Apple cake with saffron custard

Apple cake with saffron custard

Torta di mele con crema allo zafferano

By
From
Tuscany
Serves
10
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

We ate this delightfully light apple cake at Trattoria I Barberi in Siena. Tucked away on a side street slightly out of the centre of the town, the trattoria is well worth the walk to discover Chef Nicola’s cooking. To make the cake gluten-free, substitute the wheat flour for cornflour (cornstarch).

The custard is flavoured with saffron, obtained from the stamens of the crocus flower. It takes around 125,000 flowers to produce 1 kg of saffron, hence it is actually worth more per kilo than gold today. The fields around San Gimignano were full of flowers in the Middle Ages and saffron was known as ‘red gold’. The profits from the production helped fund the town’s famous towers. Saffron is being grown again in Tuscany thanks to the slow food movement.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient
125g softened salted butter, plus extra for greasing if required
180g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
225g self-raising flour
2 level teaspoons baking powder
2 baking powder vanilla extract
1 lemon, finely grated zested
2 large dessert apples, peeled and finely sliced
25g nuts, such as flaked almonds, pine nuts or walnuts
25g apricot jam
1 tablespoon icing sugar, to serve

For the custard

Quantity Ingredient
1 teaspoon good-quality saffron strands
500ml whole milk
3 egg yolks
25g caster sugar
10g cornflour

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and line a 20 cm cake tin with baking parchment (or grease it with butter).
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl with an electric whisk or in a stand mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, and whisk again for 10 minutes until the mixture is light and fluffy again. Add the flour, baking powder, vanilla extract and lemon zest to the bowl and whisk together. Fold in the sliced apples with a large spatula and spoon the batter into the lined (or greased) tin. Level the surface with the spatula.
  3. Bake in the oven for 40–45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then gently remove the cake from the tin and transfer it to a wire rack to cool, top facing up.
  4. Toast the nuts in a dry frying pan until lightly golden. Put the jam in a small bowl and stir in 1 tablespoon of very hot water to loosen it. Spread the jam over the cake using a pastry brush, then scatter the toasted nuts around the rim of the cake, creating a border of about 5 cm. Sift the icing sugar over the nuts to serve.
  5. For the custard, soak the saffron strands in 3 tablespoons of just-boiled water in a heatproof cup. Heat the milk in a medium saucepan until warm. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, sugar and cornflour in a bowl. Whisk 1 ladleful of the warmed milk into the egg yolk mixture, then pour this mixture into the saucepan of milk, and add the saffron strands and their soaking water. Stir with a whisk continuously for a few minutes until the mixture thickens, then remove from the heat and serve with the cake.
Tags:
Italy
Italian
Caldesi
Tuscany
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