To be honest, I was a little bit disappointed when my friend requested for her birthday cake not a towering chocolate and caramel creation, or some challenging multi-layered pastry tart, but a simple apple tea cake. Simple and tea and birthday and cake are not words meant to be put together in the same sentence! Birthdays are such a good excuse to make lots of pretty layers with all the favourite flavours of the birthday girl or boy. Simple tea cakes, they can kind of be made any day! I expected big things from this friend. She is a pretty impressive lover of cakes that has eaten many a brownie or slice of cake I’ve brought in to school or uni. But you can’t go against birthday wishes.
There’s a reason under “decorative/layer cakes” in my recipe section there’s no healthy recipes yet listed. (Apart from it being an obvious major challenge) usually celebration cakes are meant to be just that, a bit of a celebration. They’re meant to be sky-high for lots of sharing. And they’re meant to be specially flavoured depending on the cake receiver. They’re meant to look really pretty and dressed up in fluffy icing, or elegant and drizzled with some dark chocolate ganache. How was I meant to make an any day apple teacake that lived up to these kind of birthday dreams??
But this cake turned out not to be an any day sort of cake.
To start with, the smell of it baking in the oven is amaazing. Think warm apple pie and spice cookies and hot crumbles and custard and mmmmm. You might think this is weird, but once it was baked I put it on a plate, brought it upstairs and kept the cake next to my computer all morning, so that while I studied I could smell it’s apply, spicy goodness. All day the house smelled like cinnamon and apple, and I’m kind of sad no one needs an apple cake again today just to perfume the house.
The recipe is adapted from The Healthy Chef, a great baking blog full of healthy recipe ideas. I wasn’t actually looking for a “healthy” recipe, just one that didn’t use eggs, milk or white flour. (Ok, I know how silly that sounded). And I’ll admit, at first I was a little worried that a cake made entirely on a foundation of cubed apples would be a little…bland. Or watery. Or strange and thick. It really wasn’t at all though. I should have known from the combination of apple and cinnamon in cupcakes I’ve made before, that it was going to turn out well. I used wholemeal flour, and it formed the barest wisp of custard-like batter around the soft, spiced apples. There’s something really warm about this cake, even if you eat it cold. It tastes a lot like the insides of an apple pie.
The birthday girl really liked it too, which must be a good sign. I’m one of those terrible people that gives someone a birthday cake, and proceeds to eat a slice of it almost straight away and sometimes asks for another piece before they’re finished theirs. So I had ample opportunity to sample this cake. Between three of us we almost ate the entire thing in under an hour, which is a testament to how easy it is to eat. It’s a very light cake, and fun fact; if you cut it into 12 slices it’s less than 150 calories for a piece.
I don’t really think about calories very much but that’s pretty impressive for something that tastes like pie. I think so, anyway. You always hear people advertising their recipes as healthy enough to “eat for breakfast”. Well this cake is definitely healthy enough to eat for breakfast. It’s like an entire serving of fruit just for you. And all the goodness of whole grains! And olive oil for your skin!
Also, who likes my new doilies? Doilies are No. 1, the funnest name of anything ever, and No. 2 the funnest pieces of cloth ever. Seriously, they’re so random. Imagine the days when every afternoon people had tea and cake and a table covered with scones and doilies. Times have really changed. My new doilies are actually old doilies from Vinnies discovered by my step-dad and quickly purchased. I love the little flower patterns, they’re actually so cute. I like to think they were knitted by a little grandma somewhere for her grandkids who grew up and didn’t really need or want so many doilies, and now they’ve come to me.
The original recipe calls for almond meal and a topping of walnuts, which I omitted. If you like nuts or want a gluten free option, substitute 2 cups of almond flour for the 1 cup of wholemeal, and increase the amount of apples to about eight. Believe me, I tried to fit in the original recipe’s calling for 800g of apple chunks, but there was just no way the tin or the batter was going to hold so much apple. It was pretty heavy on the apple as it were. But if you want more of an apple slice with occasional hints of cake batter, the original recipe calls for 800g (about 7 medium apples).
Wholemeal Apple Cinnamon Cake: Adapted from Apple Cake
2 tablespoons chia seeds mixed with 4 tablespoons water to form a gel
130g (1 cup) wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each nutmeg and ground ginger
600g apple (3 cups, just over a pound), chopped into small 2cm chunks (skinned optional)
70ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
85ml (1/4 cup) maple syrup or runny honey for non-vegan
110ml soy, almond or rice milk (1/2 cup)
Stir up the chia and water and leave to thicken.
Preheat the oven to 150C (300F) and grease line a 20cm round cake tin (8 inch) with baking paper. Whisk in a bowl the flour, spices and baking powder. Mix the honey, oil, milk and chia water together and add to the dry ingredients. Stir gently to combine. Pour in the apple chunks and stir everything gently together until just combined. Bake for about 35 minutes to 45. It’s hard to tell if the cake is done because the apple chunks will wipe any mix off a skewer, but the middle should spring bake when you touch it and the cake should be nice and domed. The edges should be just beginning to pull away from the sides of the tin. Cut into slices and eat warm, but it’s great at room temperature too. Best eaten within two days, any longer and the top will go slightly soft from the juice of the apples.