New Take on Apple Upside Down Cake

The pomegranate-molasses in this apple cake gives it a lemony-tart flavor.

The blizzard caught me in New York City early this week with a half-written column on a great chocolate cake I intended that you would have for Valentine’s Day but required my being home to finish. Toby and I wended our way north at last when train service was restored through Connecticut where I left my car. We stopped overnight in Weston with our seasonal island neighbors Barbara and John, and it happened that Barbara needed a dessert for supper as badly as I needed a recipe for this column.

We had a great time poking through Barbara’s mother’s recipe box and piles of loose recipes. Some sounded terrific but would take too long, or a major ingredient was missing. Then Barbara remembered she had a recipe she wanted to try that just appeared in a magazine. In the spirit of experimentation, she and I revised the recipe to use an odd ingredient she had on hand.

This cake was supposed to be made with molasses, and if molasses is what you have then by all means go ahead and do so. But Barbara said, “I wonder how this would taste if we made it with pomegranate molasses.” So we decided to do that.

We left out freshly grated ginger, and instead of cutting the apples wastefully as the recipe suggested, by lopping off the sides of three apples and leaving the big chunky core, I cored the apples and sliced them. I also substituted brown sugar for white in the glaze onthe bottom of the pan where the apples float under the batter.

Pomegranate molasses, of Middle Eastern origin, is pretty exotic, and you could probably find it in specialty food shops if you wanted. It adds a pleasant, somewhat lemony tart flavor to the cake. Plain old molasses will work just as well, and make a gingerbread-like cake.

We actually had a fine time working together. Barbara assembled the dry ingredients while Toby finished the apples, and I put together the wet ingredients. I ended up preparing the glaze in the pan and Toby edited the apple arrangement. There must not have been too many cooks, because the cake was a great success.

Pomegranate Molasses Apple Flip-Cake
1¾ cups flour
1½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
6 tablespoons butter
¾ cup pomegranate molasses
1 large egg
¼ cup white sugar
1/3 cup sour cream
¼ cup milk
1/3 cup brown sugar
3 apples, cored and sliced thickly

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Sift or whisk the dry ingredients together and set aside. Melt the butter. Whisk together the molasses, egg, white sugar, sour cream, and milk. Add three tablespoons of melted butter to the molasses mixture. Put the remaining butter in a ten-inch cast iron skillet or heavy baking pan, and heat it and the brown sugar together until it coats the bottom of the pan. Lay the apple slices on it and cook them until they are slightly softened, turning once gently. Add the dry ingredients to the molasses mixture, mix well and pour it over the apples. Bake for thirty to forty-five minutes until a tester inserted comes out clean and the cake is firm to the touch.

Let it cool for ten minutes; then invert the cake on a serving dish.

Makes eight to ten servings.

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About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.