I’m very competitive by nature. Even something so seemingly trivial as a village cake baking competition is not off limits and requires several practice attempts beforehand to get it just so.
The cake baking competition in question is the ladies-only category of the Lacock Garden & Allotment Association Annual Flower Show (
). It’s a specified recipe, no deviations allowed, at least, none so far as they can tell, and women only may enter (don’t worry, there is also a men-only category, their set recipe this year is carrot cake). This year for women it is Apple Cake with Cinnamon. The set recipe is printed in the program, it gives no credits for me to reproduce so I can only assume it belongs to one of the good ladies of the Allotment Association.
My first attempt was a bit off the cuff, thrown together haphazardly like a contestant on the Great British Bake Off facing up to the technical challenge. Having no tools to peel or core the apples the slices came out rather lumpy (you might have kindly called them ‘rustic’) which gave an less than favourable overall appearance to the cake, especially when tipped lazily into the regulation 9″ baking tin from the frying pan where they were caramelised with no ceremony whatsoever. I was also lacking a lemon to zest so the flavour and oils this would have no doubt added to the sponge mix were missing. Mary and Paul would not have been impressed.
Not so the second attempt. I took to Amazon and ordered myself two things that have never entered mine or my mother’s kitchen before: an apple corer and a peeler. The peeler was somewhat looked down upon in my youth as the weapon of wimps and veg was peeled expertly with a knife. And an apple corer, well, the less said about that the better. Unwrapping them from the packaging was like pulling the Philosopher’s Stone from the mirror and finding yourself suddenly with something terrible and wonderful and forbidden in your pocket – keep it secret, keep it safe!
Still, tooled up, the apples came out uniform and beautiful. I Googled some advice on caramelising and replicated my findings, this time laying them into the tin in concentric circles and showering them with lemon zest. It came out perfectly, a wonderful puddingy cake that keeps for a week and is still moist. The lemon zest lifts it considerably – I have since stocked up on unwaxed lemons. I trialled this batch on the other half, siblings, fiances, friends and friends of friends to positive reviews, hopefully they will forgive me when I hand them a plate of Attempt Three.