Monday, 3 October 2011

Five Spice Moist Apple Cake (and Happy Birthday to me!)

It's my birthday today! I'm 21 now ): That sounds really old. I don't feel fully adult yet.

I had a small meetup with some good friends on Saturday, actually, large, if you consider the skype meetup with the other good friends in the US/Singapore now. It was fantastic having everyone there, virtual or physical, and it was a fine night. It was a fine day too, what with London's freak summer in october and I spent the day doing things I love- managing the farmers' market at Pimlico in the morning and in the afternoon, cooking.

The menu was heavily spiced, despite the hot hot weather, because the cook gets to choose and I'm very biased towards spice (: Carrot and lentil soup, masala minced beef and kidney beans chilli, curry spices-roasted chicken drumsticks, chilli and garlic roast cauliflower, and spiced basmati rice. I didn't want to do anything difficult, so it was stuff that needed hardly any attention or exact recipes, mostly just cooked according to taste, smell, and the things that caught my eye in the kitchen and the market.

Oh, except for the cake. I'm not a great baker so I always turn to recipes for them, double-check for positive reviews, and then pray for good results. I know it's not the prettiest of cakes, but I would say it turned out really good, and if you like soft, moist squidgy apple-y cakes, you'll probably love this. I was happily surprised, because me being me, I reached for five-spice powder instead of cinnamon.. same colour, sorry. But all's well that ends well, and it even got roommate-approved (she's a brilliant baker).

Five Spice Moist Apple Cake (adapted from here)
makes an 8" square cake
125g grassfed unsalted butter
225g fine unrefined brown cane sugar
2 eggs, beaten
225g organic plain flour (can be adapted for gluten free baking using 90g superfine rice flour, 90g sticky rice flour, 45g tapioca starch, I'll test one day)
enough whole (full-fat please) grassfed milk to loosen the batter
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp five spice powder
2 tsp cinnamon (because I realised after the first tsp)
300g apples (I used 3-4 small egremot russets--ugly skin but incredible sweet flesh, and 1 large saturn-- beautiful red sweet juicy firm. Don't settle for the boring galas or coxes from the supermarket!)
3 tbsp honey + 1 tbsp melted butter

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celsius.
2. Cream the softened butter and sugar for 2 min, then mix in the beaten egg.
3. Sift flour, spices and baking powder together and fold into the mixture, adding enough milk to loosen the batter.
4. Peel and chop up the russets and stir into the mix. Slice the saturn apple into thin slices for later.
5. Pour into a buttered, baking paper-lined springform cake tin, or in my case an 8" deep baking tray. (opt) If attempting to make rushed cake look prettier, arrange the apple slices on top, overlapping.

6. Bake for 1 hour, until risen and browned and a skewer inserted comes out clean. About 10 min before it's about to be done, glaze with the butter and honey.

It was a mistake that turned out to be a good thing, because there was just that very subtle hint of fennel, cloves and star anise in the background, in addition to the cinnamon. In fact, it's probably not detectable, though you do get a sense of "something extra". The batter is going to go into my bookmarked collection of recipes, because it's simple and delicious- tender and moist, not airy like a sponge (which I usually hate) but not at all dense or stodgy, and will probably work just as well with whatever fruits are in season.

And I thought I'd ride on some birthday luck maybe, so I'm entering this for the Autumnal Baking Challenge giveaway at What Kate Baked, and the Simple and in Season event at Fabulicious Food.


  1. Happy Birthday Girl :)
    This cake looks great, I posted one sometimes back, but this looks awesome, keep baking and have a great day!

  2. Happy 21 Birthday Shu Han!

  3. Happy 21st Birthday Shu Han!!
    Sounds like you had a fabulous day and night of celebrating!!
    This cake looks amazing :)

  4. Happy 21st Birthday! The menu sounds really delicious and the cake looks good too! I can understand mixing up the cinnamon and five-spice-powder. What a coincidence that it happened to me with my spiced apple yeasted bread. I must say it turned out quite delicious :)

  5. Happy 21st! Spicy food on a hot day - sounds perfectly natural for a Singaporean!

  6. Happy 21st Birthday Shu Han! I remember my 21st very well because that's my first birthday I celebrated after coming to the US and legally allowed drinking! Oh boy that's a long time ago! I'm so envious you are THAT age. I hope you had a a great birthday! The apple cake looks really great and perfect to celebrate your special day! ;-)

  7. Happy birthday (in late)!!! What a beautiful and original b-day cake!!!
    Have a nice day

  8. Happy Birthday! This cake looks fabulous! I don't know how you can be such an excellent cook and baker at your age! Congratulations!
    I have never thought of adding 5-spice to sweet dishes. The only way I use it is in fried rice.

  9. Happy Birthday! I love spiced apple cake. It's wonderful if you sprinkle demerara sugar on top before baking as it makes a lovely crispy shell which goes really well with the apples! Beautiful! :)

  10. Happy 21st Birthday, Shu Han!! Till this day, you never cease to impress me with your skill and craft in the kitchen. Very talented and dedicated too! And I have no doubt in my mind that you will continue to go very far in Life. Cheering you on! Hope you had a GREAT celebration!! =)

  11. dom: thank you!

    munaty: thanks, i'll go check yours out for sure!

    ann: thank you (:

    biren: haha to be honest, the five spice was an accident..

    little macaroon: haha I didn't even realise that, but yes, that must be true!

    nami: I want to be 18 ): haha but thanks alot and I had a great day!

    manu: thanks manu! no no you're not late (:

    sissi: thanks sissi, well it was an accident...

    charles: I brushed it with the honey and butter before it was done, and it did give a sweet crisp shell too; thanks for the demerera sugar tip!

    winston: thank you, i'm really touched! you too, keep on posting (:

  12. Happy birthday to you! Hope you're having a wonderful day. The cake looks great!

  13. it looks so yummy! and cute!

    PS. Thanks for visiting my blog. I was going to reply there but there is no reply function on blogspot :(

    I do actually enjoy many British varieties of leafy green. One of my fav is Swiss chard, which, when stir-fried, tastes extremely Chinese! I do find the British public increasingly accepting oriental vegetables. They might not know about Tung Choi or pea shoots yet but I do know many British people who love Pak Choi and Chinese leaf.

    In addition, there are several types of British veg which are brilliant if cooked in a slightly Chinese way. I like to "oil braise" my green beans, green peppers and courgettes. "Oil braising" is a common cooking technique around the Shanghai region. I will write about it soon, perhaps when I come back from China in a couple of weeks.

    Anyway it's nice to meet someone on googleblog who is also in Britain and loves cooking! :)

  14. Happy belated Birthday Shu Han.Hope I'm not too late but better late than never, right. Wow, you are such a good cook & you are only 21. Great job! Your five spice moist apple cake looks soo yummy. I gonna give it a try since now is apple season over here.

  15. Happy Birthday! And thank you for entering the Challenge!

  16. happy belated birthday to you, shu han! that cake looks great to me and now i'm thinking maybe i can subsitute cinnamon powder with 5 spice powder just in case i'm short of it...

  17. Happy belated birthday! HEHE! Love the cake! :)

  18. michael: thanks!

    crunchynut: yes, it was nice meeting you on your blog! That's what I do, I stirfry British vegetables and stuff, they all work out quite well (: Cool, do write about oil braising, I think I haven't tried that before!

    i-lostinausten: thank you!!

    kate: thanks kate, please let me win ;)

    lena: thanks, but I don't suggest doing that to ALL recipes!!!

    shuqi: yay thanks for the socks!

  19. Happy 21st Birthday Shu Han. 5-spice with apple - I think I tried this once because I was out of cinnamon. It worked Ok except the mix I had was not the best probably! I see you have a few sourdough recipes which is great. I make bread everyday, I need to make other stuff such as those mentioned in your blog

  20. Thank you Shu Han for entering this recipe into Simple and in Season - a round up will be posted today. Ren

  21. Happy belated birthday!!! Sounds like you had a great time. I'm wishing you a fabulous 21st year!

  22. That's right, apple-flavoured pastries taste nicer with some cinnamon! Great work with this! I can imagine how yummy it would taste (sorry for the overdue reply). :)