourites if you rate it!

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