An Apple Molasses Upside-Down Cake with a little help from Harriette and Betty
I started the day in a frugal mood. A bowl of apples shoved to the back of the refrigerator, were threatening to wither and turn brown. Oh no! My grandmothers and great-grandmothers would not stand for that!
Remembering that incredible butter and molasses spread I had discovered along with this recipe for pumpkin/cornmeal bread, I cored and sliced the apples and threw them in a skillet with butter. When they were nicely browned, I drizzled them with molasses.
But what do do next? Maybe put them over a cake? It was time to pull out one of those vintage product cookbooks from my shelf. This one–Betty Crocker’s Cake and Frosting Mix Cookbook (1966)–seemed perfect. Betty always has a suggestion, and this book takes you from the basics of baking (with a mix of course) to some fancy decorating.But everything in the book seems doable for the ordinary person.
I love how the illustrations show imperfect decorations. See the dribble on that little petit four in the foreground? It makes the reader feel that they could do this do. Maybe our expectations in the 1960s were a bit tamer than today? Unless you count the expectation that we would polish silver and actually have a tea party with several kinds of cake.
But back to the recipe search–as I thumbed through the book, I saw several pages of upside-down cake recipes, including an apple upside-down cake. Ah-ha!
One of my mother’s go-to desserts that we all loved, was pineapple upside-down cake. How I loved that gooey syrupy top that surrounded the pineapples and maraschino cherries that Harriette Kaser baked on the bottom of an iron skillet, until it was carefully turned upside down in all its glory.
The Betty Crocker Cake Book suggests using one jar of cinnamon apple rings, drained, instead of pineapple slices in their basic pineapple upside-down cake recipe. Pour 1/4 cup of butter (1/2 stick), into the cake pan and top with brown sugar and the pineapple slices and cherries.
I already had a skillet with apples browned in butter an molasses (instead of brown sugar). All I had to do was arrange them, mix up the Betty Crocker© spice cake mix and pour it over the top.
The book suggests using one-half of the prepared mix. Because my skillet was a little larger than a regular 9″ cake pan, I used a bit more than half. ( I made the remainder of the batter into cupcakes, to freeze for later.)
The cake needs to bake at 325 degrees (since the pan is dark), and took about 45 minutes.
With upside down cakes, you must invert them on the serving plate immediately when they come out of the oven. With a cake pan, that is fairly easy, but with a heavy iron skillet and a heavy platter, it is a challenge. As you see, it didn’t break up and fall apart (whew!), even though I did not get the cake centered on the platter. Imperfect. Just like a real cook.
The only remaining challenge is letting it cool before I can dig into that molasses-buttery goodness.
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