Camping Cuisine: Apple Cake Tatin

Cocky schmocky, I like to call it ambition. A challenge to take on. No one else I know bakes anything, much less a cake, while camping, but I (clearly) like to throw caution to the wind. I also terribly enjoy a good upside-down cake (a cake that starts on the stove is so intriguing!). So, into the camping supply pile went some Jiffy cake mix, eggs (needed for breakfast), a little brown sugar (needed for glazed carrots), and an apple.

Granted, this cake wouldn’t be started from scratch — there would be no weighing of dry ingredients — but I felt a little audacious all the same. My cast iron skillet has produced some beautiful pineapple upside-down cakes in the past, and I had faith that an open fire could produce something just as delicious as my oven.

Calling this a lesson in humility feels a little strong, but it’s safe to say that an open fire is not the same thing as a temperature-regulated oven. My little skillet was the casualty of that cockiness. Next time, a little foil over the top to trap heat and, you know, actually cook the top without scorching the bottom and ruining my cast iron pan (sadly, it’s still under doctor’s supervision and undergoing intense soaking therapy).

However, I’m still feeling a little victorious, to be honest, and our camping trip was almost two weeks ago. The cake that survived was fluffy with a nice touch of ginger, lovely soft apples, and still a hint of the brown sugar “tatin,” if you will (the gooey, delicious topping). It made our dinner feel downright satisfying.

Campfire Apple Cake Tatin
Serves: 8
2-3 Tbsp brown sugar
Pinch of salt (optional)
1 medium/large crisp apple, sliced thin
1 box Jiffy yellow cake mix
1 egg
~1/2 C water
1 tsp ground ginger


  1. Start your fire with a grill over it.
  2. In a small cast iron skillet, spread the brown sugar and salt evenly.
  3. Layer thinly-sliced apples to cover the bottom.
  4. Mix cake mix, ginger, egg, and enough water for a slightly loose, runny batter (it should not be sticky or stiff), about 1/2 C.
  5. Pour cake batter over apples.
  6. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.
  7. Place covered skillet over the fire, probably somewhere with only some direct flame.
    Move or turn it frequently so the heat is as even as possible.
  8. Start checking it at about 20 minutes. You can tell when it’s getting close when the top doesn’t jiggle. Cook time will depend on how hot your fire is. (Our cake took almost an hour.) Like any other cake, a knife inserted will come out clean.

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