- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I don’t care how tall, sleek and gorgeous the chocolate layer cake appears, my husband would prefer a plain-Jane apple pie or cake any day. So much, in fact, that sometimes I feel a bit guilty about my obsession with chocolate and will do something totally out of character and bake an apple pie, crisp or this homey upside-down cake.

Today’s apple dessert is reminiscent of the Appalachian Mountains, where, for a long time, family cooks have baked cakes using a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet. If you don’t have a cast-iron skillet, use a 10-inch skillet that is at least 2 inches deep and has an ovenproof handle.

The local fall apples are already coming into our markets, so choose nice, firm baking apples like Jonathans or sweet Golden Delicious that not only bake well but taste great out-of-hand, too. Better yet, take a weekend drive to a local orchard and pick your own apples, a big basketful to tote home and share with neighbors and friends. Fresh fall apples have a more tangy flavor and crisper texture than apples with us throughout the rest of the year. Maybe my husband was right, after all.

Five time-shaving ways to use fall apples:

• Slice and serve as a healthy dessert with crumbled blue cheese, toasted walnuts and a drizzle of honey.

m Slice into a frying pan with a teaspoon of butter. Cook over low heat until softened, stirring, 3 minutes. Add sugar to taste and water just to cover. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until the apples are soft and the water has evaporated.

• Warm leftovers of above cooked apples and spoon over vanilla ice cream.

• For a quick Waldorf salad, slice apples onto a lettuce leaf, top with halved grapes and toasted walnuts or pecans. Add a spoonful of sour cream, mayonnaise or vanilla yogurt.

• For a fall gathering for teens, heat caramel sauce in a fondue pot. Surround the pot with apple slices for dipping.

Upside-down apple skillet cake


1/3 cup butter

1 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

4 medium apples such as Jonathans or Golden Delicious, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick (3 cups sliced)


1 18.25-ounce package plain spice cake mix

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted

1 cup buttermilk

1/3 cup dark corn syrup

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For topping, place butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet and heat skillet over low heat to melt butter. Remove skillet from heat and with a fork stir in brown sugar and cinnamon. Using fork, spread mixture out evenly in bottom of skillet. Arrange apple slices over bottom of skillet.

For cake, place cake mix, melted butter, buttermilk, corn syrup, eggs and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. Stop machine and scrape down sides of bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes more, scraping sides down again, if needed. The batter should look creamy.

Pour batter on top of apples in skillet, smoothing it out with rubber spatula. Place skillet in preheated 350-degree oven.

Bake cake until it rises high in skillet and springs back when lightly pressed with your finger, 43 to 47 minutes. Remove skillet from oven and run a long, sharp knife around edges. Carefully invert skillet onto a heatproof serving plate.

Cake should release itself from skillet. If it does not, simply run knife around side of pan one more time and let skillet rest on plate until cake releases. Lift off skillet. This cake is best served warm with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream, so slice and serve at once. Makes 16 servings.


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