S., chauffer, tester, and life-long supporter of the Apocalypse Bakery (pretty much the gist of the wedding vows) has just discovered that he might be lactose-intolerant. Whilst there is still hope that he may come round to a more liberal and broadminded approach to lactose, cutting out dairy items seems to have made a big difference. This may not sound as cool as uncovering a secret government plot to brainwash us all through butter, but it is still a world-shattering moment for the man who loves a good cheese pizza.
This has also meant a bit of a reality shift in thinking about what the Apocalypse Bakery should be producing. With butter and milk off-limits, S’s favourite cake has become a taunt rather than a treat. (Vanilla layer cake with swiss meringue buttercream frosting, just in case you were wondering.) Still, with a glass half-full (of soy milk) approach, there is a whole new realm of baking possibilities to be explored. Like this no-butter apricot almond slice that I had been waiting for an excuse to try out.
The texture of this cake was incredible, and the flavours were good, but I think they need a little work. Even though I am a big fan of almond in baking, I found the taste a little overpowering, so I will be playing around with the almond extract/ ground almond balance.
The recipe is from Harry Eastwood’s ‘Red Velvet and Chocolate Heartache’, but I found it here and here. Given some scathing reports about her writing style, and the fact that she personifies cakes – which is beyond even my bizarre baking style – I probably won’t be buying the book. Which is a shame as, despite the need for adjustments, this is a great recipe for lactose-intolerants and lactose-friendly alike.
Apricot Almond Slice
16 dried apricots, or tinned or fresh. I used dried.
1 tsp. vanilla extract – used in ½ teaspoon amounts at separate times
3 large eggs
180g caster sugar
200g peeled and finely grated butternut squash. I stuck it in my amazing mini-food processor. Oh yeh, no grated fingers for me!
1 tsp almond extract. This could probably be cut down to 1/2 teaspoon, or maybe even left out altogether, depending on your tastes.
60g plain flour
200g ground almonds
1 ½ tsp. mixed spice
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Icing sugar. For dusting over the top
1) Preheat oven to 160 C/ 325 F. The recipe called for lining an 8×8 pan with greaseproof paper and then buttering the greaseproof paper to ensure the cake really wouldn’t stick. I went for a 9×9 pan, and as the whole point was the lack of butter, I went for a light application of vegetable oil. Next time I might see how it goes without the oil.
2) If using dried apricots, place them in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and ½ teaspoon of vanilla. Leave to soak while preparing the batter.
3) Beat the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy. A stand mixer or handheld blender is recommended (it should be about 4 minutes with either of those gadgets) but I’m sure that a bowl and spoon and some good old fashioned elbow grease would do the job just fine.
4) Add in the grated butternut squash, almond extract (if using), and the remaining 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Beat until combined.
5) Add in the flour, ground almonds, mixed spice, baking powder and salt, and mix the batter well so that it is properly combined. This is not an attractive batter, at least not to my aesthetic tastes. The batter should be gloopy but pourable.
6) Pour batter into tin
7) Drain the apricots and squeeze the excess water out of them. No really, I skipped this thinking that I was not the sort of girl to be found squeezing apricots. Pride comes before an icing-sugar absorbent apricot fall. Place the apricots in 4 rows of 4 along the top of the batter.
8) Bake for 34-45 minutes. The cake should puff up a little and turn golden brown. It should be lightly springy to the touch and smell awesome. Leave it to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes so that it will hold its shape. Remove from the tin to cool properly. Cut into squares around the apricots – I used a pizza cutter for ease. Dust with icing sugar to serve.