Spiced Pumpkin and Apple Loaf Cake

When I was a kid, Halloween wasn’t such a fuss. We used to do a few fun things at home with the family, but didn’t go to parties or go crazy with the dressing up. We certainly didn’t go trick or treating! But we did carve a scary face into a swede. Not a pumpkin, no no, they weren’t readily available back then (“but surely that was only 10 years ago!”, I hear you cry). Dad would spend hours scooping out the innards of a swede, on which my sister and I then drew a few triangles, and Dad duly cut out. In went a tea light and we were delighted. Even now, I can recall the scent of warming, then burning swede flesh. It’s one of the smells that’s most evocative of childhood for me. That, and pipe smoke, from when my grandad used to smoke one all the time. Love it.

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Back to pumpkins. Nowadays they are ubiquitous at this time of year. The ones you find in the big supermarkets are usually grown for size and shape, designed for carving more than eating. That’s fine if that’s all you plan to do with it, but their flesh is a little bit watery and not as tasty. I like to get the most from my pumpkins, and so that means I want something a bit more flavoursome. We like to get ours from Kenyon Hall Farm – one of my favourite places for a family afternoon out (Summer or Autumn). They have a large pumpkin patch where you can go and pick your own, which really adds to the experience. The kids have much more of a sense of occasion about carving a pumpkin they’ve chosen themselves. You also get a tasty pumpkin out of it too. They also sell all manner of unusual squash varieties in their marvellous shop. I challenge you not to come away with oodles of stuff from that shop, it’s a foodie paradise of produce!

When it came to using up the innards of our pumpkin this year, the first cake I decided to make was a simple loaf cake – this was a last minute cake I needed to rustle up to take to Mumclub Halloween party at our friend’s house. It’s basically a carrot and apple cake that I thought would work with pumpkin instead of the carrot. I baked the carrot version for Apple Day in Philips’ Park at the end of October, and it got loads of praise (yay!) so I hoped the pumpkin would work as well. You’ll be glad to hear that it did!

This is a simple recipe. It doesn’t need any fancy equipment – not even a mixer! If you want to use one, of course, feel free, but I find a wooden spoon does the job just fine and means less washing up.

Ingredients

  • plain flour – 160g
  • plain whole wheat flour – 120g
  • baking powder – 1 ½ teaspoons
  • bicarbonate of soda – 1 teaspoon
  • 2 large eggs
  • vegetable oil – 60ml
  • caster sugar – 230g
  • ground cinnamon – 1 ½ teaspoon
  • ground nutmeg – ¼ teaspoon
  • vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
  • greek yoghurt (I used full fat but low fat is fine) – 80ml
  • pumpkin flesh – grated/in strands – 300g
  • apple (cooking or eating) – 1 large apple (about 175g chopped weight), diced finely. Skin on (but remove if you prefer)
  • sultanas – 80g
  • Demerara sugar (for topping)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180 (170 fan)
  • Use a 2lb loaf tin – line it with greaseproof paper. I use the ready made liners for ease (like these from Lakeland but they’re widely available)
  • In a large bowl, mix together the eggs, sugar, oil, cinnamon, nutmeg and yoghurt. If using a mixer, give it a quick whizz – just a few seconds really. By hand just mix until well combined.
  • Add the pumpkin, sultanas and apple. Stir lightly (by hand).
  • Sift together the flours, baking powder and bicarb. Add the flour mix to the wet mixture and stir until combined. Don’t mix too much, the flour should be fully incorporated but don’t go mad!
  • Put the batter into the tin.
  • Sprinkle the top with Demerara sugar – I use about a tablespoon but it depends how much crunch you like on top.
  • Pop into the middle of the oven and cook for around 45-55 minutes, depending on your oven. Mine takes about 50 minutes. Test with a skewer in the centre of the cake. You’ll be able to feel if the mix is cooked or still a bit soggy. If you’re not sure, don’t worry, it’s a really moist cake so an extra 5 minutes in the oven to make sure will not dry it out.
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 15/20 minutes, then turn out onto a cooling rack.

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Fresh from the oven. Smells incredible!

If you can, serve this whilst still warm from the oven, it’s scrumptious! Or room temperature is fine too. The cake is moist and will keep well in an airtight container for a few days…if it lasts that long!

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Warm, soft and yummy!

Little tips…

Don’t want to use pumpkin? Try this with butternut squash or the original carrot. For another twist, it also works with parsnip.
Leave off the D
emerara sugar and top the cooled cake with a cream cheese frosting for a lovely alternative. You can flavour this with lemon or it’s lush with maple syrup.

So that’s it! Hope you like it…and if you try it please do let me know. Always nice to hear from you.

H x

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Dorset Apple Bundt Cake

There’s a nip in the air, even on these late September sunny days. I don’t mourn the end of summer, I love autumn and the glut of fabulous baking ingredients it yields, especially apples. There’s something warm, comforting and totally delicious about the combination of apples and cinnamon that when I was given some Bramley apples, I knew exactly what I wanted to make with them – Dorset apple cake.

Dorset Apple Cake (in Dorset!)

Dorset Apple Cake (in Dorset!)

I’d had a slice of this gorgeous creation, served warm with a dollop of clotted cream, when on holiday in Swanage this summer. We’d spent a lovely day getting the steam train to Corfe Castle and playing in the model village. When tea and cake time rolled round, there was a huge amount of choice, but it was the apple cake that caught my eye. It wasn’t exactly seasonal but I didn’t care a dot! It was scrumptious. I knew right then that come autumn, I wanted to recreate it, but bundtified, of course!

There are lots of variations of this traditional recipe. Some use sliced apples on top, some have chunks in the cake itself. Some use lemon, some cinnamon, often there’s nuts too. I decided to keep it simple and classic with chunks of apple running through the cake and, being a bundt, it would have the lovely sugar crust crunch.

As I often do, I based my recipe on that of Queen Bundt Blogger Dollybakes, whose ‘Build a Bundt‘ page has pretty much everything you need to know about creating your own bundt recipes. Please do visit her blog for oodles of info and recipes!

Here’s what I did…

Ingredients

  • 350g plain flour
  • 225g unsalted butter or marge
  • 375g golden caster sugar
  • 75g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 250ml plain yoghurt (full fat)
  • ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 500g Bramley apples, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 medium eggs (beaten)

Method

  • Start by preheating the oven to 170 (or 160 fan) and preparing your chosen bundt tin. I used the star, which is one of my favourites. Because this mix has chunks of fruit in it, I didn’t choose a tin with an intricate design. I spray my tins with cake release spray and sprinkle with a light dusting of flour.
  • Using a mixer, or by hand, beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure you get it all.
  • Add the egg a bit at a time, with the mixer on slow. Make sure you mix it well after each addition.
  • In a separate bowl, sift together the plain flour, bicarb, salt and cinnamon.
  • Add some of the flour mix to the butter and sugar, and half the yoghurt. Mix. Then add more flour, the rest of the yoghurt, and finally the rest of the flour. Beat all this together with the mixer on a low speed. Some people prefer to do this stage by hand. Make sure it’s all well mixed but be careful not to over-mix it.
  • Now fold in the chunks of apple. These can be whatever size you choose but do bear in mind that the bigger they are the more likely they are to sink, even if you coat them in flour!
  • Once mixed, spoon your batter into the prepared tin, taking care to make sure it’s getting right into the shape of the bundt. Fill ⅔ full and smooth the top, giving it a little wiggle to make sure it’s settled in.
  • Pop in the oven for an hour, then check it and turn if necessary and give it another 15-20 minutes depending on your oven. You can leave it in slightly longer if you wish. This is a pretty moist bake, so don’t worry about it drying out. The apple will help keep the cake moist and the longer it’s in the oven the more crunchy your crust will be.
  • Remove from the oven and leave on a cooling rack in the tin for at least half an hour, longer if you can.
  • Turn out from the tin (and cross your fingers that it comes out!) and allow to cool fully before decorating as you choose. I like to simply dust with icing sugar (just like Norman from Great British Bake Off!! That’s about my level of cake decorating!)

And there you go…a Dorset Apple Cake in bundt form. I took my cake to a jazz band rehearsal and it seemed to go down well. There wasn’t much left! And it’s also pretty appropriate for my Jewish friends – Rosh Hashanah starts this week and one of the traditional foods is apple and honey, symbolising the new year hoping the new year will be sweeter.

As always, I love hearing from you about my recipes so please get in touch if you bake this little gem and let me know how you get on!

All Hail the Jumper Dress!

I love Autumn. Well, I love most things about autumn. If I’m totally honest I’m not so keen on the dark mornings, but pretty much everything else I love: the colours of the trees, the beautiful tone of the sunlight, the smell of woodsmoke, the crisp, bright days, foggy days, the fruit and vegetable harvest, wrapping up warm…

…and jumper dresses!

Ah, the jumper dress. Cosy, smart or casual, wear with boots or heels, accessorise with a cheeky little scarf, chuck it on when you’re not sure what else to wear…brilliant. I don’t know what I’d do without my jumper dresses. I’m not sure how many I’ve got, but it’s quite a few. I’ve got cheap and cheerful ones from Matalan and Primark, mid range from M&S and Oasis, posh ones from Jigsaw and Paul Smith; they are my failsafe wardrobe item and the only time I attempt ‘fashion’ (at which I am rubbish, more often that not).

ImageSpotty Jumper Dress by Paul Smith

Having said how marvellous they are, I do have to say woollen dresses don’t mix that well with a small child. Snot, dribbles of milk, sticky fingers…all not that great on a delicate dress that needs handwashing or, if you’re brave, the wool cycle on your washing machine. I’m scared of putting wool in the washing machine. Every time I do it, I shrink stuff, even on what I think is the right setting. But anyway!

If you haven’t got one, I urge you to give a jumper dress a go. There are lots of different styles and they’re so versatile and perfect for this season.

Here endeth the bit about clothes. Don’t worry, there probably won’t be another clothes blog for ages. Phew.