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apple upside-down cake with almonds

October 8, 2010

The rain left us temporarily today! It still didn’t get as gorgeous as it was this weekend, though, when Chris and I went apple-picking. It was sunny and the sky was bright blue and the air was nice and crisp—the kind of day that makes me want to move out to East Nowhere, MA and go Martha Stewart on my house with tastefully-placed pumpkins and sheaves of wheat. (Where, by the way, does one get a sheaf of wheat?)

Much as I love fall, I’m not a huge fan of actually eating apples. Ever since I wasn’t allowed to eat them with my braces, I haven’t really been able to go back. (Except for Honey Crisps. Coz those are awesome.) For the most part, an apple has to be baked with a lot of spices and butter and sugar for me to enjoy it.

And this did the trick. Oh, man. This cake was so freakin’ tasty. Exception #1 to my no-desserts-with-fruit rule is if it includes almonds. Every year, when my mom asks me what kind of birthday cake I want, the answer’s the same: almond cake with sticky-sweet chocolate icing. Derrr why can’t my birthday be every day?

So anyway, the almond flavor in this went sooo well with the just-picked apples, which I wasn’t really expecting, to be honest. Plus, the ground-up almonds and the cornmeal gave the cake a kind of rustic, solid texture that held up well against the softness of the apples.

And basically, everything tasted so good together that I didn’t care that the cake itself was kind of underdone (this, despite the fact that I cooked it for five extra minutes, and for the last ten minutes at 50 degrees higher than it was supposed to be coz at that point it was getting to dinnertime and I was desperate to get that veggie gratin going). I think underdone-ness is basically an inevitability when you’re using juicy fruits with batter, so I’ve succumbed to it as long as the batter tastes good.

And in case you haven’t gotten the message yet, this one did.

Apple Upside-Down Cake with Almonds
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
4 Granny Smith apples [we used Golden Delicious, because I’m not wasting my apple-picking efforts on Granny Smiths] (about 2 pounds), peeled and cored
2/3 cup light brown sugar [we used dark brown]
2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup finely ground almonds, toasted
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract

1. Butter bottom and sides of 9-inch round, 2-inch-deep nonstick cake pan; set aside. Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
2. For the topping, halve apples pole to pole. Cut 2 apples into 1/4-inch-thick slices; set aside. Cut remaining 2 apples into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Heat butter in 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add 1/2-inch-thick apple slices and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times, until apples begin to caramelize, 4 to 6 minutes. (Do not fully cook apples.) Add 1/4-inch-thick apple slices, brown sugar, and lemon juice; continue cooking, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and apples are coated, about 1 minute longer. Transfer apple mixture to prepared pan and lightly press into even layer. Set aside while preparing cake.
3. For the cake, whisk flour, almonds, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk granulated sugar, brown sugar, and eggs together in large bowl until thick and homogenous, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter until combined. Add sour cream, vanilla, and almond extract; whisk until combined. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly over fruit. Bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
4. Cook pan on wire rack 20 minutes. Run paring knife around sides of cake to loosen. Place wire rack over cake pan. Holding rack tightly, invert cake pan and wire rack together; lift off cake pan. Place wire rack over baking sheet or large plate to catch any drips. [This seemed like a bad idea to me, given my lack of motor skills, so I just flipped it straight onto a plate and skipped the wire rack.] If any fruit sticks to the bottom, remove and position it on top of the cake. Let cake cool 20 minutes (or longer to cool it completely), then transfer to serving platter, cut into pieces, and serve.

Source: Cook’s Illustrated

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