This is a recipe I adapted from one published in Gourmet magazine, and it has long been my favorite summer cake. It’s so beautiful and delicious that I return to it year after year when apricots are in season and we want something special and sweet.
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter
¾ cup maple crystals
6-8 medium apricots, halved lengthwise and pitted
1 cup all-purpose flour
¾ cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
¾ cup maple crystals
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs at room temperature
¾ cup well-shaken buttermilk
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, and have a rimmed baking sheet on hand that you can place on the rack beneath the cake pan to catch any drips.
2. Prepare the topping. In a 10” cast iron skillet (at least 2” deep), heat the butter over a low heat until the foam subsides. Sprinkle the maple crystals evenly over the melted butter and cook, undisturbed, for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, and arrange the apricot halves, cut side down, close together and on top of the maple crystals. Resist the temptation to fill the pan to the edges with apricots; you will achieve a nicer result by leaving the outer inch or two of the pan free for cake batter. Depending on the size of your apricots, you may have some halves left over.
3. Prepare the cake batter. In a small bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda and sea salt. Using a mixer and a large bowl, beat together the butter, maple crystals and two extracts until they are light-colored and fluffy, at least five minutes at a medium speed. Add eggs one at a time, scraping the sides and bottom after each addition. Mix on medium speed for a few minutes until the volume has nearly doubled. Using the lowest speed, add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk. Beat only until combined and finish mixing gently with a rubber spatula.
4. Spoon the batter over the apricots and spread evenly, though not to the outer edge. Bake the cake in the middle of the oven for about 40 minutes, taking care to place a rimmed baking sheet on the rack beneath the skillet to catch any overflow. When the cake is ready, a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.
5. Let the cake cool in the skillet for at least ten or fifteen minutes, or up to half an hour. Then place the cake back into the oven, which will still be gently warm, for a few minutes to loosen the apricots from the bottom of the pan. Using oven mitts, invert a large plate over the skillet and, keeping the plate and skillet pressed firmly together, invert the cake onto the plate. Gently lift the skillet off the cake and replace any fruit that may be still be stuck on the bottom of the skillet.
6. Cool and serve.
Copyright Ellen Arian, Ellen’s Food & Soul