Photography by Ali Redmond
One of the best things about TikTok is how it connects far-flung people and ideas, including those with no shortage of inventive answers to the question, “So, what should I cook?” Sure, you sometimes have to scroll past such terrifying phenomena as TikTok’s rightfully controversial NyQuil chicken, but the platform is also a treasure trove for recipes you might never encounter otherwise.
Consider @butternutbakery’s apple fritter skillet cake, a TikTok that was viewed by more than three million people (yes, really!) in less than two months. Studded with apples, covered in gooey icing and served in an oversized cast-iron skillet, the dish appeals in part because it combines familiar flavors in an eye-catching format.
The recipe is a riff on glazed apple donuts, a favorite of its creator, Jenna Barnard. “Out of a box of a dozen donuts, an apple fritter is always what I grab first,” says the baker and founder of Butternut Bakery, “but when it comes to making them at home, I cannot be bothered with deep frying. It’s so much work, so much mess and requires way too much attention.”
Instead, Barnard’s recipe combines a stovetop apple syrup with an easy cake batter. As it bakes, you quickly pull together the show-stopping glaze. “Apple fritters are always dunked in icing, so it only felt right to coat the entire cake in it, too,” says Barnard.
While you do need to use a few bowls to prepare this, it’s an easy process. Plus, according to Barnard, recipes baked and served in skillets are undeniably fun.
“Not only are they quick and easy, but [because cast iron retains heat so well] they also allow you to eat the dessert hot and fresh, which is usually when it’s at its best,” she says. When the apple fritter cake is warm, “each bite is tender and moist, and the icing is just starting to melt into the cake.”
The skillet makes for a festive presentation, too. You can portion the cake into wedges at the table or, depending on your closeness to the people you’re sharing it with, invite everyone to grab a fork and get to work.
That’s part of the fun of this recipe, says Barnard. “There’s just something about seeing a dessert in a skillet. It just makes you want to dive right in.”