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July 17, 2010

Cowboy Cake

After poaching apricots last week, I confess.  I was turned around on apricots.  Though I’m still not a fan of eating them straight out of hand, they were quite delightfully tart and juicy when cooked.  So, when the week 7 basket had more apricots, I was actually pretty excited.


Rewind to last summer.  I made peach upside-down cake, then promptly remade it with apples instead.  The peach cake was yummy, but in case you didn’t already know this about me, I mostly eat cake for breakfast.  (That is: It’s not the only thing I eat for breakfast, but that’s when I’m most likely to eat cake.)  The peaches and brown sugar were just too tooth-achingly sweet first thing in the morning.  

The tartness of the poached apricots made me think they would be a perfect substitute.  And I wanted to look for alternate upside-down cake recipes that didn’t involve beating egg whites separately.  Call me a sucker for a gimmick, but when I saw this recipe for an apricot cake in a cast iron skillet, I immediately announced to Bryan, “I’m going to make a cowboy cake!”

It’s really, insanely delicious.  The salt in the brown sugar really highlights the caramelly aspects of the topping, and the apricots are exactly what I’m looking for in a sweet-but-not-too-sweet cake.  And it’s so cute!  (Bryan has declared to me that no cowboy worth his boots would make this cake, and that just because something is cooked in a cast-iron pan does not mean it could be made on an open fire.  He is no longer invited to eat my cowboy cake.)

cowboy cake

Cowboy Cake (Apricot Upside-Down Cake)

adapted from Gourmet Magazine’s Fresh Apricot Upside-Down Cake

For topping

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 10 to 15 small fresh apricots, halved lengthwise and pitted
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt (or 1/4 tsp table salt)

Preheat oven to 375.  Melt the butter in a 10” cast iron skillet over medium heat on your stovetop.  When foam has subsided, mix in the salt.  Mine never really dissolved, but stir it up for a while.  When you’re satisfied the salt is evenly distributed, lower the heat to low, and sprinkle the brown sugar over the butter, trying to achieve a uniform layer.  After 3 minutes undisturbed, arrange the apricots around the pan.
For cake

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk

Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.

Beat together butter, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, then beat until mixture is creamy and doubled in volume, 2 to 3 minutes.

Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour.  Beat until just combined.

Gently spoon batter over apricots and spread gently to make an even layer.

Bake cake in middle of oven until golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, 30 to 45 minutes. (Mine was done really quickly!)

cowboy cake slice

Wearing oven mitts, immediately invert a large plate over skillet and, keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together, invert cake onto plate. Carefully lift skillet off cake and, if necessary, replace any fruit that is stuck to bottom of skillet. Cool to warm or room temperature.

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