A slice of home: Apple tea cake brings fond memories to an Aussie ex-pat

Fran Sun / Photo

Fran Sun

One of the major grocery stores in Australia, Coles, has always had a few stalwart products in its bakery section. Which is a huge relief, right? Haven’t we all been in a sticky situation where you forgot there was a potluck at work today, or you know a coworker has a birthday and you ran out of time to make them a cake? Of course, we have. So off I would go to Coles, or the other major grocery chain, Woolworths, for a pre-made cake. They both have iconic, popular cakes that have stood the test of time.

To me, the classic cake from Coles is the apple tea cake. To clarify, there’s no tea in it; you eat it with a cup of tea. Naturally, darling.

My very good friend Leah, who lives in San Francisco with her gorgeous family and has a wealth of experience in professional cooking, posted a picture on Facebook of an apple tea cake she made. She mentioned the Coles classic in this post, and it sent me on a wild reminiscent journey through sweet apple and fluffy cake memories — ahh! Leah is also an Australian ex-pat, and we often chat about things we miss about the homeland. This is just one example.

Thankfully, Leah also posted the recipe, so I was able to gleefully make my own! I played with it a little; I don’t have the expertise that she does so I did have to make a couple of adjustments. Perhaps our ovens are just a little different, too.

I added an extra egg to my second bake, plus a general bump up of all ingredients because Leah’s recipe used an 8-inch pan and I only had a 9-inch. I realized that the larger pan actually adds a whole 25 percent of volume, so they’re not as interchangeable as I first thought. I also used one less apple, because I felt that the juice from the apple made the top too wet. Perhaps my apples were too moist! I used Pink Lady apples for the first, Granny Smiths for the second.

The second cake definitely looked a little more statuesque and regal, held together better with a tighter crumb, and was not as “wet” on top, due to using less apple. However, I had some feedback from my team of taste testers (i.e., my husband’s fellow judicial law clerks in the federal courthouse) that the second one was a tiny bit eggy and dry, though still delicious. So take the adjustments with a grain of salt. They’re a discerning bunch, aren’t they? Leah suggests just adding a yolk rather than a whole additional egg. For your reference, I’ve put the measurements I used in the second cake in parentheses after each ingredient. These aren’t exact, they’re just my trialled method.

Leah also mixes the whole thing together if the butter is soft enough, but I really feel that creaming the butter and sugar makes this cake fluffier, so I’ve stuck with that old faithful technique.

Apple tea cake

(Adapted from LeahCooksSometimes.blogspot.com)

  • 1.5 sticks room-temperature butter (second cake: +2 Tbsp.)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar (¾ cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (1.5 tsp.)
  • 2 eggs, room temperature (3 eggs)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (½ cup)
  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour (1.75 cups)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder (2.5 tsp.)
  • (½ teaspoon salt [Leah didn’t use any])
  • 3-4 apples, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (2-3 apples)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350F. Leah used a lower temperature, but I found the higher temperature to assist with drying out the apples on top and making the cake set.

Grease an 8-inch or 9-inch (depending on which measurements you use) springform pan with butter and flour or cake release (I swear by this stuff).

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each. Add vanilla and buttermilk. Beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add this to the wet mixture and mix until combined. Scrape batter into prepared pan and scatter apples evenly over the top of the batter. Sprinkle brown sugar on top of the apples.

Bake for 50-60 minutes or until middle is springy and set and edges look crispy. Mine is a little more “caramelized” on top because on the first iteration I set the broiler on low to dry the top a little. You needn’t do this!

Fran Sun

Fran is a new stay at home mom who moved to Rutland from Australia in 2015.

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