Apple Upside Down Cake

applesI love Fall, when apples are abundant! We always buy way too many, but upside down cake (who doesn’t love upside down cakes?) is a wonderful way to use them up. This recipe,  which  came in the mail from a clever local realtor, is dead easy and not overly sweet. I had Gala apples so I used those, but you could use almost any apple.

Caramel Base
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tsp Cinnamon

4 large apples, peeled and sliced
6 tbsp butter
1/8 tsp salt

Cake
6 Tbsp butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
½ cup milk.

In a skillet, heat caramel base ingredients together for 3-5 minutes over medium heat, until slightly thickened.  Pour into a quiche pan. Rinse and wipe out skillet and add butter, apples and 1/8 tsp salt. Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened and spread evenly over the caramel in the quiche pan.

Cream butter and sugar and add vanilla and eggs. Blend dry ingredients and add by a third at a time, alternating with milk beating well after each addition.  Pour batter over the apples and bake for 35 minutes at 350.

Let cool for 10-15 minutes and flip onto a large platter.  Enjoy warm as is, or with a scoop of ice cream. Delish!

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A Tale of Two Trifles: Strawberry Vanilla and Chocolate Raspberry, for a Graduation Party

Warning: this is a pretty long post, but includes some of my favorite tricks, so hopefully it will be worth it. Maybe get a fresh cup of coffee before you sit down to read it!

My daughter Maya, who is an excellent baker, decided that she couldn’t bear to have just a cake for her high school graduation party. Nope – what she really wanted is what we traditionally serve for birthdays around here: Strawberry Trifle.  It’s cool & creamy with soft custard and whipped cream, but not overly sweet.  We all love it.

I’ve shared my trifle recipe before (see link above) and it is pretty easy to make.  But honestly the thought of a giant trough of trifle is just too unappetizing to even consider. Trifle is lovely in a clear dish – until the first spoonful is removed and then it’s a sloppy mess. Delicious – but basically dessert carnage.

Fortunately, I’ve made individual trifles before and it’s a neat and lovely way to serve them. Making 100 individual servings is a little more serious endeavor, but I thought – we can do this! To add to the fun, we added Chocolate Raspberry Trifle.

Here’s how we did it:

The day before the party, we made 2 1/2 gallons of vanilla custard, and 1 1/4 gallons of chocolate custard. In hindsight I’d do the opposite, since the chocolate was a huge hit.

A triple batch of my regular recipe yields just a little more than a gallon, and my biggest pot just held a triple batch without disaster.

First trick: when making party-size quantities, reuse containers that the original ingredients came in.

After we’d made the custard, Taylor (who was helping me, God bless her!) poured the slightly cooled custard into a pitcher, put the lid on, and then poured the custard back into the empty gallon milk jugs. I also mixed up the frozen strawberries, sugar and sherry in a bowl and returned them to the frozen strawberry bag, which then just zipped shut. (Didn’t thaw or sweeten the raspberries or add anything else to them – I like the tartness they bring.)  Both milk jug and zipper bag were way easier to store in the fridge.

Second trick: buy an unfrosted chocolate cake and angel food cakes. The bakers at Costco thought we were nuts, but it worked beautifully.

Third and most important trick: We used shiny, clear plastic drinking glasses (the shorter, wider ones) and got 7 empty strawberry “tray” cartons from Costco to hold them. Each tray held 15 cups, and let us stack them neatly.

Fourth trick: on the morning of the party, we cut the cakes into 2″ pieces and put them in the bottom of each cup. Half the cups were chocolate and half were angel food. Then we covered them all with plastic wrap (just a couple of big sheets over each layer) and stacked them.

So to recap, the day before, we made the custards and sweetened the strawberries, which we stored in the refrigerator. We also had 6 cans of whipped cream and the mini-chocolate chips ready to go.

Morning of: we prepped the cups with cake.

Just before serving we dropped a nice spoonful of  fruit onto the cake, and poured about 1/3 cup custard directly out of the milk jugs onto the cake, and topped that with a spritz  of whipped cream (and sprinkled mini chocolate chips on the chocolate ones.)

Because it was a very warm day, we served the trifle cups in aluminum catering trays, nestled on top of a second tray with ice. A couple of wooden spoons in the ice kept the tray from sinking too far down, but kept the trifles nice and cool.

We were lucky enough to have two lovely young ladies helping during the party and they assembled the trifles and refilled the trays all evening.  The trifles were a hit and I know many people couldn’t resist seconds!

So for the record, here are the layers:

Chocolate Raspberry Trifle:

First layer: chocolate cake
Second layer: frozen raspberries
Third layer: chocolate custard
Fourth layer: whipped Cream
Topping: Sprinkle of Mini chocolate chips

Strawberry Trifle:

First layer: angel food cake
Second layer: strawberries, slightly sweetened and with a splash of sherry
Third layer: vanilla custard
Fourth layer: whipped Cream

We did end up with an extra 1/2 gallon of Vanilla custard, but what with one thing and another, that  has already mysteriously disappeared! (We do love our custard.)

So if you’re hosting a party and want a really “wow” dessert, try making individual trifles.

Maya’s Delicious Jello Dessert

A proud Midwestern gal, I know the value of having a few good jello desserts in my repertoire and this is one of the best. I think Maya and I probably made this together the first time.

1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/2 cup sugar, divided
6 Tbsp melted butter
12 oz. cream cheese
2 Tbsp milk
3 cups sweetened whipped cream or cool whip, divided
2 cups boiling water
1 large or two small packages jello (any flavor that works with the fruit)
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 cups fruit, cut into bite-sized pieces (Berries, peaches and pears work well or a combination of fruits. Strawberries are pretty traditional.)

Mix graham crackers, 1/4 cup sugar and butter and pat into a 9 x 13 pan. Bake at 375 for 7 minutes. Remove and let cool.

Beat cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and milk until smooth. Fold in whipped cream. Gently spread onto cooled crust.

Mix jello and boiling water, and stir well until the jello is completely dissolved. Add the 1 1/2 cups cold water and fruit and stir gently so you don’t break the fruit up too badly. Pour jello mixture onto cheese layer.

Cover the dish and refrigerate it for 2 hours. Just before serving spread 2 cups of whipped cream on top. If you have extra fruit, use it to garnish the top.