Do you ever get that feeling when there’s a slight chill in the air and you’re craving something baked? Not a cookie or some sort of fruit tart. And nothing too light or anything that would induce a chocolate coma either. You’re craving something that I like to call a “comfort treat”. This Roman Apple Cake checks all the boxes and then some.
My dad typically made this cake plain (i.e. without any icing) and eating it was like one big muffin slice. What you have to watch out for is how dense this cake can get, especially if you’re making this into a layered cake. Rather than whack the batter into a deep pan for baking, you’ll want to separate the batter into two pans – this will allow for a more even baking throughout the sponge.
This time around, the Roman Apple Cake was going to be for a birthday, so it needed some jazzing up with the help of a mascarpone cream cheese icing. The variation of icing I’ve included in this bake does a fabulous job of lifting the cake up with just the right amount of refreshing sweetness, perfect for the the tail end of winter with spring trying to sneak in.
ROMAN APPLE CAKE
Serves 10 – 12 people
Part 1: The cake
20oz brown sugar
6 oz unsalted butter at room temperature
8 oz full fat milk
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
½ tsp cinnamon
21 oz AP flour
1.5lbs medium sized apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
150g walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
- Set the oven to 176℃/350℉
- Grease and lightly dust 2 9” cake tin with flour, set aside.
- In a medium sized bowl, cream the brown sugar and butter together until fluffy.
- Slowly mix in the eggs and milk until well incorporated and mix looks even.
- In a separate bowl, mix the baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and flour together.
- Sift the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and mix well.
- Fold in the chunks of apple and walnuts until just mixed.
- Pour into your prepared tins and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the cake.
- Set aside to cool before removing from the tins.
Part 2: Mascarpone cream cheese icing
You’ll have an easier time making this with all the ingredients at room temperature. If you’re looking to fully cover the cake with icing, I’d suggest creating the recipe at 1.5 or 2 times the below. Store in the fridge, wrapped up if not using immediately and take out of the fridge 30 minutes before use.
375g unsalted butter at room temperature
375g cream cheese at room temperature
2 cups powdered/icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
- In a large bowl and using an electric hand mixer, beat the butter, powdered/icing sugar, salt and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy.
- Mix the cream cheese into the butter mixture until well mixed and lightly whipped.
- Remove the whisks and using a spatula, fold the mascarpone in until just combined. Beware of over mixing here, as the frosting can curdle.
Part 3: Assembly
3 tbsp sugar
¼ cup hot boiled water
150g roasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
¼ cup water
- Dissolve the sugar with boiling water in a small bowl or cup, set aside.
- To make the walnut brittle topping, take a small aluminum pan and bring the sugar to a boil with the water on low heat.
- Let sugar boil for a few minutes – the bubbles will slow down as the sugar cooks. Wait until it reaches a light brown colour, but watch carefully as sugar can easily burn!
- Remove from heat and mix in the walnuts – give it a stir with a wooden spoon and pour onto a prepared tray lined with parchment paper.
- Spread the walnut brittle out and set aside to cool and harden.
- In the meantime, prepare the apple cake sponge by horizontally slicing off 0.5cm of the top of each sponge to remove the top coating. Slice remainder of the sponge cake horizontally, try to get each layer to be about 1.5cm thick. You should end up with 3-4 slices, depending how high you want your cake to be.
- Take the bottom layer and brush a layer of the sugar water to moisten the surface. Spread an even layer of the mascarpone cream cheese icing, about 1 cm on the surface.
- Place the next layer of cake on top.
- Repeat steps 3-4 until the final layer of cake is on top.
- Evenly coat the top and the side of the cake with the icing – I went for a rustic look here, with bits of the sides exposed, but by all means, cover the whole surface of the cake. Place in the fridge to chill.
- Take the hardened walnut brittle and place inside a ziplock plastic bag, squeeze any air out.
- Using a rolling pin or back of a pan, lightly bash the walnut brittle into tiny pieces.
- Use the crushed walnut brittle to finish the cake as you wish – on top in a ring, on the whole surface, or up the sides of the cake.
Any leftover brittle is delicious sprinkled on top of ice cream, mixed in with yogurt or just eaten on its own. Store in an airtight container, and if it starts to get sticky, put it on a tray lined with baking paper and back in the oven on 100℃/212℉ for about 5 minutes to get the moisture out.