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Arriving back from Hong Kong on the 17th of December, although feeling jaded from my long haul flight, I hit the ground running.

Calls to the florist for table posies and flowers for the entrance and living room were arranged, then on to the butcher and fishmonger for my Christmas order, after that the bottle store for the drinks order.

Needless to say, after the culinary trip in Hong Kong my pallet was feeling rather jaded, not to mention my overloaded system. As a result enthusiasm for the Christmas preparations was a bit difficult to muster. The end result was thankfully well received.

Instead of the usual Christmas pudding I decided to make something a little different this year; one of my favourites – Apple, sultana and cinnamon cake, served with a vanilla and brandy cream. This cake is good to serve for either tea or as a dessert. It is also best when eaten the day after it being baked, which helps a lot when pushed for time.

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Apple, Sultana & Cinnamon Cake served with vanilla brandy cream

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

120 g sultanas

150 ml olive oil

200 g sugar

2 free range eggs

350 g 00 flour or cake flour

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. allspice

1 ½ tsp. bicarbonate of soda

½ tsp. cream of tartar

½ tsp. sea salt

450 g dessert apples, peeled and cut into small cubes

Grated rind of 1 lemon

For the Vanilla Brandy Cream

300 ml thick yoghurt

100 ml fresh cream

10 ml vanilla extract

30 ml good brandy

15 ml icing sugar or honey

Method

Soak the sultanas in warm water for about 20 mutes

Heat the oven to 180C

Butter and flour a 20 cm spring-clip tin

Pour the oil in the bowl of the mixer and add the sugar. Beat until the oil and sugar become homogenised. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat until the mixture increases in volume and resembles a thin mayonnaise.

Sieve together the flour, spices, bicarbonate of soda, cream of tartar and salt. Add the sieved flour gradually to the oil and sugar mixture. Mix thoroughly then add the apples, drained sultanas and lemon rind, mix thoroughly. The mixture will be stiff, and show pieces of apple and sultanas coated in cake mixture.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for at least 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out dry.

Remove the cake from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Method-Vanilla brandy cream.

Mix all the ingredients together and chill until required.

Optional

The cake may also be spiked with some brandy after removing from the oven.

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