I studied those bad Stuart monarchs for my history degree, so Royal Oak Day (29 May) is one holiday I never miss. Royal Oak Day is a commemoration of the restoration of the monarchy (in the person of Charles II) in 1660 after a decade of horrible puritans in charge. Puritan Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell even outlawed Christmas celebrations! Bah humbug. Although they’d beheaded Charles’s father, the English people were glad to have a king again, especially one as charming and fun-loving as Charles II. After years in rather dingy exile (first as a “poor relation” at the French court, then hiding out in Holland) Charles was ready for enjoyment and really applied himself to earning the nickname “The Merry Monarch.” What a relief after the depressingly earnest Commonwealth!
You might be wondering why today is called “Royal Oak Day” instead of “Restoration Day” or something sensible like that. At the Battle of Worcester in 1651, Charles escaped the Parliamentarians by hiding in an oak tree. Thus, that noble tree preserved the monarchy. Another name for Royal Oak Day is Oak Apple Day. Oak Apples are actually rather nasty galls, which according to Wikipedia, are “abnormal outgrowths of plant tissues and can be caused by various parasites.” Lovely!
Actual apples are so much better than oak apples, right? I still had some cooking apples knocking around in my refrigerator bins, so I got to work and made these delicious Essex Apple Slices. They’re similar to the Kerry Apple Cake I made waaay back in 2010, but less dense and with a delightful lemony icing.
Essex Apple Slices
12-ounce cooking apple (I used Granny Smith)
juice of 1 lemon, divided
1/2 pound (2 cups) all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound (1/2 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/4 pound (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
1/2 pound (1 3/4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted
Preheat oven to 350˚ Fahrenheit. Grease an 8″ x 8″ Pyrex square cake pan and set aside.
Peel, core, and chop the apple into 1/4″ inch cubes. Place in a small bowl and cover with half the lemon juice. Stir to coat. Set aside.
Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Rub in the butter until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar with a wooden spoon then rub in the butter with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse sand. In a small bowl, thoroughly whisk together the egg and milk. Pour this into the dry ingredient/butter mixture and stir. Fold in the apples. Pour batter into prepared pan and level off with the back of your spoon. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
To make the icing, stir together the powdered sugar with the remaining lemon juice. Add any water, if necessary, to get a nicely thick yet pourable icing. As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, pour icing over the top and leave to cool completely. Cut cake in sixteen squares. Enjoy!
Adapted from Favourite Essex Recipes.
For folks not in the US:
- 350 g apple, cut into 6-7 mm chunks
- 225 g plain flour
- 115 g butter
- 115 g caster sugar
- scant 1/4 Imperial pint / 120 ml milk
- 225 g icing sugar
- 180˚ Celsius
- 20 cm square cake tin
What are your plans for Royal Oak Day?