Healthy cake recipes are, if we’re honest, few and far between, but Croatia is one nation where they know how to have fun and stay on the right side of virtuous. This is a simple, family recipe for a Croatian Apple and Walnut Cake that is low in sugar and high in protein-packed nuts, fibrous prunes and juicy apples. Walnuts play a big part in Croatian baking, with the Walnut Roll a staple and delicious alternatives to this cake, like the Hrapočuša Bračka Torta and Međimurska Gibanica, making equally good use of this staple.
Those layer cakes and tray bakes are likely to appear a little more refined than this version, with Croatian master bakers using puff or filo pastry as well as poppy seeds to expand on the flavours of this, more rustic cousin, yet the simplicity in this recipe is part of its virtue. It may well be that a little more sugar, or a generous side serving of sweetened, whipped cream is preferred by those with a sweeter tooth or using it to mark a special occasion.
As the apples bake at the same time as the cake batter, the thickness of the apple slices determines how soft they will be at the end of the bake – very thin and you end up with apple sauce, very thick and they might still crunch. The walnuts and oats form a good percentage of the cake base, making it a filling partner for a coffee break.
To make a Croatian Apple and Walnut Cake for a springform cake pan of 26cm
- 2 eggs
- 4 tablespoons of sugar
- 1 packet / 8g Vanilla Sugar
- 50 grams of oats
- 80 grams of semolina
- 150g walnuts
- 180ml whole milk
- 80g melted butter
- 120g plain flour
- 5g or one packet of baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 12 dried prunes
- 4 apples (English Bramley or similar)
- 4 tsp of sugar
- Grated dark chocolate or chocolate chips for decoration
- 12 walnut halves
- 1Grease the cake tin with butter and sprinkle with breadcrumbs, covering the bottom and the edges and tapping out the excess. Soak the prunes in cold water.
- 2Peel and core the apples then slice in approximately 1cm width slices, either as rounds or wedges. Arrange the apple slices so that they completely cover the mold, forming the top of the finished cake and avoiding any of the cake mix coming through later. Sprinkle with apples with the sugar and place in a heated oven at around 180° for around 15 minutes.
- 3Move onto the base by first blending the walnuts and oats until they are the consistency of coarse bread crumbs, then mix with the semolina, flour, baking powder, sugar and cinnamon.
- 4In another bowl, whisk the eggs with sugar and vanilla sugar until foamy. Add the milk and oil and then thoroughly mix in the dry ingredients. Remove the prunes from the water, chop and add to the cake mix.
- 5Remove the apples from the oven and pour the cake mix over. Return and bake the cake for a further 40 - 50 minutes or as soon as the cake is golden brown and it is coming away from the tin. The cake should cool for 15 – 20 minutes in the tin before placing a plate or tray over the top and turning it over gently to release it. The cake should come loose, although if any apples stick to the tin they can be gently rearranged while still warm.
- 6Grate chocolate onto the cooling cake or scatter with chocolate chips and arrange the walnut halves on top.