After a day of weighing, mixing, baking, licking spoons, (washing up) and eating cake, I just wanted a warm bath. My intrepid cake testers began to long for a bowl of salad. Luckily, the fourth stage of the Tour de Gateaux was a gentle downhill glide to the finish, with soft grass and field flowers to tempt us to the finish.
This apple fruitcake was competing with two impressive cakes and one helluva Aussie panforte that Sunday afternoon for our flagging attention and sated appetites. Without the dark flamboyance of the Hot Toddy, or the kitsch glass plate of the panforte, I thought it was a lost cause.
That is, until we cut into this cake, fresh out of the oven. The warm, faintly cinnamon-laced steam caught our attention, and we found reserve cake-tasting energy.
In many ways, the weight and flavour was similar to the Night before Christmas cake (minus the stupendous florentine topping). The use of grated apple gave the finished product an undertone of natural, endearing sweetness, countering the denser weight of muscovado sugar. Sultanas, raisins and apple gave the cake a rustic, and terribly English, simplicity. Stranger passages from books expressing a romantic Englishness also came to mind:
The red and white herd nearest at hand, which had been phlegmatically waiting for the call, now trooped towards the steading in the background, their great bags of milk swinging under them as they walked. … Long thatched sheds stretched round the enclosure, their slopes encrusted with vivid green moss, and their eaves supported by wooden posts rubbed to a glossy smoothness by the flanks of infinite cows and calves of bygone years, now passed to an oblivion almost inconceivable in its profundity.*