The days are slowly succumbing to longer, darker nights, and cooler winds hint that winter is on its way. The end of the harvest draws near, Autumn is here! Halloween and Harvest festivals are simply my favourite celebrations. One of my most beloved autumn fruits to cook with and enjoy are apples. Apples are delicious and nutritious, both cooked or raw. Apples are chock full of fibre and antioxidants which support gut health. Whether boiled, baked or made into sauces or chutneys, they make a lovely accompaniment or main dish at your Fall table.
🍎 Apples : Their Magical History & Symbology:
Apples were once seen as magical symbols and are known as the fruit of immortality in Celtic lore. In many spiritual and pagan traditions, the gods were believed to eat them in order to retain their youthful appearance and mystical powers. Inside the centre of each apple is a natural occurring Pentagram or star, a symbol of magic, power and protection. Before it was falsely demonised by Hollywood and urban myth as a Satanic symbol ( long before Satanic groups of the 1960's adopted their own version), it was considered auspicious omen of abundance. I prefer to stick to its original meaning and welcome its promise of good fortune and wealth.
Samhain, the pagan holiday of Ancestral reverence and completion of the year, is heavily steeped with botanically inspired legends. It is mainly in these traditions that the apple is showcased. Plants and fruits had magical and deeply spiritual meaning in daily life and the seasonal transitions of nature. The land's agricultural bounties and forest denizens told stories of the Earth's creation and revealed the divine secrets of the spirit realm. Death was not feared but rather accepted and celebrated as a part of the journey of existence. The connection between those that came before us and those in the land of the living remained strong and very real. The plants, fruits and vegetables grown and gleaned by the ancients reflected the life force itself and were considered holy. The roots of plants were believed to touch the underworld and create a bridge between the realms of the living and dead. There were certain times of the year when certain plants and herbs grew, which made the veil between these worlds thin and accessible.
The ancient Celts observed two sacred seasons, Summer and Winter. Autumn time was considered a transition into the new year, and late spring, the closing of the past year. They created rituals and festivities based on their own observations of nature, and thus bestowing certain crops with supernatural significance. Apples were among those deemed most sacred.
There is no doubt, apples are Magical! They are also rumoured to imbue wisdom, courage, fertility and the ability to speak eloquently. They are also used in rituals and spell work for ancestral communication and divination. However you slice it, apples are amazing!
Below I'll share an ancient family recipe I call, Ancestral Apple Cake, which dates back to Medieval times. I typically bake a symbol into it or place a token or amulet to bake into the cake. You can use a silver ring, a bean or whole clove and place it secretly into the batter before baking. Whoever receives the slice with the token inside, will have good fortune and health for the coming year! I include alternative Vegan substitutions below.
**Remember to tell your Tea party guests there may be a token in their slice, so eat with care!
🍎 Ancestral Apple Cake:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened ( For Vegan version, use Vegetable butter)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
Pinch of salt
2 Golden Delicious apples-peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large eggs, beaten ( Vegans, you can Substitute with 6 tbsp of Aqua faba)
1/2 cup milk ( Vegan: Almond milk)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter ( or Vegan butter), melted
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Make the Topping:
Preheat the oven to 180 ° C and line the bottom of a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, blend the butter with the brown sugar and salt. Spread the mixture evenly in the lined cake pan. Arrange the apples wedges in the pan in concentric circles.
In the same bowl, whisk the flour with the sugar, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl, mix the eggs with the milk and vanilla. Add the mixture to the dry ingredients along with the melted butter and whisk until smooth. Scrape the batter over the apples, as you do insert a token, clove or bean into the mix, and then spread evenly making sure the item sinks into the batter. Bake the cake in the lower third of the oven until golden and springy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 minutes.
Transfer the pan to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes. Run the tip of a knife around the inside rim of the pan. Center a serving plate over the cake; carefully invert the the cake and plate. Remove the pan and peel off the parchment paper. Let the cake cool completely.
In a small bowl, stir the confectioners' sugar with the milk and drizzle it over the cake. Cut into wedges and serve. You can make this cake ahead and store the cake in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days.