Lots of the old cookbooks I turn to for Kitchen Comfort inspiration include recipes for pineapple upside down cake. I longed to do something different, and I love the way sweet apples and tart dried cherries play against each other. This one gives me the chance to haul out one of my cast-iron skillets, the kitchen tool I love most. Among its many virtues, it’s the perfect vehicle for any kind of upside-down cake. You can serve whipped cream on top, but I’m partial to cinnamon ice cream.

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Caramel and apples:

1/4 cup butter

2/3 cup lightly packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon pure almond extract, divided

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Pinch sea salt

3/4 cup dried cherries

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

2 medium red delicious apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices


1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup apple juice

Whipped cream or ice cream for serving, if desired

Caramel and apples: In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, combine butter with brown sugar, almond, cinnamon, nutmeg and pinch of salt. Stir well and continue to simmer until thickened and a light caramel in color. Remove from heat and scatter raisins and almonds evenly atop the caramel mixture, then arrange apple slices in a circular pattern in one layer on top. Set aside.

Cake: Heat oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

In a second large bowl, blend together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar, mixing well. Add eggs one at a time, blending just till combined. Stir in almond extract.

Gradually stir dry ingredients into wet ones. Add apple juice and mix just until incorporated.

Carefully pour batter over apple-caramel mixture in cast-iron pan and bake 30 minutes; reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake another 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted at center comes away clean. Allow cake to cool 15 to 20 minutes in the pan before inverting onto serving plate. Cool completely before slicing to serve. If you like, top with whipped cream or ice cream.

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