Apple Cake. Made with fresh apples, not dried. Bursting with appleness. Hinting at apple pie flavors, but truly a cake. How difficult can that be? Damned difficult, it seems. My search for a satisfying apple cake began with Dorie Greenspan's Fresh Apple Custard Cake which won honors for aroma but seriously underperformed in flavor. I thought my Swedish Apple Custard Cake was an improved appley version of the same, but it was still somewhat between a cake and a custard. My hunt continued.
The latest cake came from a Martha Stewart recipe for an apple upside-down cake. Pineapple upside-down cakes are certainly a classic American dessert, one made popular in the 1920s soon after James Dole introduced pineapples precut into rings. Martha's fresh apple version sounded tempting.
My first attempt yielded a dry interior and over-caramelized bottom (flipped to become the top). Adjust the baking time/temperature and try again. The second cake was an improvement, adequately moist but still not appley enough. Add a dollop of whipped cream or scoop of ice cream and no one would turn down a slice or two. I might make this recipe again, though a box cake version would tempt me, but THE apple cake recipe remains one of my dreams.
Fresh Apple Upside Down Cake
based on a Martha Stewart recipe
Makes one 8-inch cake
½ stick (1/4 cup) butter, melted
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup walnut bits, chopped
1 large tart apple, peeled, cored & sliced thin
1 TBS lemon juice
2 large eggs
¼ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp vanilla
½ cup AP flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cardamom
sweetened, flavored whipped cream or vanilla ice cream as an optional topping or accompaniment
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Pour the melted butter into an 8-inch round cake pan, tilting to cover the entire bottom, and sprinkle with the brown sugar. Scatter the nuts over the top.
Core, peel and cut the apple into thin slices; place in a small bowl and toss with lemon juice to retard browning. Arrange in overlapping circles over the surface.
In a medium bowl use an electric mixer to mix the eggs, sugar and vanilla. Blend for at least 3 minutes or until the mixture pales, thickens and forms a ribbon when lifted.
Place a mesh strainer over the bowl; add the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cardamon to the strainer and sift into the egg mixture, folding gently but thoroughly until incorporated.
Pour the batter evenly over the apple slices; bake in the middle of a preheated 400 F oven for 25 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven, run a butter knife around the side of the pan, and invert onto a serving dish. Best served warm, sprinkled with powdered sugar or accompanied by a bowl of whipped cream or ice cream balls.