Classic, autumnal flavours of spiced apples and a sigh of rosewater come together in this moist, comforting cake. It just so happens to be vegan, too. I created this recipe on a crisp, blue-skied autumn day in Beijing (don't mind what you hear about the smog; autumn is as glorious here as it is in Princeton, New Jersey where I grew up). I was summoned to concoct this treat (along with the Sweetcorn-Blueberry Cake) by my friend Tina, a dedicated mother and busy community organizer, who needed a birthday cake for a children's party and found that many little ones had food allergies towards dairy, egg and nuts. Whatever your theory towards increased food allergies are, and whichever side of the vegetarian/omnivore fence you sit, for whatever reasons, this is a delicious and easy-to-make cake for all to enjoy. For gluten-free folks, the flours can be substituted with Bob's Red Mill gluten-free flour mix and/or buckwheat flour. —Jamie Pea
cake flour (not self-raising)
whole wheat flour
double-acting baking powder
or about 4 medium-sized apples (can substitute this with 500g store-bought, unsweetened applesauce)
light brown sugar
unsweetened soy milk
pure vanilla extract
fine sea salt
flax seed meal (can grind whole flax seeds with a small coffee grinder)
icing sugar (aka powdered sugar)
In This Recipe
Prepare the applesauce (skip this step if using store-bought, unsweetened applesauce): Peel apples and slice into wedges, removing the tough bits and chop into roughly 3-cm/1-in cubes. Place in a big pot with 100mL of water; we'll be simmering the apples for ~25 minutes. Cover and turn up the heat; when you hear the water boiling, give the apples a stir, cover again then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Uncover the pot (you'll find the apples quite watery now) and continue letting it simmer and evaporate for a further 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. At the end you should have a fairly "dry" pot with barely any free-flowing liquid. Puree the apples with a stick blender then set aside (to be extra safe from hot splattering, let the apples cool to room temperature before pureeing).
While the apples are simmering, pre-heat your oven to 180*C (350*F) and prepare a bundt pan or 8-inch springform cake pan by oiling it and dusting with more whole wheat flour. Combine the first 6 dry ingredients in a mixing bowl: cake flour, whole wheat flour, the spices and the baking powder; set aside.
In another mixing bowl, mix together with an electric whisk (or stand mixer with whisk attachment) 500g of freshly-made or store-bought applesauce with the soy milk, light brown sugar, vanilla extract and sea salt.
In a smaller bowl, tip in the 15g of flax meal and pour 80g of boiling-hot water into the bowl. Use an electric whisk on medium speed to whisk for 1 minute until frothy and thick.
Add the flax mixture to the applesauce mixture and whisk on high speed for 1 minute. Next, drizzle in the oil whilst mixing at high speed, then whisk a further 2 minutes to fully emulsify the mixture.
Add the flour mixture to the applesauce mixture, and fold with a spatula just until thoroughly combined; avoid over-working the batter.
Pour into your bundt or cake pan and place in the lower-center rack of the oven; bake for 40 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out clean. Let it cool to room temperature then invert onto a large piece of baking paper to decorate.
To prepare the icing, prepare a bowl with your sifted icing sugar then add the lukewarm water and rosewater. Stir to combine, and when the cake is completely cooled to room temperature, drizzle the icing over the cake and decorate with dried rose petals if you wish. Transfer the cake with the baking paper onto a serving plate, then finally tear away the baking paper to cleanly set the cake on the platter.