Dorset apple cake

This is a lovely cake for a picnic.

It’s so lovely it’s even made a picnic fan out of me.

Yes, that’s right- you heard. I have a reputation as a picnic hater.

This is a big thing. Admitting you dislike picnics is like saying you kick puppies. It’s just a bit wrong.

Picnics are supposed to be ambrosial scenes filled with  tinkling laugher, checkered blankets, neat feasts in purpose built flasks, and inappropriate things being done with animal crackers (Armageddon has a lot to answer for).

Instead most of the time they seem to involve grass stubs sneaking in the tubs of hummous and cheese plates melding together into nightmarish smears of sun-burnt dairy.

The ground is often hard, or wet, or both.

There are never enough plastic bags to pack up the rubbish at the end. Or things to wipe your hands on.  And lugging dirty plates, scraps of food and lengths of soiled fabric around as you pound the streets is a little close to what we strive to avoid.

We eat at tables, near kitchens and in the vicinity of refrigeration precisely because we are lucky enough not to be homeless.

It’s because I say things like this that I don’t often get invited to picnics.

Yet this cake has been a game changer.

A few weeks ago The Hungry One and I were invited to our first proper English picnic. It was in London Fields. The rest of the party was made up of the most delightful folk, including a baby so sweet he makes my ovaries flutter.

We debated long and hard about what we should take. I was leaning towards the pea, mint and feta dip with grissini and jamon. The Hungry One felt very strongly about sausage rolls. So we took both.

The sausage rolls were made with Tolouse sausage meat rescued from its casings and muddled together with softened nubbins of fennel, red onion, grated apple and chorizo. We were running late, so by the time we ate them they were still warm. They were pretty good.

There were plenty of blankets to sit on. There was dappled sunshine. There was pink wine and bubbles to drink. There was charming conversation. There was lentil salad and griddled haloumi. There were flapjacks. And there was this Dorset apple cake -which I ate two slices of (only two, I promise).

It’s a sturdy thing, strong with a sensible trio of flour, butter and sugar. There’s just one egg and some splashes of milk to bind it all into a dough. You don’t need a blender or anything with beaters- just the tips of your fingers a spatula and a way of cutting an apple.

But it’s the abundance of apple that makes this such a cheerful cake. A good cooking apple like a Bramley is sturdy enough to hold up to the heat of the oven and doesn’t make the contents too sweet. A dusting of cinnamon over the top and it’s like a more comforting version of strudel, or a bigger version of an apple muffin.

It’s so good it made a picnic lover out of me.

(But its also be very nice eaten straight out of the oven, topped with creme fraiche or double cream. That way you get the extra benefit of proper plates, cutlery- and a chair).

Dorset Apple Cake

1 circular cake tin. Baking paper to line it. 1 mixing bowl. 1 vegetable peeler. 1 knife.


225g (or 8 ounces) cooking apples- peeled , cored and chopped
225g  (or 8 ounces) plain flour
1 and a half tsp baking powder
115g (or 4 ounces) butter diced
165g (or 5.8 ounces)  raw or demerara sugar
1 egg beaten
2-3tbsp milk
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Creme fraiche or double cream to serve (optional)

Here’s how we roll

1. Preheat the oven to 180 Celsius/350 F. Grease and line a 7 inch round cake tin.

2. Sift the flour and baking powder together. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until the mix resembles breadcrumbs.

3. Peel, core and cut the apple into rough chunks. 

4. Stir 115g of the sugar, three quarters of the apple and the egg into the flour and butter mixture. Mix well, adding a little of the milk at a time to make a soft doughy mix.

5. Transfer  the mix into your tin.

6. Decorate the top of the cake with the remaining pieces of apple. Sprinkle the top of them with the remaining sugar and cinnamon.

7. Bake for 45-50mins.

8. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack.

9. Serve warm with creme fraiche or double cream. Or cool and take to a picnic in a park somewhere (don’t forget extra plastic bags for rubbish and refuse).

  1. I loathe picnics too. That cake looks delicious. I must try it once my scone phase has finished. xo

  2. Thanks. I am going to try this when fall rolls around and we purchase (as always) too many apples from the local orchard 🙂

  3. Having just thrown another potluck picnic of my own, I cam completely sympathize with your aversion to the things: They can be so stressful! I always worry about what to make, what to bring, will everyone be happy, will it be too hot, will someone get food poisoning, will there be mosquitoes…

    Ugh. Just give me my own kitchen table and a nice strong breeze from an open window any day.

    However! I can also see how this lovely apple cake might make a picnic lover out of somebody. I might have to give it a try next time 'round. (This past outing I cheated a bit: The peach and tomato gazpacho I contributed was super easy, and I picked up a few store-bought mini pies.)

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