A layer of tender sautéed apples is the surprise beneath this ultra-light cinnamon-scented cake that bakes in a skillet. Plan to make this comforting and delicious dessert for a gathering of friends or family as soon as the first hint of fall arrives. Before baking, be sure to read Baking Together #36: Fruit on the Bottom, Cake on the Top for tips and variation ideas.

Serves six to eight.

For the topping

  • 2 tablespoons firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon


For the apples

  • 3 medium firm, sweet-tart apples (7 to 8 ounces each) cored and cut into 1/8-inch slices
  • 1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces


For the cake

  • 1 cup (4 ½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾  teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾  teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼  teaspoon table salt
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 8 tablespoons (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup (4 5/8 ounces) firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (4 ounces) milk (whole or 2%)
  • Vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream for serving


Make the topping

1. Combine the brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl and stir until well blended.

Make the apples

1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Put the apple slices, brown sugar and butter in a medium-size, 10 1/2 skillet with an ovenproof handle. Cook over medium-low heat, tossing and stirring gently, until the apples are just tender, 7 to 9 minutes. Slide the pan off the heat, scoop out a few slices (10 or so) and set aside. Spread the remaining slices into a relatively even layer. Don’t worry if you have extra liquid in the pan after sautéing the apples. It will be absorbed during baking.

Make the cake

1.  While the apples are cooking, whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a small bowl until blended. Put the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or in a medium bowl using an electric handheld mixer fitted with wire beaters). Beat on medium speed until fluffy and lighter in color, 2 to 3 minutes.

2.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat on medium speed until well blended. Add half of the flour mixture and, using a rubber spatula fold until the flour is just blended. Add the milk and fold until blended and fold in the remaining flour until just incorporated.

3.  Spoon the batter over the fruit and spread evenly. Scatter the reserved apple slices over the batter and sprinkle with the topping.

4.  Bake until the top is deep golden brown and a pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 28 to 30 minutes. Using potholders, move the skillet to a rack and let cool for about 5 minutes. Using a large serving spoon, scoop the apples and cake into shallow bowls. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.