15 February 2019

OLD-FASHIONED APPLE HAZELNUT CAKE

I have spoken of my love for old-fashioned desserts before, of my love for their simplicity and humbleness of their ingredients. Just like the name says, this rustic, crumbly cake is modest in ingredients, but abundant in flavour, with roasted hazelnuts, fragrant apples, and warm, earthy cinnamon and vanilla.
A classic for the colder weather, usually prepared during winter, from hazelnuts carefully stashed away in the freezer, and apples still available to buy in the farmers’ market. Apples provide lots of moisture to this cake, and that is greatly aided by the flavourful vanilla-lemon syrup.
This simple, wholesome cake doesn’t need any further adornment, it is beautiful it its simplicity. It is a true old-fashioned dessert, which is meant to be enjoyed for a few days at least, because it keeps very well when stored in a cool place, always with a small cup of very strong, freshly brewed coffee.


Ingredients
For the cake
250 grams grated apples
100 grams caster sugar
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
150 grams ground toasted hazelnuts
100 grams plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
60 ml vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
For the vanilla-lemon syrup
150 grams caster sugar
200 ml cold water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
To decorate
50 grams ground hazelnuts

Preparation
Start by peeling and roughly grating the apples, placing them into a large bowl, along with the caster sugar, ground cinnamon, and baking soda, and mix very well. Cover the surface tightly with cling film, and place the apples in the refrigerator for one hour. When the apples are ready, remove them from the refrigerator, and add in the vegetable oil and the vanilla bean paste. Mix well, and add all the dry ingredients. Gently fold everything through until combined, and pour into a square baking tin (20x20 cm) lined with baking parchment. Level the batter as much as possible, and bake in a preheated oven, at 180°C (350°F), for about 20-25 minutes. The cake should spring back when lightly touched, and a toothpick inserted into the centre should come out clean.
While the cake is baking, make the vanilla-lemon syrup. Place the caster sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan, pour in the water and the lemon juice, and place it over high heat. Bring to a boil, and let it cook for 4-5 minutes, until the sugar is dissolved, and the syrup becomes slightly thickened. Remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Remove the baked cake from the oven, and immediately start pouring the syrup over the hot cake, spoonful by spoonful, until all of the syrup is used up. Sprinkle on the ground hazelnuts, and let the cake cool down to room temperature, then store it in a cool place, but not the refrigerator, for at least 8 hours. The longer the cake stands, the more flavours will develop. Serve with strong coffee. Yields 9 large servings.

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