Sometimes, and let me tell you, those times include when you have a hard little baby head pushing out of your abdomen like an extremely hurty alien, you bake for comfort. And to my mind, baking apples is one of the most comforting smells in the world. Off I hobbled to look through the recipe book shelf, and my BBC Good Food Teatime Treats book kindly obliged with this: a Dorset apple tray bake, looking all sugary and densely delicious. Perfect.

I should qualify that while baking apples may be comforting, weighing, peeling, coring and thinly slicing 450g of apples is much less enjoyable. I always consider the French to be le Kings of thinly sliced apples, and had a renewed appreciation for all their tartes aux pommes once I’d scraped my knuckles, bent back several nails, and sprayed juice absolutely everywhere, including in my eye. (If anyone knows how to use an apple corer without inflicting personal injury, I’d be interested to hear about it.) Still, we got there in the end. The recipe calls for Bramleys, by the way, but I always find those too tart, so I used the Golden Delicious we already had in the house. Also, 450g makes FAR too many apple slices for one cake. We froze the remainder (always useful to have the option for an Emergency Apple Crumble, I think) but if you only have 3 apples in the house instead of 4, you’ve got plenty.

Once all the peeling and slicing was out of the way, I put the apples aside with a squeeze of lemon juice and got on with the cake. Nothing difficult here – it’s an unusually eggy mixture, which I think is intended to make the finished product more puddingy. There’s a lot of flour too, which made the cake mix extremely stiff, and hard to spread into the tin. But spread you must: in goes a layer of cake mix, then a layer of apples, then another layer of cake mix and one more of apples to finish.

Layer 1...

Layer 2...


Oddly, this recipe does not call for cinnamon. I am so unable to think of apples without cinnamon that I sprinkled some on each layer anyway, and felt terribly daring when I did it. Take that, BBC! You’re not the boss of me.

(The Other Half was delighted when there was some cake mix left over too – I didn’t quite have the right sized tin – and composed an appley cinnamon blob of his own devising. It wasn’t half bad, actually.)

Anyway, after 45 minutes in the oven the cake has more peaks and valleys than a moonscape, but tastes wonderful. Something about the regularity of the sliced apples on the top is very pleasing, too. The BBC recommends serving it warm with clotted cream or vanilla ice cream, and I would whole-heartedly agree (I put the leftovers in the fridge and I think they’ve suffered a little for it – it’s much denser and harder to eat cold – so I’d store it in a cake tin instead). I curled up in a corner under a blanket and ate Quite a Lot, and felt much better.

Deliciousness: Top marks. Smells divine, too, which was really what I was after.

Complexity: If you can stand slicing all those apples, the rest of it isn’t difficult. The construction is therapeutic without being too fiddly.

Washing-up pile: Twelve: quite a lot of apple slicing paraphernalia, plus the usual mixing bowls and wooden spoons.

Casualties: Bent nails, scraped fingers and general appley displeasure. Next time I’ll hire a Frenchman for that part.