Happy Birthday Cakes: Sage and Apple Upside-Down Cake

| October/November 1998

Serves 8 to 10

A sheet cake is tasty, travels well, and is easily cut into squares to serve a crowd.

As a child watching my grandmother make upside-down cake, I loved seeing how the pineapple rings and cherries that were originally on the bottom of the pan ended up on top of the cake. Now I make upside-down cakes with many different toppings. This one is a simple, moist, not-too-sweet, eat-any-time-of-day cake. Rosemary or savory can substitute for sage if you like. I use a 10-inch cast-iron skillet; if yours is 9 or 11 inches, the cake will be thicker or thinner, and baking times will vary by 5 to 10 minutes.

• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
• 1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
• 2 large tart apples, cored, peeled, thinly sliced, and tossed with 1 tablespoon lemon juice
• 12 to 15 fresh sage leaves
• 2 1/4 cups unbleached flour
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
• 1 cup sugar
• 3 extra-large eggs
• 1 1/2 cups nonfat buttermilk
• 8 fresh sage leaves, stacked and thinly sliced crosswise

1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the brown sugar until it is dissolved; it should look like thick chocolate syrup. When the mixture just starts to bubble, remove the pan from the heat.

2. Arrange the apple slices and whole sage leaves close together in a decorative pattern in the skillet on the butter and sugar. Arrange additional apple slices around the sides of the skillet.

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