This recipe by Frances Atkins (of The Yorke Arms) caught my eye in a recent article in The Yorkshire Post and I decided to try it.  Her notes were that this was a versatile cake to be used as either sweet or savoury – the article was illustrated with the latter where, having been toasted (?),  it was to be accompanied by scallop and pancetta.  I stuck with keeping it as something sweet.

I concluded the recipe must have been written with the confident cook in mind because there seemed to be some omissions:  the list of ingredients called for lemon zest and cinnamon but these were never referenced in the method.  The method also required the boiling of a lemon which is then sliced and put on top of the cake before baking.  It would also have been nice to have a least a little inkling as to how long to boil the lemon for; you were only told ‘until soft’.  Having never boiled a lemon before, I had no idea what the end result was supposed to look like or how long it would take to get there.  Preparation time for a recipe is important to me; it may make or break that decision to ‘rustle something’ up quickly only to find your lemon takes hours to boil (I jest!).

I thought this would be oozing with flavour from the calvados, lemon and cinnamon but was disappointed on that front.  However, the cake certainly is best left for the next day as she suggests, and the high percentage of apple to cake and is really nice making it moist and very ‘applely’, to state the obvious. 

I didn’t ‘get’ the boiled lemon on top and also found the use of olive oil in her recipe too strong. 

Cake with boiled lemon on top!

Cake with boiled lemon on top!

I decided to make it again and here’s my adapted version.  I was pretty happy with the results this time round.  I’m not saying mine is better; it’s all down to personal preference after all!  But there’s no boiled lemon you might be pleased to know.


65g raisins, soaked overnight in 2 tbsp Calvados (or at least a couple of hours if you are short of time)

70g sunflower oil

100g golden caster sugar

1 large egg

225g eating apple, diced to about 1 cm square

Zest of 1 lemon

175g ’00’ flour (if you don’t have any just use plain flour instead)

½ tsp baking powder

1tsp ground cinnamon

Pinch salt

1 tsp golden caster sugar


  • Soak the raisins.
  • Line a 6”/15 cm square, loose bottomed, cake tin with baking parchment.


  • When the raisins have soaked for a minimum of two hours, begin by peeling and chopping the apple and set aside.


  • Measure out the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.


  • Heat the oven to 180C.
  • Whisk the oil, golden caster sugar and egg for about 5 mins until it’s creamy and thick.  Best results are with an electric beater.


  • Fold in the apple, sultanas (and any remaining Calvados liquid), flour, salt, cinnamon and lemon zest making sure everything is well incorporated.


  • Spoon the mixture into the tin and level with the back of a spoon.  Try and push the raisins into the mixture away from the surface to prevent them burning.


  • Bake for 40-45 mins until a skewer comes out clean.


  • Leave to cool – I tend to take my cakes out of the tin after a few minutes to avoid them sweating whilst they cool.
  • Dust with icing sugar and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or vanilla ice cream.


PS … This cake also freezes very well – just cut up into serving size portions, wrap in cling film or foil and freeze.  To defrost, unwrap the cake, put it on a small plate and cover again with clean cling film or foil.  Then leave it on the kitchen counter until fully defrosted (the time it takes will depend on the size of the portion).