January 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

When I was little, my parents taught me to love certain things. Wildlife was one thing (remember adopting a duck or keeping pet baby toads in our Radio Flyer wagon). Grandma-y desserts were another.

Okay, when I use “grandma-y” as an adjective, basically I mean that the dessert probably has some kind of dominant spice in it. Grandma’s—-the stereotypical kind at least—-smell like nutmeg and ginger and such. (Actually, though, my one grandma smells like floral perfumes or department stores, and the other smells like a bolt of fabric or a jar of pickles. Hm. Maybe I should rethink my adjective.) But I’d imagine that people know what I’m talking about when I say grandma-y. Think cardigan sweaters, spice racks, dried fruits, sliced apples, pears, or peaches. Think ornate buttons and wooden chairs and tables and doilies. This is grandma-y.

The cake I made today was a grandma-y cake. Voilà: a Gingerbread Apple Upside-Down Cake.

My family went nuts over it. Almost as crazy as when we see a deer walk through the backyard or see an owl swoop down from the oak tree out front. It had all the elements of cakes and desserts we loved. Total grandma cake. Cinnamon and ginger. Sliced honey crisp apples (best kind of apple, hands down). Molasses. Honey. Buttermilk. Brown sugar. Gobs of butter.

My mom made a caramel mixture on the stove while I mixed my cake batter. The caramel was going to coat the bottom of the cake pan, then I was going to layer my apple slices in overlapping circles.  Like this: After that, I pour in the batter, which reminds me of mom’s coveted molasses cookies. The batter buries the apples and caramel, and I put my cake onto the middle rack. Then, I sit in a chair directly in front of the oven so I can peek at it while it’s baking. When this cake is done, it’s going to be flipped over, and the pretty honey crisp slices on the bottom will become the top of the cake. Upside-down. How far Upside-Down can you go before you reach a limit—-then become a new version of your Right-Side-Up?

That sounds like a Lewis Carroll question.

I’m just in that place is all. It might be the new year, it could be aftershocks from Europe, and maybe it’s just this: fatigue from transition. Leaves a gal feeling upside-down and craving foods she’s loved since she was a frog-catching kiddo snarfing grandma’s molasses cookies and apple pies like nobody’s business. I fed this cake to my family after dinner. We spent our Sunday night with plates of gingerbread upside down apple cake with ice cream, watching The Office. While I’m still adjusting to 2011 and feeling upside-down-ed here and there as I think of Toulouse and tight roads and thick French words…I’m definitely feeling that delightful sensation: “Home.” It’s some combination of gingerbread and small dogs and this silly family.


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