Friday, August 29, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Sponge

by Sheila Connolly

I’m just back from Ireland, where I had a version of this cake in The Coffee Shop in the tiny fishing village of Union Hall (I gave a recipe for another dessert, a wonderful pear and almond cake, from the same cafe in January of last year, and I was happy to see that the shop appears to be doing well.) This recipe is also a nice transition from my most recent Irish immersion to the apple season, which is pivotal in my next book (shameless plug! Picked to Die, coming October 7th!)

A sponge is kind of an odd duck. It’s not exactly a sponge cake, although it is cake-ish. But it’s not really a tart either, although it’s usually cooked in a shallow tart pan, and is only one layer thick. I don’t care: it tastes good, especially when warmed and served with some whipped cream.

Oddly, when I went hunting for a recipe I couldn’t find anything labeled "sponge." So here I go again, improvising (with yet another nod to Margaret Johnson, my go-to Irish cook).

Apple Cinnamon Sponge

2 large cooking apples (I’m still fond of the Bramleys I 
Irish Bramley apples
   find in shops in Ireland, just because they’re so big
   and lumpy—but they have good flavor and they
   hold up well in cooking. You can use Granny
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup/1 stick salted butter (have I mentioned that West Cork is a dairy region?)
1/2 cup plus 1 Tblsp superfine sugar (or the same amount of granulated sugar, ground a bit in a blender or food processor)
2 eggs
2 Tblsp milk
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

Streusel topping:

2/3 cup all-purpose flour
4 Tblsp butter, chilled
1/3 cup superfine sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round springform cake pan.

Make the streusel topping: put the flour in a bowl and rub in the butter until the mixtures looks like bread crumbs (fairly fine). Stir in the sugar. Oh, heck, do it in a food processor if you want.

Okay, I cheated--the pink ones are from my
own orchard. They're not quite ready, but the
squirrels were looking at them a little
too eagerly.
Peel, core and thinly slice the apples. Beat together the butter and the superfine sugar in a separate bowl and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt into a bowl. Gradually beat in the eggs, adding a little of the flour mixture with the last of the eggs. Gently mix in half of the remaining flour mixture, then mix in the rest with the milk. Do not overmix! You just want to combine the ingredients.

The batter. Doesn't look like a lot, but
it expands.
Spoon the batter into the baking pan and smooth the top. Lay the apple slices over the batter. Sprinkle the streusel topping evenly over the top.

Bake in the preheated oven for 1 hour, or until the sponge is browned and firm. Let cool in the pan before removing the sides. Dust with the confectioner’s sugar before serving. You may serve with whipped cream on the side.


...and mine.

Next time I'll try a slightly broader pan. 

So now you have a recipe for the new apple crop, which Meg Corey is harvesting in Picked to Die, coming October 7th.


  1. I should add that this keeps nicely, if you don't happen to eat it all at one sitting. Must be all that butter...

  2. Fascinating recipe, Sheila. With all that butter, it's definitely not a sponge cake. I wonder why it's called a sponge. It sounds perfect for a mid-afternoon snack with tea or coffee.