Curiousbaker's suggestion for an upside-down gingerbread pear cake was too tempting. I have 10 kilos of local Gravenstein, Jamba, and Cox Orange apples in my basement so decided to use those.
For the gingerbread, I used the recipe from epicurious's pear-gingerbread cake. I doubled the spices and added some dried lemon peel and a pinch of star anise, and 1/2 tsp of black pepper. Pleased with the batter, although it seemed a bit liquid and caused a few apples to detach from their caramel and float to the top of the skillet ... and then there was the five-minute hair-raising revelation that my skillet didn't fit in my oven (finally screwed off the handle to solve that problem).
Cake smells wonderful while it's baking and was done 40 min later, as per recipe. Comes out of the skillet like a charm and is very large, could easily serve 12 people. Very moist, very dense, and well-spiced -- unusual too, and nice for fall I think.
Thanks, curiousbaker, for your wonderful suggestion! Someone also suggested using pineapple; I'm going to try this next. This is one of those recipes I want to nail down and make an autumn tradition.