Michael trailed off as Oskar came in with a tray laden with the best teapot, the bone china cups and saucers from Germany with the ivy pattern, and the Apfelkuchen that Ute had set out earlier.
Our Endless Numbered Days, Claire Fuller
I've been back to Australia a couple of times in the seven years since I moved to the UK. In the weeks leading up to my arrival, Skype conversations with my mum become entirely one note, as we decide upon the meals we somehow need to fit into my limited time in the country. It's always a relatively extensive list.
There are the nostalgic childhood favourites - baked beans with cheerios (little sausages, not cereal) do often make an appearance. There's the food that only tastes right on the Queensland coast: a ripe mango eaten over the sink, Moreton Bay bugs with avocado and seafood sauce, meat cooked outdoors. And there are the dishes that my family makes - my mum's awesome poached egg salads (a regular fixture on school nights), kangaroo on the barbeque at my dad's, the extraordinary containers of leftovers that appear from my Granny's fridge. In the time I've been gone, I haven't once missed the weather. But I do miss the food.
I recently had drinks with friends and relayed the concerns I had about keeping up with my weekly recipes in the first months of this year; I was to have only a gas ring and a toaster to cook with during my time in Liverpool. They recommended Our Endless Numbered Days to me immediately, citing chapters where Peggy and her father cook with far less. I was gripped from the first chapter, and read it cover to cover in less than a day. It's moving and deeply affecting - a story told in flashback, about a young girl whose father moves them from their home in London to a remote cabin in a European forest. They don't see another living soul for years.
As I read, this cake - missed by Peggy and baked by her mother once she is back in London - made me long for an oven. I left the stovetop squirrel stew for another time and, once I had access to an oven again, the first thing I baked was this. It's home cooking at its best, simple and made with ingredients you may very well have in your cupboard already. A cake for home - for comfort. The kind of cake that's made by and for family, and one I'd long for after endless years away.
German Apple Cake
3 crisp eating apples (Cox's are great)
Juice of one lemon
125g caster sugar
125g unsalted butter
1tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs (separated)
180g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
Generous pinch cinnamon
1tsp caster sugar
Electric hand whisk
20cm loose-bottomed cake tin
1. Preheat the oven to 170C (for a fan assisted oven - 190C if not). Grease and line your cake tin. Squeeze the lemon into the bowl. Peel the apples and slice them into quarters. Remove the core, and then make slices into the outside of each quarter in parallel lines, ensuring that you don't slice all the way through. As soon as each quarter has been sliced, place it in the bowl with the lemon juice and toss it around until coated completely (this will stop it going brown).
2. Beat the butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, and beat them in too. Add the vanilla, and stir it through the batter.
3. Sieve the flour, baking powder and salt together and fold them into the mixture. Finally, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks in a spotlessly clean bowl. Fold a third of the whites through the batter to loosen it, then fold the other two thirds through with a lighter hand.
4. Tip the batter into the tin, then push the apples into the top, with the cut edges facing up. Sprinkle with the extra caster sugar and the cinnamon. Bake for fifty minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Bring the cake out of the oven, allow it to cool for five minutes in the tin, before turning out and eating warm or cool.