Ladies and gentlemen, there is a new special someone in my life. Don’t worry — nothing has happened to my gentleman friend (Fun Blog Nickname pending). No, I’m talking about the deep love between a woman and her cooking supplies: specifically, my new-found adoration for the latest addition to my kitchen, my cast iron skillet.
I recently visited my favorite DC-area kitchen store, Hill’s Kitchen in Capitol Hill. While I normally peruse their goods for the sole purpose of spending time in a hallowed hall of culinary awesomeness, I stopped by this time with the intention of buying. No more window shopping! Time to get serious. And for only $22.95, a cast iron skillet was made mine.
So many possibilities! What would I bake? Could I whip up traditional cornbread like the best of ’em? Make an impromptu frittata, like Harrison Ford does at his curmudgeonly best in “Morning Glory?”
Instead, for my first trick with my new friend, I whipped up a Stone Fruit Upside-Down Cake. This time of year, various stone fruits (peaches, plums, cherries, nectarines) are so abundant, fresh and delicious. This recipe is closely adapted from a delicious cast iron skillet Upside Down Cake by David Lebovitz.
For the fruit and syrup bottom of the cake, you’ll need:
- 3 tbsp margarine (easily substitute unsalted butter)
- 1/2 packed cup brown sugar
- A splash of maple syrup
- Enough slices of fruit to cover the bottom of the pan. I used plums, a peach or two, fresh cherries, a green apple (surprisingly good with its stone fruit friends), and raisins. DEFINITELY try the raisins — they’re transformed when you cook with them this way.
For the actual cake, you’ll need:
- 8 tbsp stick margarine (again, easily substitute unsalted butter)
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 room-temperature eggs (just let ’em chill on the counter for 20-30 mins while you prep the syrup and fruit layer)
- 1 and 1/2 cups white flour
- 1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 1/2 cup room-temperature milk (I used 2% without any issues, but skim probably wouldn’t work here.
Here’s what you do:
- Melt the 3 tbsp margarine in your pre-heated (medium-ish) cast iron skillet. Once the margarine is melted and slightly bubbly, add the brown sugar and splash of maple syrup. Keep stirring until the mixture is evenly combined, has thickened a bit, and begins to bubble into a kind of caramel. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the sugary goodness to cool.
- Slice your fruit and arrange it however you like on the bottom of the pan (as in, resting in the sugary goodness). I used something of a traditional pinwheel, with cherries and raisins in a ring around the outside, and alternating slices of green apple, plum, and peach in a spiral.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
- Start by beating the sugar and 8 tbsp margarine together (I used a Sunbelt hand-held mixer) until well-combined, light and fluffy-looking. Then, beat in both eggs and the vanilla on low to medium speed. Add each egg one at a time for even mixing.
- In a separate bowl, use a whisk to sift together your flour, baking powder and salt. (If you have a sifter, rock that bad boy.) Then, gently add 1/2 of the flour mixture to the bowl of wet ingredients, stirring with a spoon. Alternate 1/2 of the flour mixture with your milk, then add the rest of the flour mixture. Do not over mix! If you do, you’ll send the flour’s gluten into hyperdrive and end up with one nasty, gummy cake. (Ew.)
- Once the cake batter is mixed, spread it over the fruit layer in your cast iron skillet. Make sure the batter reaches the sides; you’ll know the cake is done baking when it begins to separate from the sides again.
- Bake for 45 minutes to an hour; the surface should be golden brown, and a toothpick should come out clean.
- After letting the cake cool for 20 minutes, use a dinner plate to gently flip over your cake. Then, you should be staring some glisteny, fruity goodness right in the face.
Do you guys love your cast iron skillets like whoa? What have you used them to make / bake / whip up?