Autumn Hedgerow Celebration Cake (Apple, Blackberry & Salted Caramel)

Cakes

As someone who is perpetually cold I favour the summer months weather-wise, but when it comes to food seasons, Autumn is the winner for me. Root vegetables, roasts, comforting one-pot dinners and baked fruits, sugared and spiced; you can’t beat them. With this in mind and as an ode to the season and the produce that comes with it, I’ve created a hedgerow-themed celebration cake. Made up of spiced sponges studded with Bramley apple pieces, a tart blackberry compote and smooth salted caramel Swiss meringue buttercream- it’s a bit of a project bake, but so worth the effort.

Ingredients

For the cakes

  • 250g golden syrup
  • 190g unsalted butter
  • 175g light brown soft sugar
  • 375g self raising flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • large pinch salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 260ml semi-skimmed milk
  • 1 very large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1tsp corn flour

For the blackberry compote

  • 450g fresh blackberries
  • zest and juice 1 lemon
  • 5-6tbsp caster sugar

For the Swiss meringue buttercream (I’d only attempt this with electric whisk/beaters!)

  • 150g caster sugar, 50g butter, 100ml double cream, salt (this is for the caramel which is added to a Swiss meringue buttercream base)
  • 4 egg whites
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 275g unsalted butter, very soft (but not greasy)

To decorate

  • fresh blackberries, hazelnuts, apple crisps, rosemary sprigs

Method

  1. Grease and line two 8 inch cake tins. Preheat the oven to 170c.
  2. Start off by making the cakes. To do this place the syrup, butter and light brown soft sugar in a saucepan and melt over a medium heat. Set aside to cool a little.
  3. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, spices, salt and bicarbonate of soda, then make a well in the middle. Break the eggs into a jug and add the milk, then stir together with a fork and add into the well, along with the melted butter mixture. Whisk everything together with a hand whisk until just combined.
  4. Toss the apple pieces in corn flour and fold in, then distribute the batter between the two cake tins. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Once baked let the cakes cool completely in the tins.
  5. Meanwhile, make the blackberry compote by placing the blackberries, lemon juice and zest and sugar in a saucepan set over a medium heat. Cook, stirring often until thickened and jammy. Set aside to cool.
  6. For the buttercream, start off by making a salted caramel sauce.To do this put the sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan and set it over a low heat. Wait until the sugar has all melted (swirl the pan to encourage it to do so but don’t stir!) then up the heat and allow it to reach a deep golden brown. When it gets to this stage, add the butter and stir (it will spit a little), then add the cream and stir again for a couple more minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and once cool enough to taste add salt to your liking. Set aside to cool completely.
  7. While the caramel is cooling, place the egg whites and caster sugar in a saucepan and whisk together (just a hand whisk will do here). Keep stirring over a medium heat until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar has dissolved, then transfer to a large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment) and whisk until it’s completely cool and will hold a stiff peak.
  8. Now continue to whisk, adding a heaped tablespoon of the butter every few seconds. Whisk until it’s all come together and is thick and glossy, then add 3-4 heaped tablespoons of your cooled caramel (add a little more or less to taste). Don’t worry if the mix looks curdled at any point, whisking will bring it back together with time. Once it’s ready you can start assembling the cake.
  9. Remove the cakes from the tins. If they’re domed at all, even off the tops, then slice each sponge in half, leaving you with 4 even layers. Place the first layer on your serving plate. Pile half the buttercream into a piping bag and pipe around the edge of the first layer twice (leaving a roughly 1.5 inch wall of buttercream). Fill this with a third of the blackberry compote then repeat the process until all the sponges are used up.
  10. Use the remaining buttercream to cover the whole cake, semi-naked style. Decorate as desired- I like rustic/natural decorations but the world is your oyster!

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