This is like a tarte tatin that bumped into a spice cake. It looks like it took all day to make, but it really comes together very easily. It needs nothing except a fork, but a little vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or crème fraîche never hurt anyone.
11 tablespoons butter, at room temperature, reserve the wrapper
3 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
2 large apples, cored, peeled andcut into thick wedges
3⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
2 cups all purpose flour
vanilla ice cream, whippedcream, or crème fraîche for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Lightly grease the interior edges of an 8” cast-iron skillet with the butter wrapper (don’t worry about the bottom, it will get plenty of butter in a moment).
- Discard the wrapper. In a large bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons of the butter with the dark brown sugar and 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt.
- Using your hands, spread the mixture on the bottom of the skillet.
- Reserve the bowl.
- Arrange the apple wedges in a single layer on top of the butter mixture. You could do this in concentric circles in you’d like, but I like it slightly more human and haphazard. You might feel like you have too many apples, but keep in mind that they will release water as they cook and shrink so feel free to squeeze them all in there.
- In the bowl you mixed the butter and sugar in, use a whisk to combine the remaining 8 tablespoons butter with the sugar until smooth.
- Whisk in the eggs until the mixture is smooth and then whisk in the milk and the vanilla.
- At this point, the mixture might look a little curdled (especially if your milk is cold which will harden the butter), but no worries, this is inevitable.
- Whisk in 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt, the baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
- Lastly, whisk in the flour until it’s just combined.
- Use a rubber spatula to scrape the batter over the apples being cautious not to disrupt the apples too much while you do this (you want them to stay on the bottom of the pan and not get mixed into the batter).
- Put a large piece of aluminum foil on the rack below the one you’re going to bake the cake on to catch any drips.
- Bake the cake until it’s golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center (just through the cake, not all the way down to the fruit) comes out clean, about 45 minutes.
- Let the cake cool in the skillet for 30 minutes (I like to set it on the stovetop so that air can circulate or you can use a cooling rack if you have one).
- Run a dinner knife around the interior edge of the skillet to loosen the cake from the sides. Put a serving dish on top of the pan and put one hand on top of the dish and hold the handle of the skillet with your other hand (it should be cool enough to grab now, if not use a towel). Carefully-but assertively turn the whole thing over to invert the cake onto the serving dish. If any of the brown sugar mixture and/or apples stick to the pan, simply use a knife or a spoon to dislodge it/them and put them back on top of the cake.
- Serve warm or at room temperature in wedges with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or crème fraîche on each serving if you’d like.
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