I started making this cake a few years ago in the Hollyhock kitchen during fall, when the apple harvest from the orchard is abundant. It multiples easily and is gorgeous when baked in a cast iron or stainless steel skillet. I do add regular brandy, rather than the apple brandy, as this is what we generally have on hand. I have even had guests ask me what it is, as they cannot believe it is simply apples. We like to serve it on a large cutting board for beautiful presentation, but any nice flat platter will do. The patterning of the cooked apples is best not to get too finicky about, as everything turns so golden and syrupy, it is best to get it in the oven fast. To save time, I whip the egg whites first and put in the fridge to hold. I also whip the egg yolks and sugar quite a long time to create a truly creamy mixture, prior to adding in the flour and egg whites. One can also easily substitute other fruits, such as pineapple and stone fruit! I feel this is a delicious alternative to the traditional pies served at this time of the year for the holidays, as it is a bit more user friendly with no pie crust. Lots of people resist pie crusts, but that is a whole other discussion!
This recipe is originally from Florence Fabricant, a food and wine writer for The New York Times. She writes the weekly Front Burner and Off the Menu columns, as well as the Pairings column, which appears alongside of Eric Asimov’s monthly wine reviews. She is also the author of 12 cookbooks.
Apple Upside Down Cake
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 cups apples, preferably Greening or Cortland, peeled, cored and cut into slices 1/2-inch thick
- ¾ cup dark brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 3 eggs, separated
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon apple cider or apple brandy
- ¾ cup sifted cake flour
- ¾ teaspoon baking powder
- Melt four tablespoons of the butter in a heavy nine-inch skillet, preferable cast iron and one that does not have a nonstick surface. The skillet must also have a handle that will withstand oven heat. Add the apple slices and saute over high heat for about eight minutes, until the apples are tender, beginning to brown but still hold their shape.
- Remove the apples carefully, draining them. Set them aside. They should now be reduced to about two cups of apples. Melt the remaining butter in the skillet.
- Tip the skillet so the sides are coated with butter. Add the brown sugar and cinnamon and stir over very low heat just until the sugar has dissolved. Spread the sugar mixture evenly over the bottom of the skillet.
- Remove the skillet from the heat and arrange the apple slices in a pattern over the brown sugar mixture in the bottom of the skillet. Any slices that do not fit into the pattern can be scattered on top of the rest – they will not show.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Beat egg yolks until thick, gradually adding the granulated sugar and beating till light and lemon colored. Stir in the cider or brandy.
- Sift the flour with the baking powder and fold into the yolk mixture. Beat the egg whites until they hold peaks but are still creamy-textured and fold them in.
- Spread the batter over the apples in the skillet. Bake 30 minutes. Unmold the cake onto a large platter and serve while still warm.
You can serve this with your favourite whipped topping – we like to use a mix of strained yogurt and lightly whipped cream! Enjoy!