There’s a fine mist in the towering oaks outside my window, branches covered in Resurrection Fern, a lace of Spanish Moss trailing below — something tells me I’m not in Kansas anymore, and by that I mean the old sound stages at MGM. I am far, far from home and about to make Thanksgiving dinner. It will be delicious and adapted to my surroundings, for instance, there are no cake pans in my rental, but there are skillets I can put in the oven, so for dessert that means…
Buttery Apple Cardamon Ginger Skillet Cake
First a note about cakes you make on the fly. High rising cakes are fluffy because of little bubbles of air trapped in the batter that expand in the heat of baking. Denser cakes, more like custard cakes, use melted butter (or olive oil) instead of the usual butter creamed with sugar and an additional egg or two in the batter. Brown sugar has a deeper more molasses-caramel flavor than white, it will also affect the color of the cake; tawny with brown, yellow with white. Keep that in mind and you can make the cake to suit your preference.
I love the perfume of winter spices — nutmeg, cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, clove — heady stuff. Yet I don’t want my cake to remind anyone of pumpkin pie, so I will keep the spices simple and very aromatic. To me that means cardamon, a pinch (or knife point) of nutmeg, and the ginger will be crystalized and scattered in with the apple upside-down butter brown sugar mixture lining the skillet. To serve top with a dollop of whipped cream, and if you’re too tired at the end of the meal to make whipped cream a splash of cream is just as good. Here we go.
For the apple topping:
2 large apples (your favorites, I’m using Honeycrisp) sliced and sprinkled with lemon juice
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tablespoons minced crystalized ginger
a pinch of cardamon
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of salt
Melt the butter in a ten inch skillet and roll it around so it coats the sides as well. Add the brown sugar and heat gently until the sugar dissolves and add the ginger, cardamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir. Remove from flame. Now lay your apple slices in the sugar spice syrup in a nice pattern, concentric circles, rows, whatever strikes your fancy.
1/2 cup butter (take it out of the refrigerator at least one hour before making the batter)
1/3 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar (I’m using brown because I like the flavor)
1 teaspoon vanilla (or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract)
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cardamon
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350º. Cream together butter and brown sugar with your mixer until it lightens and is very fluffy, around 5 minutes. Whisk eggs together in a separate bowl until pale yellow (get that air incorporated!) pour into butter and sugar and blend well. Add vanilla. In another bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, cardamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the flour mixture to your batter and stir gently until everything is just blended, now stop. If the the batter is too stiff add 1/3 cup cream and stir.
Spoon the batter over the apple mixture in the skillet (if you need to, smooth it with a knife) and bake for 30 (or 35) minutes.
Let the cake cool for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the cake and place a plate over the cake and turn it upside down. Voilà.
I like to serve it warm (and I think it would be especially good for a post-holiday breakfast with a big cup of coffee).
Sending out this post near and far, and for my friend in New Zealand in particular. You can find her here: Silk Ann Threades. Season’s greetings to you, 18 hours ahead and enjoying Spring.
Here on a movie location in Savannah at 68ºF/20ºC we enjoyed a fine winter dusk with the cobblestone streets under a layer of fake snow — which speaking of fluffy, looked exceedingly good and consisted of ground paper — it dusted the treetops, even the palms(!) and as the street lamps began to glow people in 1910 winter attire bustled across the square while a horse drawn cart clomped by parked antique cars. A movie camera on a drone flew up above the spires of a cathedral painting a scene set at Christmas. I was standing by the Mister on set, the FAA prescribed distance from the drone, his arms around me, and it occurred to me that a very long time ago we met on a movie, and in a week it will be our 31st anniversary…
Cheers dears, and a Happy Thanksgiving!