Old Bidlake Farm is a beautiful smallholding in West Dorset, offering hassle-free camping in four traditional canvas bell tents which are sheltered by hedges and wildflowers in an acre of idyllic pasture. Owner Sue Michel shares her recipe for the mouth-watering homemade Mini Dorset Apple Cakes that welcome her lucky guests on arrival.
When we moved to Old Bidlake in the Autumn of 2010 we inherited a small, newly planted orchard. Thirty-eight trees of various fruits and varieties – cherries, pears, plums, damsons, even quinces and of course apples. The trees were little more than saplings and had been somewhat neglected, as the house had stood empty for a while. They still look rather fragile, not helped along by the unseasonal weather of 2012, but slowly they are settling in, as are we to our new life at Old Bidlake. The Orchard is now home to a small flock of hens and sits between our camping field and the barn, with a little footpath mowed amongst the trees, which the children love to run along back and forwards from the camp kitchen to their tents.
With apples and eggs in plentiful supply it seemed a good idea to make Dorset Apple Cake to offer to our guests on their arrival. I have loved this cake since my own numerous visits to West Dorset before we moved here, but the traditional recipe is for a large, deceptively plain looking fruit cake, not the usual sort of treat to appeal to young children. So I thought I would adapt the recipe to make it more child friendly, by creating little sugar topped cupcakes, which are freshly baked and neatly packed into a bright coloured cake tin for the children to discover in the camp kitchen. Fortunately they seem to like them and now their trips along the pathway in the orchard are often to see if there are any more cakes in the tin.
Mini Dorset Apple Cake Recipe
Ingredients (makes 12 cakes):
6oz / 170g unsalted butter
3oz / 85g golden caster sugar and 3oz/85g soft brown sugar
3 free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ – 1tsp cinnamon
2 medium apples (170g) (either sharp eating or cooking such as Bramley)
A splash of lemon juice
6oz /170g self-raising flour
Heat the oven to 350f /180c/fan 160c/gas mark 4. Place twelve fairy cake/small muffin cases in a bun tray, or if you make fairy type cakes regularly it is worth investing in some silicone cases which give great results and can be used again and again.
Place the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and cream with an electric mixer or wooden spoon, until soft, light and airy. Gradually add the lightly beaten eggs, incorporating and mixing a little at a time to avoid the mixture curdling and then mix in the vanilla extract. Grate the apple. I like to leave the skin on to add a little texture and colour and mix in a touch of lemon juice to prevent it from browning.
Stir the grated apple and cinnamon into the flour and ensure it is well dispersed, to provide an even share of apple and spice amongst the cakes. Carefully fold the flour into the cake mixture with a metal spoon, until all the flour has been incorporated.
Divide the mixture evenly between the twelve cases and sprinkle the top of each with a teaspoon of sugar.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes it the centre of the oven – make sure you don’t open the oven whilst they are cooking or your cakes will not rise. After 15 minutes test the centre of the cakes with a small skewer or cocktail stick, to make sure they are cooked through. If the skewer does not come out clean the cakes will need another five minutes or so.
Leave to cool slightly on baking tray, although they are all the more delicious served warm with a generous dollop of clotted cream.
This recipe was contributed by Sue Michel of Old Bidlake Farm in West Dorset. To find out more about camping at Old Bidlake Farm, visit www.oldbidlake-farm-camping.co.uk.