If I’m going to follow all of these Eat Local rules, then I have some rules of my own for this apple cake. First, you must use a cast iron pan. Preferably one that has spent a large portion of its life span getting cozy with bacon fat. If you don’t have one, you must get one now. Quickly, before the market gets any worse. They’re cheap. Just heavy. Then you must cook 200 lbs. of local bacon to properly season it. (Hey, I didn’t make the rules. Or did I?)
Actually, those are my only requirements for this cake, besides eating it slowly, which is impossible. Some rules are meant to be broken. (Except the cast iron one.)
But first, a word about flour. I found a local source for whole wheat flour last year: Wood Prairie Farm in Maine (they also have rye flour and oats). Yes, I know that having stuff like that shipped to me isn’t exactly sustainable from a fuel- consumption standpoint, but maybe if there’s enough demand, people will start growing grain again in Massachusetts. Not on a Midwestern scale, but on a community-supported scale. It’s been known to happen.
It should be noted, however, that, in addition to local grains, I’m also allowing myself to use King Arthur all-purpose flour in equal parts when I see fit. King Arthur grain comes mostly from the Midwest, but they are an employee-owned, Vermont company that originated in Boston in 1790. They’ve got history and they make really good flour. This, too, falls under the umbrella of “I value their craft.” (BTW, I also value the craft of the baking powder and baking soda people, so add those to my growing list of exemptions, too.)
This cake may not be the prettiest thing you’ve ever seen, but few apple cakes are. They’re rustic. This one has a large, soft crumb, and all these buttery, nutty, mapley notes that make it pretty irresistible. When I made it yesterday, though, the cake wasn’t tall enough due to the size of the pan I was using, so I doubled the amount of cake batter in the recipe. I HAVE NOT RETESTED THE RECIPE SINCE. I don’t have time. I’m, like, barely holding things together as it is. The recipe should work, by my calculations. I’m like 99% sure, but I will not accept hate mail on this particular point since I’ve already issued a warning.
So, who’s going to be the guinea pig? If anyone does my recipe-testing for me, I’ll link to your blog in return.
Apple and Maple Brown Butter Upside-Down Cake
If you’re not eating locally, you can still make this with regular brown sugar and apples from China.
½ cup unsalted butter
1 cup maple sugar
3-4 tart apples, peeled, cored, cut into ¼-inch slices
2/3 cup unsalted butter
2 cups maple sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
½ cup apple cider
1-1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. fresh grated nutmeg
Preheat oven to 350 F.
In a 12-inch cast iron skillet, melt butter. Heat for 3-4 minutes, gently tipping pan back and forth, until butter turns a medium shade of amber. It’s hard to tell against the jet-black metal, but just make a call before it burns. Remove pan from heat and stir in maple sugar. Spread evenly on bottom of pan. Arrange apple slices on top. Don’t burn yourself. Go on, try it.
In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Add the eggs, milk, and cider, and mix well. Add dry ingredients and stir just until incorporated. Pour batter on top of apples. Bake 35-45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let cool a bit and then loosen edges and bottom carefully with a spatula. Invert a plate on top of the skillet and carefully flip. It’s really freaking heavy. You will have some words for me. Cake should come loose onto the plate, apple side up. Serve warm. Vanilla ice cream never hurts.
Apples: Autumn Hills Orchard, Groton, MA
Butter: Cabot, Montpelier, VT (Russo’s)
Maple sugar: Warren Farm and Sugar House, North Brookfield, MA (Waltham Farmer’s Market)
Eggs: Chip-In Farm, Bedford, MA (Russo’s)
Milk: Our Family Farms of Western Massachusetts, Bernardston, MA (Russo’s)
Apple cider: Allen’s Cider Mill, West Brookfield, MA (Waltham Farmer’s Market)
Whole wheat flour: Wood Prairie Farm, Bridgewater, ME (mail order)