We are having a bumper year for apples. Whenever I’m driving outside London, I find myself in local farm shops seeking out boxes of beautifully named ribston pippins, lord lambournes or blenheim oranges. Today’s crumble/cake hybrid is wonderful with the fruit’s sweet, sharp notes alongside a nutty sponge seasoned with savoury burnt butter and the gentle aromatics of cinnamon and cardamom.
Brown butter apple crumble cake
Prep 45 min
Cook 45 min
400g cooking apples, peeled, cored, quartered and sliced into half-moons
160g light brown soft sugar
2 large eggs
125g spelt flour
60g ground almonds
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cardamom
For the topping
70g white spelt flour
50g wholemeal flour
80g granulated sugar
A pinch of salt
60g blanched hazelnuts, roughly chopped
Put 130g of the butter in a saucepan set over a medium heat. It will melt and start to foam; using a wooden spoon, scrape the milk solids from the bottom of the pan and keep it on the heat for a few minutes, until the butter turns a lovely tan colour and smells nutty. Pour into a shallow bowl and pop in the fridge to firm up a little. It should be solid, but soft enough to cream with the sugar.
To make the crumble topping, dice the remaining 120g butter and put it in a large bowl. Working quickly and using your fingers, rub the butter into the flours, sugar and salt to make coarse crumbs, then put in the fridge while you make the cake.
Toss the sliced apples with 30g of the light soft brown sugar. Weigh out the remaining sugar, flour, almonds, baking powder and spices into another large bowl, whisk and set aside. Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4 and grease and line a 20-22cm loose-bottomed cake tin.
Once the browned butter has set a little, scrape it into a cake mixer and cream it with the sugar for about five minutes, until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time and mix only until just combined. Fold in the dry ingredients, then scrape the cake mix into the lined tin and smooth out the surface with a spatula. Lay the apples over the top, arranging them in tight circles, then sprinkle over the crumble mix. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until golden, then remove and leave to cool before slicing and serving with Greek yoghurt or creme fraiche.
The simple flex
Make this cake dairy-free by using vegetable oil instead of the butter.