The landscape of south-western England has been marked by its many apple orchards for centuries. It is therefore not surprising that Dorset is proud of its apple cake, which is eaten hot. Of course, you’ll find apple cakes all over Great Britain, but there are regional differences. For example, there are no spices in the apple cakes from the South, but the further north you go, the more spices and dried fruits make their way into the cake. Because we already have a rich selection of cakes with lots of spices, I decided to make the Dorset apple cake because simplicity can sometimes be a relief between all the complex flavours.
This cake is usually baked in a tray and is only a few centimetres thick and very compact in structure. Cox apples are ideal because of their fresh, sour taste, but you can use any red apples.
Toss the apple pieces in some flour (this will prevent sinking during baking).
Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the eggs and make sure they are completely incorporated before adding the milk.
Sift in the flour and mix well, then sift in the baking powder and mix well. Fold the apple pieces through the batter and then spoon into the cake tin.
Meanwhile, for the custard, heat the milk and cream in a saucepan with the sugar, mace and bay leaf. Beat the egg yolks in a large bowl. Discard the mace and bay leaf, then pour a little of the warm milk onto the egg yolks and beat well; this prepares the egg yolks for the warm mixture. Pour the rest of the milk onto the egg yolks, whisking constantly.
Pour the custard back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, stirring with a spatula, until it starts to thicken. Make sure the mixture doesn’t get too hot or you will end up with scrambled eggs. Pour the thickened custard into a jug. Cover the jug with foil to prevent a skin from forming on the custard.
Serve the apple cake warm, cut into squares, and drizzle it with the hot or cold custard.
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