Apricot, almond and spice cake

Apricot almond and spice cake

I think our suburb must be the apricot capital of Melbourne – there are trees drooping with fruit all around us, not too many birds to steal them, and the owners of most trees don’t seem very interested (perplexing!). I’ve taken to doorknocking and last year I found a house with two trees and a lovely Vietnamese family who were happy for us to pick what we wanted, as they eat a few apricots but prefer fruits of Vietnam. They are swimming in apricots – or squelching really, as they are spattered all over their driveway. This year we visited twice and took some eggs from our chickens as a small thank you.

Until now, strawberries have been our 18-month-old daughter’s favourite fruit, and whenever we mention the word she gapes open her jaw and gets a cheeky twinkle in her eye. Now she points at the apricots and bobs up and down – yes please! I have to admit I’ve been encouraging this, and would have felt a little crushed if she didn’t like them, because I like them so much that they’ve become somehow intertwined with who I am – like people’s views on the world, life or politics. If you don’t like apricots, you probably can’t be my friend. Childish but true.

My grandparents were big apricot lovers, and Nana had a deep-freeze full of stewed apricots and plums in ice-cream containers. We ate them when we visited, but Grandad was the main recipient, as he was inclined to have a bowl of stewed fruit after dinner every night. While Nana and Grandad had their own beautiful blood-plum tree, they bought their apricots in cases at the Vic Market and drove a case down to us each Christmas. Grandad grew up in the Depression and in some ways never grew out of it, and I think buying caseloads of fruit was the ultimate symbol of luxury for him – something he and Nana allowed themselves to do later in life.

I remember those Christmas apricots – I think they were a little better than the ones you buy today; more like the ones you pick from a tree. Small and juicy but not watery, and ripe with sweet nectary flavour. I pulled them apart and guzzled them one after another. Christmas was all about those apricots – and having at least two (maybe three) helpings of Nana’s pudding.

While the best apricots are picked yourself, the good thing about apricots is that even if you buy them and they turn out to be fairly tasteless, they are always improved when stewed or cooked in general. Their flavour deepens and their aroma lifts up and travels around the house. And if they were good apricots to start with, then a bowl of them stewed and eaten with yoghurt will have you suspended, spoon in mid air, with how amazing they taste.

I’ve managed to fit as many stewed apricots as possible into our small freezer to see us through the year. I’ve also made jam, a few attempts at a Turkish apricot chicken dish, and the upside-down cake whose recipe is below. Plus there is an old-fashioned apricot pie still on my list.

Apricot, almond and spice cake

A cake of the ‘upside down’ variety, moist and buttery, and spiced not with your usual cinnamon but with cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. There is also that subtle, beautiful marzipan note that I can’t resist, which comes from grinding up a few of the apricot kernels.

150 g butter
60 g (1/3 cup) brown sugar
about 500 g apricots (reserve 8 stones)
3 tablespoons golden syrup
125 ml water
6 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ nutmeg, grated (or ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg)
100 g ground roasted almonds (or almond meal)
85 g self-raising flour

Line a 20 cm cake tin with baking paper. Melt the butter in a saucepan and drizzle 1 tablespoon over the base of the tin. Sprinkle with a few pinches of the brown sugar. Open the apricots and remove the stones, and lay the halves over the base of the tin cut-side up. Squish as many into the tin as possible.

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Add the remaining brown sugar to the saucepan of melted butter, along with the golden syrup and water (I mix this cake in the saucepan, but you can use a bowl if you prefer).

Crack open the reserved apricot stones in a mortar to reveal the kernels inside. Crush the kernels to a paste. Stir into the butter mixture. Crack the cardamom pods, discard the husks and grind the seeds to a powder. Stir into the butter mixture along with the ginger and nutmeg. Stir in the ground almonds and flour until smooth. Pour the batter over the apricots and bake for 30–40 minutes, until golden and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool before turning onto a plate.

Serves 8

6 thoughts on “Apricot, almond and spice cake”

  1. Thanks Mimi, I’m really glad you liked it. And I should probably warn people about the bitter almond/marzipan flavour of the kernels – I think a hint of it is fantastic, but I know that everyone doesn’t agree!

  2. I was introduced to your blog by a frankie newsletter with this recipe in it, and as a lover of apricots I couldn’t resist making it straight away! I would probably skip adding the apricot kernels next time, as i’m not a fan of that marzipan-y flavour, but the spicy treacle-y ness is divine and i’ve been eating it for breakfast with yoghurt every day since.

  3. That looks divine. I love also the look of that chickpea bread in your past post. In fact I am off to make it now. Thank you!

  4. Mmm, that’s a good idea, I think I need to stock up on some crumpets! We’ve been doing crepes with apricot jam, ricotta pancakes with jam, and plenty of toast with jam. Doesn’t sound very healthy, does it? Delicious though! Thanks Sarah.

  5. I loved this cake when you made it for us, and look forward to making it myself. Also feel very grateful that I like apricots and thus am not excluded from the realm of friendship. We are currently in apricot jam heaven & eating many a crumpet.

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