I think I literally jumped for joy when I found this old recipe for apple cake among my mother's favorites — all stuffed in an old, army-green metal index card box.
A few tears came to my eyes when I saw the notations she'd made in her own writing on the tattered, yellowed card: "Room-temp eggs; Winesap apples are better; NO fat-free sour cream; Butter, not margarine!" These are all things most cooks know, but they were reminders to herself and others, such as I, who would one day come upon this recipe.
I remember her first making it. It was a brisk night in the fall, and I was home from college for the weekend. How do I remember what the weather was on this particular day? Winesap apples are one of the last apples of the season, for starters. And I remember my mom commenting that maybe we'd just want a slice of this cake with a cup of hot chocolate. So naturally, it was a rather cool evening.
There's nothing more comforting than a warm slice of apple cake served with a scoop of ice cream dripping down its sides, and this one fits the bill. It's gooey, sweet, a little on the messy side and everything else that makes a dessert pure comfort. I taped up a small tear on the recipe card to prevent further damage and kissed a smear on the card as well, thinking my mother had probably spilled some batter on the card and smeared it off with her finger. Then I proceeded to make this cake from long ago.
Think of it just as you would a pineapple upside-down cake. It's baked in a cast-iron skillet. When done, it's turned over to release it from the pan, and the bottom becomes the top.
Until Winesaps come in, use Granny Smiths. I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Cast Iron Apple Upside-Down Cake
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) butter (not margarine)
3/4 cup sugar
4-5 apples (preferably Winesap or Granny Smith), peeled, cored and cut into 6 equal pieces
1 tablespoon cinnamon-sugar
1 stick butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 small apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
Heat oven to 375 degrees. In a 9- to 10-inch cast-iron skillet, melt 14 tablespoons butter over low heat. Add 3/4 cup sugar to the pan, and stir around. Then place apple slices, cut side down, in the pan about an inch apart. Don't pack too tightly. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar, then cook apples over low/medium-low heat while you make the cake batter.
With an electric mixer, beat 1 stick of butter and 2/3 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and eggs. Add sour cream, and mix well.
In separate bowl, sift flour, and stir in baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Gradually add flour mixture into the creamed mixture until just combined. Gently stir in 1 chopped apple.
Remove skillet from heat. Spoon batter over the top, then spread gently so batter is evenly distributed. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until cake is golden brown and bubbly. Allow cake to cool in skillet for 30-45 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
BIG BEEF DINNER
Mark your calendars and get your tickets for a celebration of Tennessee beef and Lodge Cast Iron. The South Pittsburg manufacturer of the country's best cast iron, along with the BeeFoundation, an affiliate of the Tennessee Beef Industry Council, will host Seasoned & Seared on Sunday, Sept. 24, in Nashville at Green Door Gourmet's Grand Barn.
Chefs Steven Chandler of Kayne Prime, Jay Mitchell of Tennessee Brew Works, Eric Zizka of Oak Steakhouse, Andrew Whitney of Virago and Richard Jones of Green Door Gourmet will be cooking certified Angus beef courses using Lodge cast iron.
"Seasoned & Seared celebrates our state's beef industry of ranchers and farmers and our growing line of quality-made cookware at Lodge," says Lodge's Mark Kelly.
Seasoned & Seared benefits the BeeFoundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve the heritage of the cattle industry and plan for its future. Tickets to the dinner are $150 each and include hors d'oeuvres and a four-course dinner served with Tennessee Brew Works craft beers. Guests will also receive a 5-inch Lodge cast-iron skillet and a copy of the Cornbread Festival Cookbook to take home. For tickets, log onto www.eventbrite.com and type "Seasoned and Seared" into the search box.
Contact Anne Braly at email@example.com.