Upside Down Apple Cake (Smoked)

When I opened the oven to rotate the cake and smoke billowed from the oven, I had an inkling that this cake wouldn't turn out *exactly* like the photo in Rose's Heavenly Cakes.  As I raced the three steps to close the kitchen door so that the smoke alarm wouldn't go off, I ran headlong into our dinner guests.  Hardly an auspicious start to the evening... but at least the smoke alarm didn't go off.

Fortunately, the old adage, "where there is smoke, there is fire" didn't hold true in my kitchen.  The clouds of smoke were courtesy of the caramel that had found its way to the oven floor.  How did it find its way to the oven floor you may ask?  Well, here is where I admit the first of my schoolgirl errors.  Um, I used a springform cake tin in complete contravention of the recipe instructions.  Yes, I am aware that caramel turns to liquid when heat is applied.  And yes, I am aware that springform cake tins are in no way leakproof.  And I didn't place the cake tin on a baking sheet, so heat + caramel + sieve like cake tin - baking sheet + floor heated oven = smoke (lots thereof).

It did start promisingly.  I prepared my apples with precision, I wanted to make sure that they were evenly sliced to ensure even cooking and so that they would look nice. 

I made the caramel, which is always such a nerve wracking experience - is it amber enough now?  how about now?  what about now?  I probably could have gone darker, but as it all ended up on the oven floor - not sure it would have made much difference to my cake!

 I pretended that I was more particular than I usually am as I neatly laid out the apples on the bottom, fantasising about how great they would look when they became the top.  I can tell you that I was bitterly disappointed at wasting ten minutes of my life on arranging those apples.  Because, those Cox apples, they weren't the shape holding type.   Witness the second schoolgirl error - just using the apples I had to hand, rather than looking on the internet to see if they would work.  Um, trial and error for a dinner party is for the stupid or the very brave.  But they sure looked pretty before I introduced them to the oven.

And can you see the folly of my ways with that springform pan.  I amaze myself.  If I had been observing anyone else making this cake, I would have been onto them as they lined it with parchment - but doing it myself?  Nuh uh.  Very annoyed at myself.  But in my defense, I don't actually have a non springform tin.  Perhaps I was in a blissful state of denial?  Have now added it to my "need to buy" list.

And I think all that caramel pooling on the bottom of the oven did something to its thermostat because the oven became blisteringly hot.  So the first 20 odd minutes of the baking was done well in excess of the recommended temperature.  The result of high temperature extreme baking...

I think I was nearly crying, or laughing hysterically at this stage.  Those are big massive bubbles on the top of the cake.  It has pulled away from the sides, because I had already run the spatula around the edge.  Our poor dinner guests had to listen to me witter on about the bloody oven (it is atrocious), while sitting in an ever increasing smoky haze, in the cold (had to get rid of the smoke by opening the door and windows!).  They were even more surprised when I started to take photos of the disaster.  After all, who would blog about smoking a cake?

And this is when I wanted those ten apple arranging minutes of my life back.  I could have used those ten minutes to think about how a springform pan and caramel would never ever work.  It looked like apple sauce on polyfilla.  And it wasn't as though I could just throw it out and pretend I hadn't made it - our dinner guests were sitting right there, watching the whole sorry mess unfold.  Very entertaining I am sure.  What was worse was that after I cooked cremated the cake, I had to use the same oven to bake our dinner.  If ever there was an argument for the absolute need double ovens - then this is it.  The smoke that issued forth from the oven throughout the night was comical to say the least.

It wasn't inedible.  Not quite.  I am probably a bit more exacting (or less polite, not sure which) than our guests.

Look at that... dense dense dense pollyfilla cake topped by an almost imperceptible layer of apple.  I think the cake was so dense for a few reasons.

1. I didn't have time to make Kate Flour, so ended up using a fine grade unbleached flour.
2. Blazing hot oven temperature.
3. Those apples literally dissolved up into the batter.

I served it with vanilla ice cream and clotted cream, mainly because I forgot about the bourbon cream - I had been thinking of making it with whiskey instead.  And I also didn't do the walnuts - I am all nutted out for the moment.

The funniest (and probably most honest) comment about the cake was "The ice cream is nice."  I am still laughing about that even now.

My confidence is a little singed.  I am hoping my mojo will return this week as I embark on baking my husband's birthday cakes for his office.  I am not sure if that is just an English thing, where you supply the cakes to all and sundry if it is your birthday?  The one upside of the financial crisis - there are alot fewer mouths to feed in his office this year.  But it will still be two full size lemon tarts, two dozen Barcelona Brownie Bars (all my kit has arrived now) and about 50 tiramisu cupcakes.  Last year I made 150 odd cupcakes.  And hopefully the comments will be better than "the ice cream is nice...", especially because there will be no ice cream on offer.


  1. Whew, I'm exhausted reading about the troubles you had with your Apple Upside Down Cake. If nothing else it was a real learning experience. Try it again when you have all the right ingredients & pan, it is well worth it. Love your writing, very entertaining.

  2. Nicola - so sorry to hear about all your troubles. I hope it's better next time!

  3. Oh Nicola - I'm so sorry you had such trouble with this cake. I hope you'll give it a go again!


  4. Nicola, thank you for sharing your experience. I hope you have better luck next time. Good luck with your husband's b'day baking. You have a lot of baking ahead of you. I admire you for being able to bake such large quantities.

  5. Nicola,
    Oh dear. That's a very sad (and very funny) story. I'm sure you're not the first person to discover the leaky properties of a spring-form pan--the hard way. I love your optimist friend who piped up about the ice cream.

  6. BH

    Thank you for the entertaining right up. :)

    I'm sure the next cake will come out better.

  7. This is one of the most entertaining and well-written blogs I have EVER read about baking a cake!!Can't wait to go back and read your other posts. Best wishes, NM.

  8. Hi Nicola, sorry to hear about your cake. I 'm sure your next cake will be smooth sailing! :)

  9. Thank you for sharing what will surely be your first and last smoked cake from Rose's book.
    It certainly brightened my day and reminded me of Erma Bombeck's weekly newspaper column.


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