March’s crummy weather brings warm custard apple cake

by Claire Milligan

“Pinch me! I’m not wearing green!” is approaching quickly along with leprechauns and lucky four-leaf clovers. But I decided to make something less St. Patrick’s Day cliche and prepared a traditional Irish Apple Cake with Custard Sauce.

For the Recipe:


3 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp of each ground ginger , nutmeg & allspice

3/4 cup unsalted butter , cold, diced into small pieces

1 cup + 2 Tbsp granulated sugar , divided

1 1/2 lbs granny smith apples(about 5 medium)

3/4 cup milk

2 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Custard Sauce:

1 1/2 cups whole milk

1 pinch salt

6 large egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


For the cake

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter and flour a 9-inch springform pan, set aside.
  2. In a very large mixing bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, nutmeg and allspice for 20 seconds. Add butter pieces and rub into mixture using fingertips until it resembles fine crumbs. Stir in 1 cup sugar.
  3. Peel apples, slice in half, core and stem, then laying apples on flat side, slice downward into pieces slightly less than 1/4-inch thick, then dice those pieces into smaller chunks (about 2 or 3 chunks depending on size of apples). Add apples to flour mixture and toss well to evenly coat, while working to separate any apples that may be stuck together.
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together milk, eggs and vanilla until well combined. Pour milk mixture over apple/flour mixture and using clean hands, toss just until combined (batter will be slightly lumpy but that’s fine, just don’t over-mix).
  5. Pour batter into prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer. In a small bowl stir together remaining 2 Tbsp sugar plus 1/2 tsp cinnamon, sprinkle evenly over cake. Bake in preheated oven 45 – 50 minutes until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Cool about 5 minutes on a wire rack then remove ring from springform pan and allow cake to cool to desired temperature. Serve warm drizzled with warm custard sauce (or cool with cold custard sauce, however you prefer).

For the custard sauce

  1. Heat milk with a pinch of salt over medium heat, and bring just to a light boil (keep an eye on it and remove from burner if needed before letting it rapidly boil). Meanwhile, add egg yolks and sugar to a medium mixing bowl and whisk vigorously until pale and fluffy, about 2 – 3 minutes (alternately you can do this with an electric hand mixer on high speed for about 30 seconds if you don’t want to mix that long by hand). Reduce burner to medium-low heat, then while whisking egg yolk mixture, slowly pour in 1/2 cup hot milk mixture. Then, while whisking milk in saucepan slowly pour egg yolk mixture into saucepan. Cook mixture, whisking constantly, until thickened and mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon, about 3 – 4 minutes (be careful not to overheat it, if you cook it too long or don’t whisk well the eggs will curdle). Immediately pour into a glass container, stir in vanilla and whisk about 20 seconds to cool slightly, then cover with plastic wrap pressing against surface to prevent a skin from forming. Serve warm over cake (or cold). Store in refrigerator in an airtight container.

When mixing the butter with the flour mixture, I chose to use a dough cutter instead of my hands because it mixes just as well and makes much less of a mess.

It recommend using 4-5 apples, but I settled with the four, and it was the perfect amount for the cake. Also using Granny Smith apples is very important because if you use anything else it will be too sweet for the cake. And I highly suggest investing in an apple corer and peeler because I did not exactly enjoy peeling four apples by hand.

Following the directions for the apples was at first confusing, but the slices turned out to be long and thin which worked perfectly. And I settled on cutting the apple into three to four slices instead of two to three.

I laughed when the recipe told me to toss together the milk mixture and the apple/flour mixture because I knew the batter would be extremely thick. And it eventually became more of folding and constantly scraping the sticky dough off my fingers.

I never burn dishes, but I panicked when the cake turned darker than golden brown and my immediate thought was that it would be dry. However, to my surprise, it was extremely moist and was the perfect texture inside and out.

Custard can be very stressful to make sometimes because the steps are time sensitive. But the most important part is to manage the temperature correctly and continue stirring so that the milk mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

Taking the advice from the recipe, I put the plastic wrap over the custard after it was cooked. No skin developed on top of the glassy surface and it stayed smooth and creamy.

I ate this apple cake both warm and cold, and I think I enjoyed it more warm. I suggest eating it straight out of the oven but allowing some time for the custard to cool and thicken.

I give this recipe a 8/10 and would definitely eat this anytime in the day!


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