It’s Bramley Apple Week this week, so I decided to make an apple cake. The most adventurous one I could find in my books was an apple cake with yuzu caramel from James Martin’s Sweet.
I started off with a hunt for yuzu juice. I’ve seen it on Masterchef and maybe the Bake Off, but nowhere else. I didn’t think Tesco was likely to have any and I was right. I thought Holland and Barret may come up trumps, but when I asked one of the assistants he just gave me a funny look. I tried Marks – no luck, and then I thought about the oriental supermarket at the bottom of town. It didn’t have any yuzu juice, but it did have tinned lychees (something I’ve been looking for since last Valentines Day when I ended up making a coffee cake and not the super-pretty lychee and raspberry cake of my romantic dreams).
The only other positive thing about the yuzu hunt was that the journey to the far end of town would probably register about half an hour’s exercise on my Fitbit. Ten minutes it gave me. Ten minutes. It credits me with more than that during martini hour* on a Saturday. Pick up glass, lift to mouth, take a sip, return glass to table, repeat.
Anyway. How could I make yuzu caramel with no yuzu juice? I turned to the bloggers at Food Bloggers Central for help. There was a consensus that some kind of citrus juice would work, and the recipe did say that yuzu tasted somewhere between mandarin and lime. I didn’t have any lime, and I really couldn’t be bothered to hit the shops again so I went with mandarin by itself.
I made the sponge cake first. There was no fat in it, just a lot of eggs creamed with soft light brown sugar with plain flour, baking powder, and grated apples folded in. I put the mixture into a 23cm square tin and put it into the oven at 160° fan. The cooking time in the recipe is 25 minutes. I’m not sure whether the oven temperature given was already a fan oven temperature (it said 180°), and I couldn’t find anything in Sweet that said anything about oven temperatures, but my cake took much, much longer than 25 minutes before it passed the skewer-in-the-middle-comes-out-clean test. When I say much longer, I mean almost half an hour longer. Not a good start.
The next thing on the list was the Bramley apple filling. I chopped my apples,
put some caster sugar into a saucepan over a medium heat, and tried to wait until it had melted without stirring it. I just about managed it but the sugar had just started to catch when I added butter, water and the apples. I cooked the apples for a few minutes and let them cool down.
Onto the yuzu/mandarin caramel. According to the recipe, all I had to do was to put soft light brown sugar into a sauté pan and heat it (no stirring on pain of death) until it had melted and was dark brown. Really?
I threw my first batch away and started again. My mom and dad were visiting and, at one point, the three of us were stood over the hob prodding at the sugar with a wooden spoon. In the end, we stirred before the sugar had melted, added butter and cream and then the mandarin juice. The caramel was OK. There was a bit of bonfire about it and absolutely no mandarin flavour at all, but it was edible.
Once everything had cooled, I cut the cake in half, put the Bramley apple filling onto the bottom half, and drizzled the caramel over the top of the apples. I put the top half on and sandwiched the cake together.
The cake was fine. A decent apple cake with a decent filling. The caramel tasted slightly burned, although this was pretty well disguised by the apples. There was no citrus taste anywhere though, not the slightest hint.
Usually, when I’m not particularly happy with a cake, I know that it’s my fault (or the children’s). This time though, I’m not so sure. The baking time for the cake given in the recipe was far too short and the instructions for the caramel were pretty vague (I’ve since found a video at DeliaOnline which makes everything caramel pretty clear – why I didn’t think of going to Delia earlier I have no idea).
I’m pretty depressed about the baking for this year. Everything I’ve tried has turned out to be a bit on the disappointing side. Fingers crossed for next time.
*Martini hour – new for 2017 following a new year’s resolution to dust down my lovely but underused martini glasses. No longer are they underused. It’s the first resolution I’ve kept until February for years.