Baking is not my forte. My twin daughters recently had their sixth birthday which meant I ended up baking five cakes in one day! It’s a complicated explanation but let’s just say it involved cake for home, cake for school and twins with strong opinions. The process took all day and by the time I’d iced them and dropped one on the ground (I still can’t talk about the vintage plate that broke as a result), it was time to start dinner. So, as much as I love spending time in the kitchen, this was pushing it.
Despite my preference for cooking of the non-baking kind, I do appreciate eating a well-made cake and even more so having a foolproof recipe for a cake that comes out moist and delicious every time. A recipe you can rely on. Over the summer holidays, during our time in Tuscany, I did some cooking with Emma. I pulled out her timeless recipe this morning for an apple cake. It was so easy to make and the apple-top came out caramelised and sticky, turning it into a bona fide dessert in my eyes. Heavier cakes are all too easy to overcook and no one wants to finish a meal with something that needs to be washed down with water … it can spoil the armagnac!
I’ve noticed in France and Italy that pine nuts are often used in sweet foods, particularly in the south-west of France where gateaux pignons are a specialty. In Australia, I would normally just use pine nuts in my trusty pesto recipe, in a salad or to garnish green beans. But in cakes, they give a lovely flavour and texture and Emma’s recipe is a quick and easy way to showcase this.
Apple and Pine Nut Cake
4 golden cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into thin slices
150 gms T45 flour
100gms butter, melted and cooled
80gms sultanas or raisins
50gms pine nuts
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
icing sugar to dust
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and line or grease 20cm round cake pan. Whip the eggs and sugar and in turn add the flour, milk, butter and baking powder. Stir or blend to combine. Pour the cake batter into the cake pan. Sprinkle the top with pine nuts and sultanas and complete by layering the apple slices around the top. Cook for 45 mins to 1 hour. If the apples are beginning to burn, cover with aluminium foil to finish. Serve warm with vanilla bean ice cream or at room temperature with mascarpone.
As I eat this cake, it reminds me of that summer evening in Tuscany, sitting outside on Emma’s terrace with her husband Giancarlo and son Matteo after having shared an amazing few hours together. And this image, for me, is the epitome of that day and the epitome of beautiful Tuscany.