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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Apple Coffee Cake Tatin

Tarte Tatin meets Upside-down cake, for breakfast!  Scrumptious individual cinnamon coffee cakes, topped with caramelized apples.  Truly, this is one of the best things I have ever baked, and it was Easy.
Make it today.  Please.

There's been a full moon; last night it was so beautiful, artistically floating (Ansel Adams-style) above ghostly clouds.  Full moon here is almost like daylight, because the sky is so clear.  And that makes it cold; this morning we woke up to see the first dusting of snow covering the lawn.  It's a little strange, since there are still autumn leaves on the trees.  At 6 AM, I was putting small logs on the wood stove in the kitchen, trying to build up the fire.  As the sun came up, I could see a couple of deer, a mother and her yearling fawn, browsing in the frosty field.  This kind of thing is why I love the Fall, and why I felt like baking.

Last night I was reading the Vermont Grange Favorites cookbook (1979) and the Presbyterian cookbook (1953), as I often do, and was struck by the number of coffee cake recipes.  Everybody makes coffee cake, and I never met a coffee cake I didn't like, but most of the recipes are pretty repetitive.  They mix it up by adding chocolate chips or prunes, or both, and adding crumbles (which I also like).  But I wanted something special for breakfast.

Then we got to the apple coffee cakes.  I just happen to have a big bag of baking apples downstairs, but I didn't want to make the Grange's "Raw Apple Cake" or any kind of loaf.  I remembered that my husband had his Grandmother's old cast-iron corn muffin pan, which I had restored from a rusty wreck a while ago.  It was an afterthought; I actually wanted to restore my dinosaur-muffin pan, which was showing signs of rust.  The corn muffin pan was underneath it, so I fixed them both up.  This took quite a bit of elbow grease and re-seasoning, but I didn't have any immediate plans for either pan, so I put them away.

I thought I could use the mass of this pan to create something akin to individual tartes tatin, but marry them to Grange-style coffee cake.  And so I did, and discovered that this is both easy to do and fabulously delicious.  Not to overstate it.

Apple Coffee Cake Tatin

 In Preparation:
  • Preheat oven to 425F
  • Spray a cast iron muffin pan with cooking spray, and place a pea-size piece of butter in the bottom of each cup.  Set aside.

For the caramelized apples:
3 baking apples, peeled, cored and quartered
1 cup sugar
1 T water
1/2 tsp cinnamon

For the coffee cake:
Dry Ingredients:
1 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur unbleached all-purpose flour)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 and 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp mace

Wet Ingredients:
1/4 cup unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
1/4 cup sour cream (or cream that has gone sour and thickened)
1/4 cup sour milk (or regular milk)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Make the caramelized apples:   Put the apples and sugar in a saute pan; add 1 T water, and bring to a boil.  Sprinkle on the cinnamon, and turn over the apples with a spatula to combine.  Continue cooking for about 20 minutes, gently turning every few minutes, until the apples are well-cooked, and the liquid is reduced to a syrup.  Remove from heat.

    These apples are about 3/4 caramelized.  When finished, they are somewhat smaller and darker.  The syrup will be reduced and thickened.

  2.  Make the coffee cake dough:  In the food processor bowl with blade attached, combine the dry ingredients, and pulse to combine.
    Add the butter and pulse until well-combined, then add the sour cream, milk, egg, and vanilla.  Pulse until well-mixed.

  3. Put an apple section in the bottom of each muffin cup, and distribute the very thick syrup among the cups (there should only be about 1 or 2 tsp syrup available to put in each cup).  If the pieces are too big for the bottom of the cups, trim to fit or cut in half.  It will depend on the size of your apples.

  4. Put pieces of coffee cake dough on top of each apple piece.  Since the dough is thick, I used my fingers, but you may use a spoon.  When the dough is distributed, rap the pan once, sharply, on the countertop to force the dough down in the cups.

  5. Bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes or until browned and slightly domed in the center.  Remove from oven and cool in pan for 10 minutes before unmolding.

  6. Unmolding:  Using two jelly-roll pans or two cookie sheets, place the muffin pan on one of the baking sheets.  Place a layer of baking parchment on top of the baked cakes, then top with the other baking sheet.  Pick this up like a sandwich and quickly flip it.  Remove the top baking sheet, then carefully lift one end of the muffin pan, allowing the cakes to drop out.  Use a knife to loosen any that get stuck.  The caramelized apples should come along with the cakes, but if any are left in the pan, remove them with a spoon and place them on the cakes.

  7. Serve warm.

I still don't have any plans for the dinosaur muffin pan, but I'm thinking about it.    Suggestions?



  1. Those look so yummy and perfect. I love the old cast iron pan.

    What does Heidi do when there's deer outside? I miss seeing her pictures. More Heidi please.

  2. I don't think Heidi has seen a deer yet (fortunately).I'm putting up some pictures of Miss H shortly, on the Heidi tab (she has her own tab now). She had a bath today and is quite fluffy.

  3. Awwww. She makes me smile. She's getting huge.

  4. Those are adorable. The step-by-step photos are great!

  5. I love rustic desserts, this looks so yummy!

  6. Thank you M, Pretty.Good.Food, and JehanP! Yes, I love the rustic quality of these too. They worked out so well! Regards, Sue

  7. We call those popover pans because they make perfect popovers--we've got four sets of them!

    Thanks for the recipe. I've got a ton (well, 20+ lbs) of apples to deal with. This looks like a yummy thing to try!

  8. Made these today, and they were AMAZING. Awesome recipe, thanks so much!

  9. Thank you Tracy and John! And John, it's wonderful for me to have your feedback after making the recipe! Woo Hoo! I am so glad you liked them.

    And Tracy, I think my husband calls that a corn muffin pan because that's all it was ever used for at his Arkansas Grandmother's house...but I'm making popovers tonight! Thanks, Sue


Your feedback matters! So please leave a comment. I will do my best to answer all comments! Cheers, Sue