Apple, Maple + Pecan Cake

I can’t believe how fast summer has gone. My baby starts back at school tomorrow – and to think at the beginning of the holidays I was a bit concerned about how I would keep her entertained for almost eight weeks! But I needn’t have worried. We’ve been pretty busy – as well as a recent family holiday to beautiful west Wales, we’ve had trips to the theatre and Buckingham Palace as well as playdates, cinema, parks, crafts and Honey’s personal favourite, coffee shop lunches. We’ve had a lot of fun and truthfully, I’m a little sad it’s over; but the end of summer brings glorious autumn, and I’m definitely an autumn/winter girl! I love nothing better than cosy dark evenings with hot chocolate and the scent of sweet warm spices in the air – which brings me to this particular bake.

Since turning vegan, I’ve noticed that I very rarely feel inclined to make decorative cakes that demand thick swirls of icing. I could make them – after all, there tends to be a good vegan alternative to just about anything these days – but my interest has definitely faded. It’s a bit of a shame as I really enjoyed getting creative, but I’m finding I increasingly lean towards more earthy, less fussy creations. This cake is a really good example of that. It’s not a looker – but it tastes so, so good! It’s a robust cake with no obscure egg substitutes – it uses apple sauce, which not only provides flavour, it is also (conveniently) frequently used in vegan baking for its binding and structural ability. Raisins and pecans (or walnuts if you prefer) add texture and a final sprinkling of demerara sugar adds a lovely sweet, crunchy top. This kind of plain and sensible cake is often referred to as a coffee cake – not because there’s coffee in it, but because a slice is just perfect with a mid-morning cup of coffee.

You’ll need a 20cm/8″ round cake tin, about 3″ deep, oiled and lined

75g raisins
75g chopped pecans (use walnuts or hazelnuts if you like)
250g plain flour
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda in the US)
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp mixed spice or speculaas if you’ve got it. (Pumpkin pie spice mix is great if you’re in the US)
100g Stork (foil wrapped) or your favourite vegan butter
150g white sugar (granulated or caster)
3 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tbsp natural vanilla extract or paste
3 tbsp milk (any)
350g apple sauce from a jar
1-2 tbsp demerara sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. After you’ve prepped your cake tin, measure the raisins and chopped nuts into a bowl then set aside.
In another bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, bicarb, baking powder and spices) and set that aside too.

Using a mixer, beat the Stork/vegan butter, sugar, maple syrup and vanilla until pale and creamy. Add the milk and beat again.

Gradually add the flour mix while beating, until thoroughly combined. Add the apple puree all at once and beat until you have a lovely thick and creamy batter.

Lastly, add the prepped raisins/nuts and mix briefly, just until they are evenly distributed.

Pour the cake mix into the prepared cake tin and smooth it out with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle the demerara sugar on top and place on the middle shelf in the oven. Bake for around 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean (a few moist crumbs is fine – raw cake batter is not. If you pierce a bit of apple then try again!) Place on a wire rack and cool completely in the tin before attempting to remove it. It will keep for a couple of days stored in  a tin.

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