When your sister says, “Dad was the best dad ever,” it makes you question your memory. You wonder if you’ve incorrectly rewritten your story to match the narrative you want to tell. You wonder if you’re falsely playing victim for attention. So, you try to remember the forgotten good times, special times with your dad, when he loved you, supported you, and truly saw you as his child. You recall a handful of times, age 13 or 14, when he took you to explore the local tide pools and then…nothing. You cannot remember another instance, although you rack your brains for more. So, you pull the dusty photo album from the closet shelf, you turn the pages of your life, one year after the next, birthdays, Christmas, visiting grandparents, attempting to find other special times with him and then you realize there are only two photos of you with your dad. Two photos, taken long ago, when you were a few months old, before you could even remember and then…nothing. Not another photo, for the whole of your life.
I’m sometimes asked where I came up with the name Two-Bit Tart. I can thank Dad for that. When I was a teenager and young adult primping for a night out, he would sometimes comment, “You look like a two-bit tart!” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the antiquated term, it means “cheap hooker” – a slur. Thanks dad. Years later, I defiantly chose that name for this blog to say, “I remember how you treated me, but the emotional abuse I suffered did not – will not – break me.”
Apple Polenta Upside-Down Cake
I serve this cake often for autumn entertaining. Best served slightly warm, this rustic cake needs nothing more than a dollop of whipped cream or ice cream.
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
- ½ cup plus ¾ cup sugar
- 4 medium (1 ½ lbs.) Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, cut into eights
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ⅓ cup polenta (yellow cornmeal)
- ½ cup boiling water
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ⅓ cup whole milk
- Lightly-sweetened freshly-whipped cream (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously butter 9-inch- cake pan; line pan with parchment and butter parchment. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup sugar and cook until sugar dissolves and mixture turns deep golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. Add apple and gently shake skillet to distribute caramel evenly. Cover and cook until apples release their juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until apples are tender and caramel thickens and coats apples, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Transfer apples and caramel syrup to prepared cake pan, spreading evenly.
- Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt in small bowl to blend. Place polenta in large bowl; pour boiling water over and stir to blend. Add remaining butter and 3/4 cup sugar to polenta mixture. Using electric mixer, beat until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in flour mixture alternately with milk in 2 additions each. Gently pour batter over apples in pan.
- Bake cake until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cake in pan 5 minutes. Run small knife between cake and pan sides to loosen cake. Carefully invert cake onto microwavable platter and peel off parchment. Cool 15 minutes. (To rewarm in microwave, heat on medium about 2 minutes.). Serve with freshly-whipped cream or ice cream.
Slightly adapted from Epicurious.