Apple of My Eye

It’s apple season! This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make dozens of apple pies to celebrate. Truthfully, apples have a great many more uses than just pie. Pork and apples actually have quite an affinity for each other as matter of fact! (There’s that German influence again!) However, if you’re not adventurous enough to discover apples in savory dishes but you’re still looking to branch out, this semi-homemade twist on an upside-down cake is perfect!

I can assure you that I am no stranger to boxed cake mixes. Do I use them on the regular? No. Every once in a while though, when I’m pressed for time or running low on energy and we need an easy dessert; I’ll reach for one. Occasionally when there’s a really good deal or coupon, I’ll drop some in my shopping cart to keep in the pantry. I can make a great scratch cake like the rest of them, but I still can’t hate on something that someone can use to explore their own creativity.

Usually, when we want dessert, we go for fresh-baked cookies. You’ve heard me mention before that when I mix up a batch of cookies, I don’t bake off the whole entire batch. No no no no no. That would lead to our eating the entire batch of cookies in two days. Bad idea. Instead, I bake off one tray, ball the rest up and freeze them in neat little rows on a cookie sheet for an hour, then I store them in a freezer bag in the freezer for later. When we’re ready for dessert, I just pop a few on a tray and bake! We always have cookies on hand. (More detailed instructions here.)

So back to my boxed cake mix… A little while ago, I was looking to switch things up on a busy weeknight and I found a yummy (and seasonal) semi-homemade recipe for Apple Upside-Down Cake from my copy of Better Homes and Gardens Bridal Edition cookbook. In college, I really enjoyed watching Sandra Lee’s Food Network Show “Semi Homemade.” She had a great knack for taking making yummy meals using uncommon (read: not-scratch) ingredients along with “scratch” ingredients. I gained a good foundation of flexibility in cooking with this show so I absolutely am not above thinking outside the box (or in it, I guess).

I was unable to get a link for the exact recipe, so I’m linking a similar, more homemade recipe as well as including a picture of the semi-homemade recipe from the book. Not all the cake recipes in the Better Homes cookbook are ones from boxed mixes, but this one was included in a special sub-section called ‘Out of the Box.’ It takes a boxed cake mix, throws in a few extra ingredients, and creates a unique dessert. One is still using familiar ingredients, but in an unfamiliar way.

The end result was a deliciously spongy cake with all the spicy, mineraly flavors of fall and an apple-pie-like topping. One thing I really enjoyed about this recipe was that chopped Brazil nuts were used for crunchy texture. Usually, in recipes like this, one would encounter walnuts, so using Brazil nuts was a nice switch. In the absence of access to Brazil nuts, you may certainly use walnuts. Smothering each piece in homemade whipped cream prior to serving was the proverbial “icing on the cake.”

One major change I made was the cake itself. I didn’t have spice cake on hand, so I used a yellow cake mix instead. I stirred in two teaspoons of McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice into the batter to give the dish that “spice” flavor it was needing. Molasses and brown sugar ensure that this cake is dark and sweet like a good gingerbread (of which I am most definitely a fan)!

What are some of your favorite “out of the box” fall treats?

Currently Reading: The Meat Racket by Christopher Leonard


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