Oct 19, 2009

Apple Upside-Down Cake

This is literally the first cake in the book, and you could do worse than choose it to be the first one you make. Everyone likes apple, right? Apples are tasty and all-American, even if this is cake instead of pie. And it's easy, too--#1 on the Quick-and-Easy list. I'm afraid I'm going to work my way through the quick-and-easies and end up where I have five cakes left to bake and they're all killers. But this isn't a killer at all.
It was apple season even in the grocery store; although I didn't get to an apple orchard, there were lots of local apples at Lunds. I was pretty sure I'd end up choosing Honey Crisp, and indeed I did. The Macouns that people from the east coast are so fond of aren't available here. When I was at Martha's Vineyard, I was briefly excited when our host pointed out a big bowl of apples and said that some were Macouns. At last, I thought! I'll be able to see what the fuss is all about. But when I asked her which ones were Macouns, she said she didn't know. I ate an apple, which may or may not have been a Macoun.

Rose even gives instructions on how to most efficiently cut apple slices. She recommends using a melon baller on a halved apple, cutting each half in half, and cutting each quarter into three slices. I couldn't find my melon baller, which is not surprising. What's surprising is that I have a melon baller. Slices or square pieces of melon are just fine with me. So I did it the way my mom taught me.
This recipe requires toasting walnuts, but not rubbing the skins off. I don't know why some recipes demand skinless walnuts and others don't, but that's one of my least favorite steps, so I'm glad that this cake is less fussy than some others I could name.
The apples are sliced and sugared before the batter is made--you can do this up to one and one half hours before making the rest of the cake, and at least a half-hour before, but it doesn't get a "Plan Ahead" label. So you can just try to fill in a few words in the Saturday crossword while the apples are giving up their juices.

The Saturday crossword always makes me feel stupid. I go through the entire puzzle and I'm lucky if I know three or four words. Somehow I almost always end up completing it, but usually not until the afternoon. I hear that there are people who can do even the Saturday crossword in fifteen minutes. I'm glad I don't know any of them.
My nerve failed me a little bit in the next part, where you boil a mixture of the apple juices, brown sugar, and butter until the mixture is "bubbling thickly and deep amber in color."

I was afraid it would burn, and it looked deep amber to me, but if I'd let it boil for just 30 more seconds, I think I would have gotten a deeper caramel flavor.

Are you thinking I should have put the walnuts on first? That's what I thought, but I read the recipe again, looking for the instructions to scatter the walnuts on the sugar mixture. It turns out you don't do that until the cake is done, probably so the walnuts, which have already been toasted, don't get too brown. Jim is on red alert when he sees a bowl of some ingredient that's not been used. Ever since I forgot to add some key ingredient and then blamed Jim for not telling me about it, he's been on the lookout. But he's too polite to say, "You idiot! You forgot to add a key ingredient again!" So he said, "Umm, just wondering....do the walnuts go in the batter or on top?" I said they went on top but not until the cake was done. "You just think I forgot them, don't you?" I said in an accusatory tone. He admitted that was sort of true. But even I realize I can't yell at him for failing to remind him and then yell at him for reminding me. So I didn't yell, or even snarl.
Batter gets plopped on the apples. This is satisfying for some reason.

The cake was done after 35 minutes. When I use the convection setting, I can almost always count on the least recommended time. If I don't use convection, it takes longer. I know I should have a thermometer, but I don't.

The hold-your-breath moment comes when you have to turn the cake upside down and then carefully lift the pan off the cake. You know it's not going to be good when Rose tells you what to do if the apple slices stick to the pan. In fact, a few of them did, but it was nothing to ease them back into place.

When you start breathing again, you can scatter the walnuts on top.

Serving is easy, because it looks pretty either without whipped cream:

or with (mine is just plain whipped cream, not the bourbon whipped cream in the recipe, because I don't like bourbon):

There's a peach upside-down cake variation, which replaces walnuts and vanilla with almonds and almond extract, but peach season is over. I'd like to try it sometime--maybe when I finish this project and can bake something just because I feel like it. I can't really complain about being forced to bake this cake, however; it's a reach, moist sour cream cake with a good appley taste. A lovely dessert for a fall evening.


Doug: "Much better than my mother used to make, but then she wasn't a very good cook." (Talk about damning with faint praise).

Laurel: "The walnuts are critical."

Mary: "I love the apples--what kind are they? The cake is so moist too."

Jan: "I liked it both ways, [with and without whipped cream], but "with" was best."

Jim: "It smelled really good when it was cooking, and it tastes great."

Karen: "I taste a kind of toffeeish flavor. It's really good."


faithy said...

the apple cake smells so good when it's in the oven isn't it? I love it! :)) I also used plain whipped cream because i don't have bourbons.

PAM said...

Your cake turned out perfect. I love apples this time of year and the cake was so soft and moist. Wonderful pictures and documentation of your procedures.

evil cake lady said...

this looks lovely. i love upside down cakes!

Anonymous said...

You know, Marie, I so look forward to your baking sessions on here, not so much to see what you've baked but to read your accounts! You write so well and are so funny, i think you could make your living as a writer easily!
The cake looks good, just the thing for this time of year, and a cake that can be used as dessert is always a winner in my home. Jeannette.

doughadear said...

Removing skins from walnuts is my least favourite thing to do, because even after you have rubbed and rubbed and rubbed the walnuts in a tea towel most of the skins still remain.
Your cake is a masterpiece!

Marie said...

And the nice thing was that I could still smell the baked apple aroma the next morning.

Sugar Chef,
I agree--it's hard to be too upset about winter coming when the season means such good apples.

Me too! Why do we only do pineapple when we could do almost every other fruit?

Too bad you don't own a publishing company so you could make me a nice offer.

Yes, that's what makes it such an unsatisfying chore. If you ended up with perfectly naked walnuts, it might be worth it. The only time I do it is when Rose instructs, and I try not to knowingly disobey her.

Anonymous said...

Ooooooh this one looks really good to me! (I love apple season)

I tried an upside down apple cake from another blog, and it was icky...too too too much butter. This one looks more to my liking.

I always use Cortlands for baking (this is a family recommendation that goes back generations, I think) but some friends have raved about honeycrips. I don't see them much around here and I've never even eaten one.

I do like Macouns for eating, but my main problem is the pronunciation... Ma-coon or Ma-cown?

I do feel a little badly for your faithful man servant, Jim. But he gets bread and cake all the time. My faithful man servant has a cranky pregnant lady 3 weeks from her due date and gets very little cake.

Looking forward to reading the other Cake Reports!

Chris in (a beautiful fall) RI

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Great photos Marie - funny Macoun story. Made me laugh out loud!

Here's my entry:


Raymond said...

Your cake looks so good Marie. To really liked this recipe. It was so easy and so satisfying and best of all, great for us diabetics to indulge in some tasty dessert. Here is my entry.



Melinda said...

Lovely, just lovely! This is a real people friendly cake. Meaning you can hardly go wrong serving this apple cake at a fancy dinner party or even a Minnesota Church Jello Salad Luncheon. It is a all rounder good one!

Doug is a cracker! Made me laugh.
And Jim, you are ever faithful and so tactful.
I would buy your book if you wrote it. x

Marie said...

Chris in RI,
I like Cortlands too, but they're scarce around here. Funny how we have tons of apples from New Zealand and very few from other parts of this country.

Beautiful cake and beautiful photos, as usual.

A real cake that even diabetics can enjoy! I wouldn't have thought of that, but it's a definite side benefit to Rose's recipes that aren't overly sweet. I love the way your cake turned out.

You are right--Doug is a cracker and Jim is ever faithful. Nice to know that a first printing of 10 (for my mythical book) would sell out right away. If I ever go to a church luncheon, I'll be sure to take this cake.

doughadear said...

I had to laugh when I read your last sentence because as much as I dislike removing the skins from walnuts if Rose's recipe instructs to do so then I do. I don't like the thought of Rose disapprovingly shaking her head at me.

Rachelino said...

This looks wonderful! I cannot wait to make this Apple Upside-Down Cake! While I was on the schedule to start with everyone this week, I am afraid that was a little ambitious. My husband had major surgery on thursday and I thought I would have time to bake because I was taking care of him at home, and wouldn't be working Friday. WRONG. I should have seen this coming.
The hubby is recovering nicely and I am enjoying everyones' entries about this cake.
I will join with the pumpkin cake, but try to sneak in the Apple Upside Down Cake because someone saw the picture of it and is dying to have some.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Speedy recovery to your husband Rachel! Make him some cake - that will put a spring in his step :)


Marie said...

Ha---I wonder if Rose knows that people all over the world are dutifully rubbing their walnuts in tea towels just because they don't want her to scowl at them.

I hope your husband is feeling better soon. If he thought the cake looked appetizing, that's a good sign.

Mendy said...


Your cake looks great Marie!

Rozanne said...

Your cake looks great Marie. The Macoun story is too funny!
Rachel, hope your husband feels better soon.

faithy said...

LOL! thankgoodness i'm not the only one who dislike rubbing the skin off walnuts!

Rachel, i hope your husband is feeling better now! :)

Marie said...


Still hoping I'll someday figure out what a Macoun tastes like.

I sense a possible anti-walnut-skin-rubbing revolution here!

Hanaâ said...

Your cake turned out beautiful. Love the color of your caramel. I zoomed into the picture with the cake slice and the cake's texture is wonderful: you can tell it's soft and tender. No wonder someone commented earlier that they could snack on just the cake by itself. I can't wait to try this one. It'll probably be without the Honeycrisp though :o( I'm eating as many as I can right now :o)

My friend made Rose's Lemon Poppy Seed Sour Cream Cake over the weekend from RHC. Wow! That was really really good. Very lemony, sweet enough without being too sweet, and the cake's texture is phenomenal: soft, buttery, moist, and melt-in-ur-mouth tender. I can't wait for us to bake this one.

Hanaâ said...

Btw, I laughed out loud at your accusatory tone towards your husband for reminding you of the walnuts because it's something I would do too :o)

Marie said...

There are so many cakes I can't wait to make! Sometimes I want to just go on a huge cake-baking binge and do ten or twenty in a week. That's probably not going to happen, though.

Jenn said...

Marie - I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling that I want to bake non-stop. 10-20 in a week would be a huge undertaking. It's definitely doable (provided taking a few days off). I did 2 cakes this last Sunday, the Apple Upside Down and the Chocolate Butter Cake from the Cake Bible with Mousseline Buttercream. Plus cooking. You'd think I'd be tired but I was in such a high I didn't feel tired at all. And that evening I dreamt about baking!

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Yikes... we just finished eating the apple upside down cake and now my family (who is not used to having dessert in the house) is eagerly awaiting the next cake!

I hope we don't all gain 100 pounds.


Jenn said...

ButterYum - I think we'll finish our apple upside down cake tomorrow. It's amazing how fast it goes huh?
PS: I like calling you ButterYum. Maybe I should start signing off as "KnittyBaker"? :)

Maria said...

Your cake looks delicious! I overbrowned the caramel slightly on mine. You can see the results here: http://www.lazychick.net/?p=71

I do love apples, but I think these Honeycrisp weren't enhanced any by baking. When I used golden delicious for my cooked apples for oatmeal I was so pleasantly surprised with how rich the apple taste was. However, I was using goldens that I picked myself at a nearby orchard; most of the goldens I've seen in the store don't have the same texture.

Marie said...

Jenn and ButterYum,
I'm completely inconsistent in how I list people--some are names and some are blog monikers.

I thought the caramel on your cake was just right, but I know what you mean about walking away at just the wrong moment. I don't have you on my list of Heavenly Bakers--I hope it's ok to add you.

Rachelino said...

You guys are so nice. Thank you for all the well wishes. He has already made his first trip out of the house - to Target! So I guess he is ready for cake.

faithy said...

Hi Rachel, glad to hear that your husband is feeling alright now! :)

Butteryum: your comment about putting 100 pounds made me laughed out so loudly in my office! LOL! My family is kind of used to me baking every week. Now they are used to having desserts around and they look forward to them. The problem is when i stop baking for a week, everybody feels like there's something missing cos no desserts..:) For me, i'll always pick desserts over main course! LOL!

Beth.Glixon said...

Marie, your cake looks great. It got more of a caramel color around the edge than mine did. I had a very interesting conversation with my husband at Starbucks on Sunday. We hadn't done our Starbucks walk for a while - 2 miles there, Starbucks, then 2 miles back home. I was full of excitement about the bake-along, and what fun it was going to be. He knew I had been baking the cakes, of course, but didn't know I was planning to do much more of it. All of a sudden he paused and said: "You know, I don't like cakes all that much. I like thing with more of a contrast in texture like pies or cookies." What he meant is that he very much enjoys eating one piece of the cake, but doesn't want it hanging around, waiting to eat more pieces. So, I must find other people to eat the cake! I know about the hundred pounds. I've definitely put on weight since I began my bread-baking odyssey 2 years ago. Beth

Marie said...

You are absolutely right--you must find a way to get the rest of the cake out of your house, or all is lost! Taking it into the office is perfect, but I've also been known to call neighbors and ask them if I can stop by and give them the remains of a cake. So far nobody's turned me down.

Patricia @ ButterYum said...

Marie (aka LazyChic) - welcome to the group. I tried to post a comment on your blog, but I couldn't for some reason.

Marie (aka breadbasketcase) - the link to Lisa's blog is invalid. I think you need to remove one of the https and replace it with a www.

Marie said...

Done. Thank you.

Caketime said...

Where can I get this cake recipe????? Yummmm?

Marie said...

I can't publish the recipe because I've already included the 3 that the publisher allows. If you google Rose's Heavenly Cakes and apple upside-down cake, you'll find that at least one blogger has given the recipe.