Harvest Apple Skillet Cake
5 small, firm, red baking apples, such as Jonathan (1 1/4 pounds)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon plus spice blend, divided
1/2 cup pecans
1 package (18.25 ounces) yellow cake mix
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Thawed, frozen whipped topping (optional)
Additional pecan halves (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Zest one orange using short strokes; set aside. Score long strips from remaining orange and form into curls for garnish; set aside. Cut one slice from the center of the scored orange; set aside. Juice oranges to measure 1/4 cup juice; set aside.
Core and slice apples, leaving peel on. Slice each apple in half vertically; do not separate slices. Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat, tilting skillet to coat bottom. Combine sugar with 1/2 teaspoon of the spice blend. Sprinkle over butter in bottom of skillet. Place reserved orange slice in center of skillet. Arrange 5 apple halves, skin side down, in a circular pattern around orange slice; arrange remaining halves around first circle of apples. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes or until apples are slightly softened. Using a spoon, gently press down and fan out apple slices to cover bottom of skillet.
Coarsely chop pecans. Combine pecans, cake mix and remaining spice blend. Add reserved orange juice and zest, water, oil and eggs; beat until smooth. Gently pour batter over apples in skillet, spreading evenly.
Bake, uncovered, 30-35 minutes or until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean. Carefully remove to cooling rack. Loosen edges of cake and carefully invert cake onto heat-proof serving plate. Garnish with whipped topping, orange curls and pecan halves, if desired. Serve.