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Anna’s apple cake . . . and vinegar

One of the heart-warming aspects of the Covid-19 lockdown is the level of industrious activity going on in kitchens all around the nation. Kiwis everywhere have been using ‘home detention’ as an opportunity to be culinarily creative and cook recipes that use plentiful seasonal produce like the granny smith apples that Anna Mathieson has used to make this delicious cake. Another positive is a heightened awareness of reducing wastefulness. Anna has used the leftovers from the apples to make apple-scrap vinegar . . .


“This recipe is a riff of a favourite Sicilian apple cake I used to eat with my Mum when we went to Zarbo Cafe in Auckland,” says Anna.

“I've adapted the recipe so it's gluten-free. You can swap the butter and milk for olive oil and nut milk to make it dairy-free too.

“With a nod to the lovelies at Milkwood Permaculture, I've used the scraps of the apple to make this useful and delicious apple vinegar.”


Apple cake



120g butter plus a bit extra for greasing the tin

1kg granny smith or other cooking apples (approx 8 medium-sized apples)

1 lemon, zest and juice

4 medium eggs or 3 large eggs

⅔ packed cup / 130g brown sugar

1 cup / 150 g gluten free flour (I used Edmonds brand)

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon nutmeg

90ml milk

1 cup / 120g raisins

1 cup / 120g walnuts

50g pine nuts (optional)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 teaspoons raw or white sugar



• Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C and toast the walnuts (and pine nuts if you are using them).

• Line a springform baking tin with baking paper, then grease the inside with butter, especially the sides.

• Peel and core the apples and slice thinly, reserving the scraps for apple-scrap vinegar.

• Finely zest the lemon and squeeze the juice over the sliced apples. Mix together with your hands until the apples are all coated.

• In a large bowl, whisk or beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla until thick. Add the milk and fold in the flour, baking powder and nutmeg.

• Pour one third of the cake batter into the tin and arrange one third of the apples on top.

• Sprinkle with walnuts/pine nuts and raisins. Repeat until you have used all the batter and finish with a layer of apples.

• Mix cinnamon and raw sugar in a small bowl and sprinkle on top of the cake.

• Put in the oven and bake for 50 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

• If the cake is browning too quickly, place a layer of baking paper on top of it while it's baking.

• Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.


Apple scrap vinegar



1 litre of boiled and cooled water

4 tablespoons sugar

Apple scraps (peels, cores, cut off bits)



• Use boiling water to sterilise a large wide-mouth jar. The wider the mouth, the better — you need to expose the mixture to the natural yeasts in the air.

• Dissolve the sugar in a little bit of hot water so you have a sugar solution.

• Add the apple scraps to the jar and top it up with water so all the apple bits are covered.

• Cover the jar with muslin and a rubber band (I used an old clean hanky instead).

• Check the jar every few days, smell it and taste it. If the apple bits are rising to the top, you can use a clean stone to weigh it down, or stir the mixture daily with a wooden chopstick. Ideally the water will always cover the apple bits so mould doesn't grow.

• Keep the jar out of full sunlight.

• The first ferment can take between 1-4 weeks depending on the air temperature; things are working when a foamy layer develops on top of the apple mixture — this means the water is turning into vinegar.

• When the mixture stops bubbling and the apple solids sink to the bottom, it's time to strain out the apple scraps and ferment the vinegar.

• Using a sieve lined with the muslin or hanky, strain the mixture and pour the liquid back into the jar. Rinse the muslin/hanky and put it back on top.

• The second ferment can take between two weeks and six months — this will depend on the temperature and your taste buds.

• During the second stage of fermenting, taste it every five days or so. If it's vinegary, you're done. If it's still sweet, leave it for another week.

• Once you're happy with the taste, put a lid on the jar and use it for: salad dressing, cleaning surfaces, rinsing your hair . . . anything you'd normally use apple cider vinegar for.



• During stage 1, a probiotic ‘mother' scoby might grow on the surface of the vinegar. This is good! Remove it carefully with a wooden or plastic spoon and store it in a little bit of stage 1 apple-scrap vinegar, and add it to the next batch.

• If a white or greyish ‘scum' forms on top of the liquid, this is kahm yeast. It's nothing to worry about — you can skim it off gently if it bothers you, or leave it until you filter the vinegar.

• Make sure that the muslin or hanky is doubled over — don't let fruit flies or other critters get into your vinegar.

WASTE NOT, WANT NOT: Use all the apple scraps to make this vinegar. Pictures by Anna Mathieson
A good cook always gets their ingredients ready first before beginning.
Nearly ready for the oven.
THE FINISHED PRODUCT: Gluten-free apple cake . . . with a few substitutions. It can be dairy-free as well.