A Phrase of Apples

Makes 6 servings (serving a crowd?)

4 Tablespoons butter
½ cup brown sugar (a little under 4 oz)
3 medium apples
1½ cup unsifted flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
½ cup milk
¼ lb butter, softened
½ cup of currants

Special equipment



Melt 4 Tablespoons of the butter in a foil-lined (because this has a terrible tendency to stick) 9" square pan while preheating the oven to 350°. When it has melted, swirl it around to coat the sides, and then dissolve the brown sugar in the bottom. In the meantime, core, peel and slice the apples. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon. Beat in the eggs, sugar, milk, and softened butter. Stir in the currants. Arrange the apple slices in the bottom of the pan and pour the batter on top, spreading it into the crevices. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool for a few minutes, then invert over a serving plate, remove pan, and then carefully peel off the foil.


We based our apple cinnamon cake on Hannah Woolley's Phrase [Froise] of Apples (ca. 1670) as quoted in McKendry (but be aware of the unreliability of McKendry. Anyone who can misspell and misdate Woolley in a single citation is considerably suspect. Someday we'll verify the original source):
To make a phrase of apples: Take two pippins, pare them and cut them in thin slices, then take three eggs, yolks and whites, beat them very well, then put to it some nutmeg grated, some rose-water, currans and sugar, with some grated bread, as much as will make it thick as batter, then fry your apples very well with sweet butter, and pour it away; then fry them in more butter till they are tender, then lay them in order in the pan, and pour all your on them, and when it is fried a little turn it: and when it is enough, dish it with the apples downwards, strew sugar on it and serve it in.
Hartley tells us that froise was widely used for any sort of fried batter, but neither invariably fried nor invariably battered. She feels the term was originally reserved for deep fat frying as contrasted to shallow fat or dry frying. The editors of the OED, however, think the term was reserved for pan-frying, particularly of pancakes or omelettes, often containing bacon.


We serve it apple side up because it's easier to divide evenly. Feel free to skip the foil lining and serve straight from the pan, but then before baking sprinkle some sugar on top to carmelize to a nice brown.

McKendry offers a different redaction of Woolley's recipe.

First served: Beltane 1993
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Last modified: © December 1995