When we lived in California, this time of year was one of my favorite times. The apples were ready for harvesting. Our home was Petaluma in Northern California, a region that is wine and fruit country. Napa, Sonoma, Sebastopol and Santa Rosa are towns where good food, great wine and the best apples are grown. Good food comes from fresh ingredients, great wines happen because of the climate and the wine makers, and the apples grow in in excellent ground. You can pick your own apples or stop at an apple stand and get Gravensteins, then go for a picnic in the Red Woods. Gravensteins don’t ship well, but the local folks consumed most of the crop anyway. But you can find great apples from local orchards around here too such as Blueridge Orchard, Timeless Prairie Orchard, and Apples on the Avenue.
My favorite apple recipe is not apple pie or baked apples, but apple upside down cake.
Apple Upside Down Cake
1 ¼ cups sugar
4 apples cut into thin slices (about1 ¼ lbs.)
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
½ t. baking soda
½ t. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 large eggs
1 t. pure vanilla extract
¾ cups milk
¼ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
1½ t. grated lemon zest (1 or 2 tsp. more if you are making your own whipping cream for a topping)
Optional: Whipping cream/whipped cream for topping
- Preheat the oven to 375. Combine ¾ cup sugar and 1 ½ T. water in a 10-inch ovenproof skillet (cast iron skillet works well for this). Stir until the mixture looks like wet sand. Cook over medium-high heat gently swirling the pan occasionally, but not stirring until it’s light amber, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and arrange slices of apple in concentric circles over the caramel; set skillet aside.
- Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Beat the butter and remaining 1cup of sugar in a large bowl with a mixer until light a fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk, sour cream, and lemon zest. At low speed on the mixer, add the flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with milk mixture. Beginning and ending with flour and mixing until just incorporated. You’re not adding much air into mixture. Pour batter over the apples and spread evenly.
- Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until cake is golden and toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cover loosely with foil if the cake I browning to quickly. Let sit 15 minutes, then invert onto latter and let cool completely.
- Whipped cream goes nicely with the cake. If you’re whipping your own cream, add about 1 or 2 tsp. of lemon zest.