Apple top-and-bottom cake and visiting London

I love getting the train to london to visit relatives. Train journeys can be stressful but if you book a seat in the quiet coach a trip down the east coast rail line is lovely. The yellow sandstone of southern Scotland gives way to the red brick of the English cities and while Newcastle is not particularly beautiful the train soon goes through Durham with its castle and cathedral sharing the hill above the town.

The train stations have a comforting consistency. The signs are all written in the same solid black type and the rooves held aloft by the same elegant ironwork. The same yellow light is used in the boards displaying arrivals and departures and the train guards wear the same uniforms and whistle the same signals.

The only consistency visible in London however is the fast paced life everyone seems to lead. The whole city is filled with people moving at high speed. Crowds flow in waves over the platforms of underground stations and fly past in a constant stream at street level. There is an incredible disversity in these crowds with huge ranges of style, language and nationality. In the time it takes me to walk along one block I hear French, German, something Scandanavian and a snippet of conversation that sounded vaguely Indian in origin. The diversity of languages, cultures and races that meet in London is beautiful and wonderfully complex.

The house of the relatives I am staying with is blissfully calm in comparison to the organised chaos of the streets in town. When I first arrive I sit listening to my great uncle tell stories of people he used to work with when he was a partner in a firm of solicitors. Then my great aunt intervenes and insists that he take me outside for some fresh air and exercise after a long day sitting on a train. We take a long leisurely walk through the surrounding streets while my great uncle provides a near constant stream of information about the buildings we pass and the people who occupy them.
“That house has two swimming pools!” he says, “One in the basement for winter and another outside for winter.” We then turn a corner and he points to a house, informing me that the wife of the man who owns is chairs the fundraising committee of the church opposite despite being Jewish rather than Christian. A wave of his stick indicates the street where one of the most senior Rabbis in England lives. I pause to wonder how on earth he knows so much and then realise it is simply the way he does things. He likes to know when a certain building was built or who bought it when and so he finds out. Over the years I have heard a few of his stories more than once but I don’t interrupt, knowing that he likes to share his knowledge and would simply carry on.

I think back to the day I spent with friends before coming down. We had wanted to have a picnic but the warm weather broke out into a violent summer storm so we fled to me house to make cakes. I soon discovered that my friends and I have differing opinions on how make cakes and the best way to combine the ingredients. It was nice to spend the day with them and I much prefer baking by myself so I can do things my way and adjust the recipe to suit me. I like the simple actions of creaming the butter and sugar together until the colour pales slightly and sifting the flour in, watching it fall into the bowl in dusty white showers. Even washing up seems more interesting when combined with the anticipation of waiting for the cake to cook.

This cake is probably a very good example of me doing things my way. The recipe called for a 9″ pan and I used two 7″ ones then made up a frosting to glue the two cakes together. I also used more than double the amount of cinnamon that it stated because as a family cinnamon is a spice we love.
The original recipe is Dragon’s Apple Cake from 6bittersweets.com

Apple Top-and-Bottom Cake

150g all purpose gluten free flour
140g sugar
1 1/2tsp baking powder
1/2tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4tsp cinnamon
1/8tsp ground nutmeg
2 large eggs
160g yogurt
60g melted butter
1/2tsp vanilla extract
2-3 apples peeled and thinly sliced
60g flaked almonds
3tbsp sugar
3/4tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 180 C and butter and flour two 7″ cake pans.
Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, spices and salt.
Beat the eggs then mix in the yogurt, melted butter and vanilla extract.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.
Divide evenly between the cake pans and arrange the apple slices on top. Mix the almonds, 3tbsp of sugar and cinnamon and then sprinkle over the top.
Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Apple Cinnamon Frosting

1 egg white
90g sugar
4 drops vanilla extract
1 apple finely grated
1tbsp cinnamon

Use an electric whisk or a mixer to beat the egg white with the sugar until fluffy.
Add the vanilla extract, grated apple and cinnamon and beat until peaks form.

Assembly

Carefully turn one of the cakes upside down on a plate. Spread with a layer of frosting and place the second cake the right way up on top. If you have spare frosting put a couple of large spoonfuls on top of each slice.

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