I'm a hot house plant. I'm not one for sitting outdoors in the cold, indoors is where I thrive. Don't get me wrong I love the winter, hosting big dinner parties eating baked cheese (like this yummy Comte fondue), drinking hot chocolate while snuggled up on the sofa in my pyjamas, thick woolly socks and hidden under blankets while watching the latest episode of something awesome (currently rewatching season two of the OC for my Summer fix), and of course if you wrap me up in multiple layers (coats, hats, the whole shebang) I'll be the first to make (and instantly regret making) a snow angel before running inside for a glass of mulled wine. But Summer, Summer is my time. I'm not going to lie I win at Summer. I just do. It helps that all my European blood (Swiss/Italian/Excellence...I'm sorry I'll stop soon) has made me able to withstand the hot Summer temperatures, my love of food and easy cooking has given me great BBQing skills, and I excel at ALL Summer activities (sunbathing, swimming, sunbathing etc. [you get the idea]).
So yeah it's fair to say I'm looking forward to Summer. And I'm starting to see it coming round the corner. Rhubarb, probably my favourite and most underrated Summer fruit (or is it a vegetable? who knows...google apparently), has started appearing weekly in our local green grocers, and my mum recently gave me a huge hall from her little garden. My favourite peonies are appearing in Columbia Road Market, a sure sign Summer is almost upon us, and as such my boyfriend is overdosing on hayfever tablets. And of course there's my ultimate favourite Summer place, beer gardens. Beer gardens are upping their game, planting flowers, getting the umbrellas out, I even went to one with a BBQ the other day; combining all my loves. Grabbing a chilled pint of cider and sitting outside is looking pretty darn tempting right about now.
I've always been a cider and ale gal. I grew up in the Falklands where home brewing (of a sort) was pretty common, and since we moved to England I've always worked in cider and ale pubs (secretly/not so secretly being a bar maid was probably one of my favourite jobs, the people, the atmosphere, it's a good laugh). So when Aspall got in contact with me about sampling some of their new brand of cider Waddlegoose Cyder (find more information and where to purchase here), me and, to a larger extent, my mum jumped at the chance. My mum's actually the biggest cider fiend I know, and Aspall is her FAVOURITE British cider, no jokes, she's obsessed! She actually gets a bit snobby if a pub doesn't sell Aspalls, which is a bit much but there we go, she's a lady who knows what she likes.
Aspall sent me two different flavours of Waddlegoose Cyder, Three Berry (we're talking blueberries, raspberries and, the rare Summer fave, blackcurrants [OMG blackcurrants are the best, blackcurrant jam is amazing, blackcurrant cider is incredible]) and their sparkling apple version of their cyder. To put it simply this is a really crisp refreshing cider, a lot of people don't like the whole dry aspect of cider and this is a great alternative to those versions. Waddlegoose Cyder uses modern brands of apples that are designed to give a fresh crisp taste and you really get that in the finished cider. I like a good flavoured cider but I like mine to still ultimately taste like cider. A lot of companies go for the wild flavoured options but in truth they taste nothing like real cider which is a shame but then is grapefruit really cider material, I think not.
Personally I can't wait for the weather to warm up just a tad more so we can step outside, crack open a bottle of Waddlegoose Three Berry cider with some ice and wheel out the barbie (not long now!). Till then I'll be opening a bottle of Waddlegoose Cyder at 5pm every weeknight, and maybe indulging in a slice or two (definitely two) of Cider Crumble Cake with Rhubarb. You knew it was coming, it's in the title of the post, also it's too delicious to keep from you. I wasn't sure about baking with cider. I ummed and ahhhed over it. What if it made the cake to wet? What if I had to put so much flour in the cake it just tasted awful. But then you know YOLO (this is what yolo was invented for; baking indecisiveness). I'm just saying as well, Rhubarb Cider. Why's that not in a bottle? I think I've had it at a cider festival once and I've definitely had rhubarb beer (weird but good) so someone should make it happen. Maybe that can be Waddlegoose's third flavour (just throwing it out there).
The rhubarb in this cake is yummy, especially with the cider and extra appley goodness. I made it a bit spiced and chucked a crumble on top because Rhubarb Crumble is amazing, and it seemed wrong to make a cake with rhubarb and no crumble topping. Do without the crumble if you must, but you're at your own peril...Also definitely save a bit of the rhubarb stewing liquor and whip it up with a little bit of double cream for a thick rhubarby accompaniment to this cake. It's gorgeous!
Cider Crumble Cake with Rhubarb and Waddlegoose Cyder
(makes 1 large loaf and maybe a few cupcakes...serves eight or you know 1 hungry blogger)
300g chopped rhubarb (2 cm pieces)
190g caster sugar
210g salted butter
150ml Waddlegoose Cyder
90g dark brown sugar
1 medium apple (I used a Gala, which is one of the apples used to make Waddlegoose Cyder)
1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of nutmeg
325g plain flour
1 heaped tsp baking flour
Step 1. Stew the rhubarb. How do you do that? Stick all the rhubarb, 40g butter, 100g caster sugar and 60ml water in a saucepan and cook it on a low-medium heat until the rhubarb is soft and cooked through. Strain the rhubarb, keeping the juice and leave it to cool.
Step 2. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Peel and roughly chop the gala apple into small bite sized pieces. Put the apple in a bowl and cover with the Waddlegoose Cyder and set aside. Grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper.
Step 3.Cream together 150g butter, 75g caster sugar and 75g dark brown sugar till light and fluffy. Then stir in two eggs, followed by 300g sieved flour, the baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ginger and a pinch of nutmeg.
Step 4. Once cool add the strained rhubarb, and the apple and cider to the cake mix. Stir to combine, if it looks a little loose add a touch more flour. Mine was fine, but everyone and every kitchen is different! Pour the cake mix into the loaf tin and set aside.
Step 5. Make the crumble topping. Rub together 20g butter with 25g plain flour, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and 15g of caster sugar and 15 of dark brown sugar till it looks like bread crumbs. Sprinkle the crumble topping liberally over the top of your cake. Then bake it in the oven for 1 hour and 20 minutes at 170 degrees Celsius on a medium shelf (you might need to put a foil hat over the crumble if it looks like it's going to catch aka burn).
Step 6. Take the cake out the oven and leave to cool...slightly. It's so good served warm with sweetened cream with some of the rhubarb stewing liquor (3-4 tbsps liquor to about 75ml cream). And maybe a cheeky glass of Waddlegoose Cyder...you know...to enhance the flavour of the cake.
So how are you guys, how was your weekend? I haven't eaten so much in ages. Double dinner partying is a lot of fun but a lot of food! We're talking veggie moussakas, pizza, enough prosecco to bath in. It was great but I could do with another lie in round about now. I'm so excited for Summer, writing this post made me realise how much. I absolutely can't wait for Wimbledon again. I'm a huge tennis fan and haven't heard back from the ballot so I guess we're queuing again. This will be the third year that we've queued (you can read all about last year and sample my foray into Sports photography here), and I'm going to be a lot more prepared this year because last year it was absolutely freezing! I'm slightly sad though, because if you read my blog routinely you'll know my best friend, Louie, moved to New York at the end of February and he, obviously, is not coming back for Wimbledon. Which is sad because we always watch it all together and, yeah, I don't have any other tennis friends save my Grandmere so ermmm basically if you're a tennis fan, mostly normal, and like strawberries and cream fancy queueing for Wimbledon together? I'm mostly normal too...sort of. Not really. I just baked cider into a cake, that's crazy.