Warm almond and brown butter sponge pudding with vanilla custard and caramelised toffee apples, by Derek Johnstone, Head Chef at Borthwick Castle

Autumn has definitely arrived! I love this time of year, when the leaves begin to turn, evenings get longer and the nights draw in. It’s the season where we spend more time at home with our families, and hearty dishes to be enjoyed together at mealtimes are an important part of that.

My cooking style at home is generally very different from my cooking style at Borthwick Castle, although I love to experiment with flavours and cooking styles regardless of which kitchen I’m in. A new season always brings plenty of exciting new ingredients with it, and my personal favourites at this time of year are the apples and pears that grow in abundance from the trees in my garden. I’ve used Cox Pippin apples in this recipe, but you can use any variety of apple that you like.

Toffee apples are always popular at this time of year, often associated with Hallowe’en and Bonfire Night. This recipe is so quick and easy to make, and it really does taste great. The sweetness of the caramel is the perfect contrast to the almond and brown butter sponge. I hope you’ll enjoy it with your family as much as I enjoy it with mine.

Serves 5

For the warm almond and brown butter sponge


4 egg whites

150g caster sugar

62.5g plain flour, sieved

62.5g ground almonds, sieved

150g brown butter

1g cinnamon

1x vanilla pod

20g flaked almonds


1. Preheat your oven to 170°C.

2. Melt the butter in a non-stick pan. Cook gently until the butter is brown and has a nutty aroma to it. Allow to cool, and keep aside for later.

3. Whip the egg whites until they are light and frothy, then gradually add the caster sugar.

4. Once the egg whites are fully whipped, fold in the ground almonds and flour.

5. Add the melted butter slowly, folding carefully to prevent the air escaping.

6. Pipe the sponge mixture into a non-stick muffin mould, then sprinkle with flaked almonds.

7. Bake the sponge in the oven for 15 minutes.

For the vanilla custard


125ml whole milk

125ml double cream

50g sugar

4x large egg yolks


1. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl, along with the with the sugar and vanilla.

2. Heat the milk and cream together until the mixture reaches 75°C, being careful to ensure it does not boil.

3. Pour one third of the hot milk and cream onto the egg yolk mixture and whisk it until it is smooth.

4. Return the yolk mixture back to the pan, along with the remaining two thirds of the cream and milk, and cook until it reaches a temperature of 82°C.

For the caramelised apples


2x Cox Pippin apples, peeled

100g caster sugar

25g salted butter

25ml apple calvados


1. Peel the apples, then ball with a melon baller.

2. Heat a pan and add the sugar. Be careful at this stage, as the caramel will cook quickly and become very hot!

3. Once you have a golden-brown caramel, add the apples to the pan and mix, until they are all evenly coated.

4. Add the calvados and butter to the pan, and cook the toffee apples for two minutes.

To serve

Serve the warm almond sponge on a pool of vanilla custard, surrounded by the hot toffee apples.