Rev has been asking me to make pineapple upside down cake for weeks. She requested the kind "that the church ladies make" in Minnesota with the cherry in the middle of each slice of canned pineapple. Simple as it is, I love pineapple upside down cake, or any cake with fruit in it for that matter, but with our fridge bursting with fresh fruit, I didn't want to delve into my canned stores.
Moreover, it's fall, and that inevitably means that I've stuffed my fridge full of apples. I couldn't say no to the McIntosh apples from the nearby farm in Bar Harbor, Maine, even if they weren't organic. Now that we're in Annapolis, Maryland they're not "local" anymore but party of my heart is still in Maine, so that counts.
After a few minutes of convincing, Rev conceded and let me bake apple upside down cake. Apples are one of my favorite foods to bake with. The right apple will be flavorful, not too sweet, hold most of its structure after being baked, and be slightly tart. I don't do mushy, mealy apples raw or baked. Does anyone?
As long as we're talking apples and I'm being an apple snob, let's talk mainstream apples. Since leaving the organic co-op wonderland of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, I've shopped my share of regular supermarkets. In the produce section of normal stores, I can find organic lettuce, celery, and other slightly boring vegetables. Apples, however, are almost always the following non-organic (I refuse to call non-organic "conventional") varieties: red delicious, Granny Smith, Fuji, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, Gala, golden delicious, and Braeburn. Boring. Many of these are mealy, soft, and something we've all eaten plenty of for decades. I'll forever be confounded by our societies complacence with apple variety offerings.
I've made a hobby of finding the natural foods store or farmers' market in each city we visit, and I'm actually really good at it, but sometimes the distance from the boat or variety at the store is prohibitive. I then resort to the close, regular store which I hope will have at least a sprinkle of organic offerings. There are times, however, where I lug the kid all around town in sweaty fashion, taking multiple modes of transportation (mostly our feet) to get to the local co-op. It's not all that different from when we lived in Minneapolis and we ran errands by our cargo bike. I still do the same overloading of the dinghy (and our arms) with bags of groceries as I did the Kangaroo Bike. The only difference is now Rev tells me I bought too much and asks to take an Uber home, to which I answer, no.
Back to the recipe: this is one of the "easiest to make pretty" cakes you can make and an easy way to get your fall apple fix. It's easy enough to make on a boat, underway (be careful cutting the apples) and will cheer up any crew at the end of the day. It would be well suited for long passages as apples keep for a long time and the recipe doesn't knock out your whole supply of apples like an apple pie might. It's so easy, Rev made it with little help from me. Read: this was our homeschool lesson for the day!
3-5 apples (depending on size), sliced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup brown sugar packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
dash of nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2/3 cup milk or cream (I used almond milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1 1/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
3/4 cup cubed apples (about 1-2 apples)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Slice apples and coat them with lemon juice. In a small saucepan, heat butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg until butter is melted. Pour into an 8" round cake pan and arrange apples on top of butter/brown sugar mixture.
In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugars together. Add egg, vanilla, and spices. Add milk and flour in alternate fashion, along with baking powder. Gently fold cubed apples into batter. Pour batter over apples in pan and place in oven for 25-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out cleanly (although with the gooey topping this is a little tricky.
Once baked, remove pan from oven and let cool for 5-7 minutes before turning it over onto a plate (place the plate upside down on the pan and turn the whole contraption over) for serving. Eat it warm with some ice cream or eat it cool, either way, it's delicious!