Living in DC, it’s easy to get caught up in the day to day of daily routine and forget we live a mere 60 minutes’ drive from some of the most beautiful countryside in America. To remind ourselves, every autumn, Mike and I participate in a ritual we started when we were dating: apple picking in Virginia. It’s a perfect excuse to appreciate the crisp air and rolling hillsides while picking up some fresh produce in the process. If we’re especially lucky, we can convince a couple of friends to caravan with us and cap off the day with a visit to a nearby winery such as Naked Mountain, which we love for the generous deck and serene setting.

Our favorite destination is Stribling Orchards in Markham, VA. Not only is the family-owned orchard stocked with a wide variety of apple trees, it’s on-site bakery will make you weep. Seriously. Their fresh baked apple cinnamon bread has been known to start fights between hungry patrons; they can barely pull the loaves out of the oven fast enough. Stribling also features a pumpkin patch for all your pumpkin carving needs. The orchard  had just been profiled in the Washington Post the week before we visited, resulting in a bit of a madhouse. We’d never seen such lines and younger members of the staff seemed a little overwhelmed by the crush.

After an afternoon plucking fresh apples from the trees, the major question is: what the heck do you do with all these apples? We put several recipes to good use and we’ll share them with you.

The newest addition to our apple arsenal is caramel apple upside down olive oil cake. Oh yeah, it’s a mouthful. Recipe and photos after the jump!

I came across the recipe in October’s Cottage Living magazine and couldn’t resist. I mean, the title says it all, so what is not to love? Well, a little. If you don’t have a handy kitchen helper this is the kind of recipe that gets out of hand. The caramel and apples are carmelizing on the stove while egg yolks are beating in one bowl and egg whites peak in another. Sure, it can be done by a single cook in the kitchen but delegating is a huge help.

On the other hand, just about all ingredients listed are a standard in a reasonably-stocked pantry.

For realsies, this cake is delicious. The olive oil and peaked egg whites keep the cake light and spongey. The carmelized apples were sweet but still crisp and the 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt with the egg whites help balance the overall flavor from becoming too cloying. If I were to do the recipe again, I’d increase the number of apples and cover the bottom of the pan with slices rather than just the ring. Other than that, it’s pretty fantastic just the way it is. 

Caramel Apple Upside Down Olive Oil Cake, from Cottage Living’s October issue.

Prep: 25 minutes; Cook: 17 minutes; Bake: 25 minutes; Cool: 5 minutes.

Yield

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2  cup  unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2  cups  sugar, divided
  • 3  Granny Smith apples, peeled and quartered (We used red delicious which also works)
  • 5  large eggs, separated
  • 3/4  cup  extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2  teaspoons  vanilla extract
  • 1  cup  cake flour
  • 1/2  teaspoon  coarse sea salt
  • Garnishes: 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt and lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Preparation

1. Place oven rack in middle of oven, and preheat oven to 350°. Melt butter over low heat in a 10-inch (2-inch-deep) cast-iron skillet. Stir in 3/4 cup sugar, combining well. Arrange apple quarters in a circular pattern around the outside of the skillet, and fill in the center with additional quarters. Increase heat to medium, and cook, without stirring, 15 to 20 minutes or until sugar turns golden.

2. Beat egg yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl of an electric mixer at high speed about 3 minutes or until thick and pale. Reduce speed to medium, and slowly add olive oil and vanilla until well combined. Remove from mixer, and stir in flour just to combine.

3. Place egg whites and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt in a separate large bowl of an electric mixer, and beat at medium speed until frothy. Add remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and continue beating just until soft peaks form.

4. Fold one-third of the egg whites gently into the yolk mixture. Fold in remaining whites, being careful not to overmix. Pour batter into skillet with apples. Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

5. Cool cake about 5 minutes, then run a knife around edges to loosen. Invert onto a large platter, and, if desired, sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon sea salt over the apples and caramel. Serve warm with lightly sweetened whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.