Every apple season I usually reach first for lemon and sugar to add tartness and sweetness to fruit that already has enough of both. Sugar adds gloss and transparency to the apple flesh, and its stickiness helps to bind the fruit, but it can mask the fruit's own sweetness.
150g unsalted butter, softened
zest of 3 oranges, finely grated
200g brown sugar
5 medium dessert apples, such as granny smith
3 eggs (60g each)
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp ground mace or nutmeg
2 tsp baking powder
For the syrup:
75g brown sugar
75ml brandy, calvados, or orange juice for alcohol-free
To serve: creme fraiche
1. Line the base of an 18 centimetre-deep cake tin with a single sheet of buttered foil, pressed carefully into the edges and up the sides. This will hold the syrup after baking.
2. Beat the butter, zest and brown sugar until smooth. Peel two of the apples, coarsely grated (discard the core), add to the mix, and beat. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well between each.
3. Peel, core and dice the remaining apples. Stir the flour, spice and baking powder through the butter mixture, then stir in most of the diced apple. Press the remaining apple onto the top and bake for about 50-60 minutes at 180C/160C fan/350F or until a skewer comes out clean.
4. Leave the cake until warm. Then, gently heat the brandy and sugar in a saucepan until almost hot and the sugar is dissolved. Spoon the sauce over the cake and leave until cold. Serve with a dollop of creme fraiche and extra brandy over the top.