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Nov 29, 2005 04:03 AM

Sir Gawain's fruit cake turned upside down

  • c

This has become my favorite cake to make! As simple as it is to put together (I'm getting to the point of memorizing it), it looks elegant and is wonderfully delicious and clean in flavor. I love the tweaking possibilities too. This time I turned SG's cake upside down w/ apples and brown sugar placed on the bottom before adding the smooth, stiff batter. See photo and link to original recipe.

I used 3 smallish peeled granny smiths and sliced them quite thin like you see in French apple tarts. I wanted the fruit to melt seamlessly into the cake, but if you want more texture, then cut in thicker slices. I squeezed on some lemon juice while cutting up the fruit to add more tartness and prevent discoloration. Buttered pan and sprinkled on 2-3 TB brown sugar. Neatly fanned apple slices into concentric circle. Poured batter on top and carefully spread out so as to not move apples.

As always, I used 3/4 c. of superfine sugar. To go w/ this fruit choice, I added cinnamon (Penzeys Vietnamese) and nutmeg to the batter. I also used a special Tahitian vanilla extract that my sis brought back from Tahiti. Deep and floral scent. Served w/ French vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. I cooled for about 15 min. before unmolding.

Lovely, lovely, lovely! As usual, it wasn't too sweet and the tart apples were balanced by the brown sugar and buttery cake. Apples melted into the cake, which had a subtle coconut note from the Tahitian vanilla. I've never really cared for much cinnamon, but Penzeys has totally changed that! Highly recommended. My family (every female being a good baker and every male being a good eater) enjoyed this cake very much!

While I liked this delicate version, I think I'll try it w/ apples on top next time. I'm realizing what a nut I am for caramelization in general, and I missed that in this cake. Another possibility is to run under broiler or blow torch after turning out. The apples will stay moist but still get a flash of caramelization to finish. Thanks again, SG, and you bakers who report back on your experiments w/ this wonder of a cake. I really appreciated the fact that I could spontaneously look up the recipe online when I was miles away from my home base.



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  1. Wow! What a beauty! I'm trying that recipe.
    What I'd like to ask you is what type of bake ware do you prefer? Non-stick? Silicone? Springform?
    General thoughts on bakeware?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Niki Rothman

      For this and other versions of SG's cake, I've always used a 9" nonstick springform. An 8" would work too for some added height, but that might change baking time.

    2. Can't stop drooling; I'm going to incur a fine for destroying this perfectly good office keyboard.

      Is that just some superfine sugar sprinkled on top? I love how it caught on the peaks of the apples.

      How many do you think this would serve? I need to start considering options for holiday parties.

      1 Reply
      1. re: nooodles

        I dusted the top w/ C&H powdered (aka confectioner's) sugar. Better if it has cooled, but we couldn't wait that long to eat so the powdered sugar quickly dissolved after this photo. The white dust did outline the apples better and my blow torch/broiler idea would do the same.

        If you served this w/ ice cream or whipped cream, I would think that it would serve 8-10. I like the lightness of this cake to end heavy holiday meals. Betcha your ginger cardamom ice cream would pair well. I still need to make that!

      2. Congrats on being so adaptable and creating such a beautiful cake in someone else's kitchen!

        Thinking along the lines of tarte tatin and upside down cakes, perhaps a very heavily buttered bottom would produce more caramelization?

        Looking forward to reading about where your Tahitian vanilla extract shows up next! Sounds like a nice touch in SG's cake.

        3 Replies
        1. re: petradish

          I generously greased up the pan w/ butter per the usual. I was wondering if some melted butter would have helped, although I was worried about the excess butter overwhelming and greasing up the apples too much. How much melted butter do you think? Would regular sugar work better than brown in that case?

          Taking a lead from tarte tatin, perhaps making a medium brown caramel first would be better than just using melted butter and sprinkling on sugar? I haven't made an upside down cake in ages so my instincts are rusty.

          BTW, any suggestions for the best way to feature Tahitian vanilla extract? Foods or spices that pair particularly well w/ this variety? I've used some in the past, but again, this one is special and has a very unique flavor...that coconut accent was unexpected but wonderful! Look forward to adding this to my ice creams...

          Tahiti-visiting sis also brought back 4 plump, moist vanilla beans for me that smell incredible and make all the vanilla beans of my past look miserable!

          1. re: Carb Lover

            I think you started a whole new family:
            Sir Gawain's Upside-down Tart Tatin.
            You could butter the pan, put down a layer of brown sugar, then the fruit, then dot with butter. Works on pineapple upside-down cake.

            It occured to me that some rum-soaked raisans on top of the apple slices (before baking) would add.

            Great vanilla would add a lot to your next creme brulee.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              Not sure which would be ideal between brown sugar and white, maybe a bit of both? Experimenting with caramel would probably work too, although SG's cake bakes longer-potential to burn? I'm guessing many things could go right or wrong here.

              Let's see, I'll just throw out these examples for comparison. A pineapple upside down cake recipe (from Mesa Mexicana by Milliken & Feniger) says to stir together the following and coat the bottom of a glass pie pan:

              4 T melted butter
              1/2 c packed brown sugar
              2 T corn syrup (I substitute Lyle's golden syrup or simple syrup)

              It's topped with slices from half a pineapple and then a cake batter, baked for 40-50 min at 325.

              And Julia Child's Tarte Tatin (Mastering the Art of French Cooking) is:

              2 T butter for pan greasing
              1/3 c sugar (to initially coat 4 lbs of apples)
              6 T melted butter
              1/2 c sugar (to mix with butter/apple mixture in pan)

              Into the buttered pan goes some of the sugar and then a layering of apples and melted butter ending with a final sprinkling of sugar. Topped with pastry and baked 375 for 45-60 minutes.

              I've never cooked with that type of vanilla before but it sounds lovely. Vanilla ice cream is right up your alley! Keep us posted.

          2. sounds trouble with fruit sticking to bottom of cake pan?

            2 Replies
            1. re: fishfork

              No problem at all. My sis's nonstick springform was in good condition, and I greased the bottom well w/ butter (didn't do the flour dusting per SG's original recipe). Once I removed the ring, I flipped onto cake stand and used a stainless steel offset spatula to carefully release from the bottom.

              Come to think of it, first laying down a round of parchment paper and buttering under and on top of it would be good. Will make it much easier to turn out and insure that the fruit comes out nice and neat.

              1. re: fishfork

                In case you (Fishfork) were speaking of the tarte tatin fruit sticking to the bottom instead of the Sir G/CarbL recipe, no it has never been a problem. There's enough caramely liquid on the bottom of the pan to aid in unmolding. If you were speaking of the SG/CL cake, see above mesage :+)

              2. Just when I was beginning to worry that no-one has posted anything about MY cake for weeks... :D

                Looks damn good. For a more caramelized look, I might be temted to try it with apple slices lightly sauteed with sugar, cinnamon, butter and brandy. I make that mixture for an apple clafouti... but then again, I might as well just make the clafouti then.

                Bosc pears might work too, with a light sprinkling of ground cloves & maybe a touch of cardamom in the batter...

                1 Reply
                1. re: Sir Gawain

                  No worries...this has now become my go-to cake!!

                  At the risk of overblowing your ego, SG, I think this recipe merits you a second knighthood in CH land.