Apple Spice Upside-Down Cake (Inspired by Thousands)

THE DISH
Apple spice upside-down cake (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
Thousands are the Seattle-based duo of Kristian Garrard and Luke Bergman who write gorgeous, barebones folk songs, mostly comprised of delicate dueling guitars over hushed vocals, occasionally with a harmonium or pedal steel. Their album The Sound of Everything was recorded in abandoned barns and other unconventional spots (like silos and state parks). One of my favorite tracks, “Everything Turned Upside Down,” starts with what sounds like waves in the background, and has a line that goes, “You should’ve seen the fall leaves blow up/ They never fell at all.” Of course I had to make some kind of upside-down cake, but I went with apple instead of the traditional pineapple, and added fall spices to make it even more appropriate for the season. Aesthetically, it’s also very rustic-looking and kind of reminds me of a tart with the way the caramel-soaked apples sink into the cake.

https://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F12366501 Thousands – Everything Turned Upside Down by Republic of Music


THE RECIPE
Adapted from Cooking Light, via First Look, Then Cook

Ingredients:

Caramel and apples:
2 apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3/4 c white sugar
1/4 c water

Cake:
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp cloves
3 tbsp butter, softened
2 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk (I used skim because that’s what I had; other varieties will work)
3 egg whites

Directions:

• Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9- or 10-inch round pan with cooking spray.

• Heat 3/4 c sugar and 1/4 c water over medium heat. Stir gently with a spoon until the sugar and water are evenly mixed. Bring to a boil and let sit for a few minutes. Watch closely until it turns to a golden amber color. Take it off the heat, pour into the cake pan and move the pan around to spread evenly.

• Line the pan with the apple slices, then set aside. I realized afterward that I could have placed them closer together and included more apples, but it also turned out just fine the way I did it.

• In a small bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves.

• In the bowl of a stand mixer (or another bowl, and using a handheld electric mixer), beat 2/3 cup sugar and the 3 tablespoons of butter on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and beat until combined.

• Gradually add the flour mixture and milk. Start and end with the flour and switch off between the two, mixing after each addition.

• If you’re using a stand mixer, pour the batter into another bowl and thoroughly clean the mixer bowl and whisk attachment, making sure they are 100% dry. Add egg whites to the bowl and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form (you can do this with a handheld mixer, too; also make sure the bowl and beaters are clean and dry). This took me more than 5 minutes with a stand mixer, and I sorta screwed up and didn’t beat the egg whites long enough, as there were stiff peaks at the top, but the bottom was still very egg-y. Use a dry spoon to check the whites at the bottom of the bowl… The cake still tasted great, but I think it would have been a bit lighter and fluffier had the whites been where they were supposed to be.

• Fold the egg whites into the batter until combined. Spread the batter over the apples and caramel and bake for about 35 minutes, or until it passes the toothpick test.

• When it’s done, cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the pan and use a plate or other serving dish to flip it. I should note that I was terrified (terrified!) to do this. I thought, “There is a layer of sticky caramel at the bottom. There is NO way this is going to work.” But alas, I let it sit for five minutes, placed a plate over it, jiggled it from side to side, held my breath and flipped…and it worked! Don’t be scared, you can do it.

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