Oh I just love Autumn! Apples, the turning of the leaves, the crisp air, sweaters, and holidays… this year September brought us Rosh Hashanah/Jewish New Year and of course at the end of October comes my favorite — Halloween!!
However for many of my British friends, just a little bit later, on the 5th of November, there’s another special day — Guy Fawkes Night/Bonfire Night. I haven’t been in England for Bonfire Night, but I definitely would love to in the future! In the meanwhile, all of my fave UK food magazines and websites are touting recipes for this fun evening. One that stuck out at me three years ago, and has since become a firm favorite, is this Spiced Toffee Apple Cake.
I often found myself wondering as I made this, and other “toffee” treats, what exactly was the difference was between caramel and toffee. In the U.S, caramel is more popular in desserts, and in the U.K. toffee in desserts seems to more popular. But what makes them different?
Well, my research has surprisingly given me lots of conflicting info, but my final conclusion is… that they are remarkably similar! Which is why for many, they are basically interchangeable in recipes.
Toffee is often made with brown sugar (though many recipes do call for white sugar), butter, and cream and cooked just until the sugar is blonde/light brown. Caramel is made with white sugar, butter and cream, but is cooked much longer, until the sugar is deep shade of brown. Toffee is often left to firm up and then cut into small chewy candies. Caramel becomes more brittle when it is hard. (Though just to confuse things even further, Americans make something called “English toffee” which is covered in chocolate and chopped almonds (Think: Heath or Skor bar). I have yet to find this on an actual “English” website, so I’m guessing it’s not an English tradition?!
Well, in any case – toffee and caramel may look slightly different, but they are both incredibly tasty 🙂
I’ve made this cake a few times, and I usually buy soft English toffees (German: Weichcaramel) and melt them in a saucepan.
You can also use jarred caramel sauce, or make your own toffee or caramel sauce. There are many recipes on the internet!
The other item that’s not typical is the “Mixed Spice” which I’m guessing is fairly common in the UK, but is definitely not sold here in Switzerland. Here is how to make a jar of Mixed Spice: (keep it in a ziplock or spare jar for future use)
- 1 Tbsp ground allspice (see note below)
- 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon (Zimt)
- 1 Tbsp ground nutmeg (Muskatnuss)
- 2 tsp ground mace (Macis)
- 1 tsp ground cloves (Nelken, gemahlen)
- 1 tsp ground coriander (Koriander)
- 1 tsp ground Ginger (Ingwer)
Blend all spices together, and store in a sealed jar away from light.
Notes: Allspice is called Jamaikapfeffer/Nelkenpfeffer/Piment and usually found in Turkish shops
Recipe by BBC Good Food
- 200g Dates, roughly chopped
- 200ml Milk, plus a splash
- 250g Butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
- 280g Flour
- 200g Light Soft Brown Sugar (search my website for how to make your own soft brown sugar)
- ½ tsp Baking Powder
- 4 large Eggs
- 1 Tbsp Mixed Spice (see recipe for making mixed spice in blog post)
- 2 tsp Vanilla Extract (or Vanilla Paste)
- 4 Apples (I used red and green)
- Squeeze lemon juice
- Handful of Toffees (see note in blog post)
- Icing/powdered sugar, for dusting
- Heat oven to 180C/350F. Grease and line a 20 x 30cm baking tray with baking paper.
- Put the dates and milk in a small pan and bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside for 15 mins to cool.
- Process the date mixture to a smooth purée in a food processor or blender, then scrape into a large mixing bowl. Tip in the butter, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, eggs, mixed spice and vanilla, and set aside while you prepare the apples.
- Quarter and core the apples, then slice quite thinly, tossing in a little lemon juice as you go.
- Quickly beat together the cake ingredients with an electric mixer until smooth, then scrape into the baking tray. Arrange the apple slices, overlapping in rows, on top of the cake – you should be able to get 3 rows lengthways down the tray. Bake for 45-50 mins until a skewer poked into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the tray.
- Put the toffees in a small pan with a good splash of milk and gently melt, stirring, until runny. To finish, dust with a little icing/powdered sugar, then drizzle sauce all over the cake. Cut into squares or slices to serve.