Ring in Fall with This Stunning Apple Cake

This autumnal beauty hails from British bakers Tom Oxford and Oliver Coysh new cookbook ‘Bake It, Slice It, Eat It’.

Beet, Rose, and Apple Cake
Beet, Rose, and Apple Cake | Photo by Sam A Harris
Beet, Rose, and Apple Cake | Photo by Sam A Harris

When childhood friends Tom Oxford and Oliver Coysh opened Exploding Bakery in Exeter, U.K. more than a decade ago, their goal was to create incredible brownies and traybakes, or the U.K. dessert that resembles bar cookies. Their vision and audience expanded, however, as treats like carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and cherry brownies won over locals. Now, Exploding Bakery’s offerings are sold at shops and eateries throughout the country and at their brick-and-mortar Exploding Cafe in Exeter.

In their first cookbook, Bake It, Slice It, Eat It, Oxford and Coysh hope to capture the hearts and taste buds of home bakers everywhere. The duo didn’t plan to write a cookbook, but when the opportunity presented itself after their baked goods got a bit of notoriety, they couldn’t resist.

“We were dubious at first because we were short on time and it’s quite a commitment,” says Coysh. “So we had to kind of remove ourselves from the business as managing directors and pass over the responsibility of the day-to-day running to give us time to do this.” After a year of writing and tweaking recipes, they’re excited for the book to be out in the world.

The premise is straightforward: You only need one 13-by-9 baking pan to make any of nearly 100 recipes, from a moist, garden party-ready lemon drizzle cake to a stunning raspberry croissant crown cake made from day-old bread.

While the desserts in the cookbook are beautiful and bring together ingredients in interesting ways, the overall idea was simplicity, the authors say. “We wanted to go against the grain of the fancy patisserie. We’re not patisserie chefs,” says Coysh. “There are some fancy techniques in the book, but they’re towards the end of the book if people do want to use them. But we wanted it to be encouraging.”

There are a few challenging recipes that they hope adventurous bakers will try, though. For example, the “trifle bizarre” is composed of several layers—sponge cake, jelly, custard, and crea—that are each simple enough to make but require careful timing. “The dessert that it’s from is very simple, actually making it is quite complex, but once you’ve made, it’s really fun,” says Oxford.

One recipe with complex flavors and construction that is well worth the effort is the beetroot, rose, and apple cake. Inspiration started with a classic apple sponge cake. Then, the duo turned to The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit to see what pairs with the fruit and landed on rose.

“Rose and apple is a very good combination, but you’ve got to be very delicate on the rose. Otherwise, it tastes quite soapy,” says Coysh. They suggest using organic rose water to ensure flavors are balanced. If you don’t like the taste of rose, however, use orange blossom water.

Hazelnut flour and beet juice complement the floral notes and give the cake some earthiness. Beet also provides color and texture.

“Beetroot, like any root vegetable, is really good at keeping moisture within the sponge,” says Coysh. “It’s a weird angle, but as a cake manufacturer, we need some good shelf life on our cakes. We don't want them to dry out, because people are selling our cakes so we need to get that shelf life.”

The finished cake has a complex flavor profile. “It’s like a perfume. Not in the sense that it’s like a perfume cake, but it’s got base notes, and earthiness,” says Coysh. “Also, there’s midtones and highlights as well.”

Beet, Rose, and Apple Cake

Yield: 1 9x13-inch cake

Ingredients:
• 10 ½ ounces beets, trimmed and peeled
• ¾ cup superfine sugar
• ¾ cup canola oil
• 5 medium eggs
• 1 cup hazelnut flour
• 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 3 cups apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (approximately 3 apples)
• 1 teaspoon rose water*

For the icing:
• 1 tablespoon beet juice
• 2 teaspoons lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon rose water
• 1 ½ cups plus 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
• Dried rose petals (optional)

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9x13 baking dish.
2. Grate the beets. (You should have approximately 2 ¾ cups grated flesh.) Place in a sieve over a bowl with a weight on top to help drain the juice. After you’ve drained about 1 tablespoon of juice, the grated mass will reduce to about 2 ½ cups.
3. Combine the superfine sugar and oil in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer, add the eggs, and mix until the mixture emulsifies and looks glossy. Add the hazelnut flour, and then sift in the all-purpose flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and mix lightly to combine. Finally, add the drained grated beetroot, chopped apples, and rose water. Reserve the drained beet juice for the icing.
4. Pour batter into your prepared baking dish and bake for 40 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, make the icing by mixing the beet juice, lemon juice, rose water, and confectioners’ sugar in a large bowl until well combined.
6. When the cake is fully baked and still warm from the oven, drizzle the icing over the top, and sprinkle with some dried rose petals, if using. The icing will be rather wet, but don’t worry: this helps it soak into the cake crumb. Let cool before serving. The prepared cake will keep for 4 days in an airtight container in the fridge.

Note: If you’re using orange blossom water or orange extract, try swapping the optional rose petals for candied orange peel for a distinguished look.

Recipe courtesy of Bake It Slice It Eat It by Tom Oxford & Oliver Coysh (Quadrille, £15) Photography ©Sam A Harris

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Lia Picard is an Atlanta-based journalist writing about food, travel, and a variety of other topics. Her work appears in The New York TimesThe Washington PostWine Enthusiast, and CNN Travel.