This dramatic-looking cake is sure to wow guests at any autumn gathering. They’ll never believe that it’s really not that tricky to make. The buttercream can be made up to four days in advance and the cakes the day before, leaving you to make the toffee apples on the day. A top tip for cleaning your sugar syrup pan with ease after use is to fill it with water and pop it on the hob to boil. Once it’s bubbling, carefully pour the water down the sink, which takes any dissolved toffee remnants with it.
YOU WILL NEED:
6 twigs, wooden skewers or lollipop sticks
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4. Grease and line 2 x 18cm round, loose-bottomed cake tins with parchment paper and set aside on a baking tray.
2. To make the cake, place the brown sugar and eggs in a large bowl and beat with an electric whisk until pale, smooth and glossy. With the machine still whisking, slowly pour in the oil. Gently stir in the grated apples. Mix the flour, ground almonds, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda together in a separate bowl, then gently fold into the mixture until evenly blended. Divide the batter evenly between the two tins, spreading them level. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove and set aside to cool a little. Carefully remove the cakes from the tins and leave to cool completely on a wire rack.
3. Meanwhile, to make the buttercream, beat the butter in a large bowl of an electric mixer until smooth and softened. Add half of the icing sugar and beat on low to combine. Add the remaining sugar and the mixed spice and again beat on low until well combined and smooth. Set aside until ready to use.
4. For the toffee apples, line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper and sit a lightly greased wire rack on top. Place the sugar in a small, deep non-stick pan over a medium heat and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar is completely dissolved and golden brown. Remove from the heat.
5. Meanwhile, wash and dry the apples well. Cover the tips of the twigs, if using, with a piece of baking paper and pierce that end in through the top of each apple, down into the centre. There is no need to cover the tips of the wooden skewers or lollipop sticks, if using, unless you want that look for the finished effect. Tip the toasted nuts into a small bowl.
6. Working with caution, as the melted sugar will be extremely hot, dip an apple two-thirds of the way into the melted sugar to coat, holding it by its stick. Immediately dip the coated apple into the nuts to stick, then stand it upright on the wire rack. Repeat with the remaining apples. Leave to set completely.
7. To assemble, place a dot of buttercream in the centre of a cake stand or serving plate and sit one of the cakes on top. Spread 75g of the salted caramel over, followed by 175g of the buttercream icing. Sit the other cake on top, then gently spread the remaining buttercream over the top and sides. Don’t worry if some of the crumbs appear in the icing, as a rustic look is okay!
8. Spoon the remaining salted caramel (melted slightly, if necessary) all around the top edge of the cake, allowing it to drip down the sides. Arrange the toffee apples sitting on top and go wow your guests!