Adapted from a restaurant from Sweet & Vicious Restaurant in New York City.
For the fruit layer: 4 tablespoons butter 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar 3 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced lengthwise into 1⁄4-inch slices For the cake batter: 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1/4 cup fine cornmeal 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste 2 large eggs, at room temperature 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature Vanilla ice cream, for serving
Make the fruit layer: In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat, melt the butter until just bubbling. Add the brown sugar and any other ingredients except the fruit and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar is completely melted and the mixture begins to bubble. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Arrange two layers of the fruit in a decorative pattern to cover the brown sugar mixture in the bottom of the skillet. Set aside while you make the cake batter.
Make the cake batter: Preheat the oven to 350° F. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla paste and beat to combine. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. With the mixer on low speed, beat in half of the flour mixture, then add the milk and mix to combine, then add the last of the flour mixture. Mix only until the flour mixture is just incorporated. Spread the batter over the fruit, being careful not to move the fruit around too much. You may smooth the top, but don’t worry too much because everything will settle as it bakes.
Bake for 45 minutes, until the cake begins to pull away from the sides of the skillet and you can see the syrup bubbling around the sides. The center should feel set to the touch. Carefully remove the skillet from the oven and let cool for 15 to 20 minutes.
Run a knife around the edge of the skillet, then very carefully place a plate (much larger than the diameter of the skillet) over the top of the skillet and flip the skillet over to turn the cake out onto the plate. There will be wonderful, oozing syrup escaping around the sides. Serve the cake warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.