It’s baking time again as in my family, all our birthdays are bunched together in the first few months of the year! It’s my dad’s turn this time, and his favourite cake is my mum’s signature bake – the Traditional Dutch Apple Cake or the Ouderwetse Nederlandse Appeltaart. It’s an old family recipe that’s been passed down the generations, where my mum has taught me now like my grandma taught her before me. I loved working from the old ripped, food splattered recipe sheet with the little marks and adjustments that have been added over the year. The taste, sight and smell of the cake brings me right back to my childhood living in Holland and although I often get a slice in cafes when we go back to visit, it’s never quite as good as my mums!
Unlike the apple sponge cakes you tend to get in England, the traditional Dutch style involves a sweet pastry base with the sliced apples kept intact and with a pastry lattice. The result gives a lovely contrasting taste and texture between the pastry and the apples and it really is one of those dishes where you want a bit of both in each mouthful for the full effect. It’s also quite a rustic looking cake so if like my mum you’re often too impatient to plait the strips on top, it’ll have that authentic homemade look about it. And it’s certainly not stopped her from getting lots of requests of how to make this over the years!
A few last tips – depending on your apples, there can be quite a bit of liquid there’s a chance of getting a ‘soggy bottom’. So while Paul Hollywood from Great British Bake Off would not approve of me recommending this, I’d say it’s worth having a precautionary sheet of baking paper under the baking tin when it’s in the oven in case of any leakage! You’ll also need a spring-form ring cake tin for this recipe. And unlike many other pastries which can be a bit daunting to make yourself, let me reassure you that this pastry is really easy and you can’t really go wrong with it!
For the pastry:
– 300g flour
– 200g unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 100g sugar
– 2 eggs
For the filling:
– 3 large cooking apples, preferably quite a sour variety
– 75g sugar
How to make it…
1. First, preheat the oven to about 170°C/Gas Mark 4. Then, make the pastry by kneading the butter, flour, sugar and 1 and 1/2 eggs together until you’ve formed a smooth, round ball. Leave this in the fridge or a cool place for around 15 minutes to rest. While you wait, grease your spring-form cake tin well with butter.
2. Next, take your pastry out of the fridge. Taking around 3/4 of the pastry, use a clean, floured surface roll out your pastry so it’s about 5mm thick. Place this carefully into your cake tin, pressing it into the tin so it snugly fits and ensuring the bottom and sides are fully covered. Cut off any excess pastry from the top and add this to the rest of your remaining pastry.
3. For the filling, core the apples, cut them into disks and then cut these in half (as shown in picture). Then, mix them with the sugar and put them in the pastry base.
4. Next, take your remaining pastry and roll this out to around 3mm on a clean, floured surface. Slice these into thin strips and start placing them over the top of the cake. Do this by starting with a strip in one corner, and adding a strip to the left or the right in turn, weaving the strips through to a lattice where the pastry strip alternates between being above or below the other piece of pastry at each cross section. This sounds much more complicated than it is – it’s actually fairly easy in practice. When you’re finished, cut off any over-long strips and press the end into the edges of the base as shown.
5. Finally, add a use your remaining 1/2 egg to glaze the top of the pastry. Then, put it in the oven and bake for 45 – 60 minutes. It can be eaten warm, but this cake is best served cold so it’s best to leave it to cool for a few hours. And best of all, this cake actually improves with age so it’s a great one to bake ahead!
Happy birthday Dad!