This apple upside-down cake is an apple spice cake covered in decadent brown sugar caramelized apples. It’s loaded with apple flavor and spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and brown sugar. It’s a dessert that could quickly become a family favorite, served warm on a crisp day.
Why Apple Upside-Down Cake?
Pineapple upside-down cake is the most common upside-down cake (I even make that into pineapple upside-down cupcakes and make my pineapple waffles upside-down). However, pineapple isn’t the only fruit cake that works incredibly well upside-down!
When you bake apple spice cake this way, the apples become perfectly caramelized and taste like apple pie filling. The tartness of the apples balances out the sweetness of the caramel. Plus, the top of the cake ends up getting some of the apple flavor as well.
Which Apples to Use
For this cake, you don’t want the apples to get too mushy – they won’t look as nice on top of the cake.
I suggest using a crisp, tart apple like a Granny Smith or a Gala.
How to Make Apple Upside-Down Cake
To make this cake, start by making the caramel topping for the apples. It’s super easy: melt some butter and mix in brown sugar, spices, and a little lemon zest.
Pour the topping into the bottom of a greased 9 1/2″ round cake pan. I like using spingform pans because it is so easy to remove the cake afterwards, but any pan of the correct size will work. If you choose to use a springform, be sure to wrap the edge of pan tightly in foil before baking to keep it from leaking.
Next, thinly slice (about 24 slices per apple) your apples and arrange them over the caramel. I like to stand them up in circle, but you can experiment with different designs.
Lastly, spread the spice cake batter evenly over the apples. I use the same cake recipe as my apple cupcakes, but I double it. That recipe is moist from sour cream and has cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice. The recipe uses lemon zest because lemon really enhances the flavor of apples.
The upside-down cake takes just over an hour to bake and you’ll know it’s done when a toothpick comes out clean.
Once it’s out of the oven, wait about five minutes and then flip the apple cake out onto a pan. If you wait until the cake cools before flipping, it will be very hard to flip the cake. You want to do it while the caramel hasn’t yet hardened.
Store the cake at room temperature for up to 4 days. To keep it fresh longer, you could refrigerate it for up to a week and be sure to let it come to room temperature before serving. Or, ideally, warm in the oven or microwave and serve with ice cream!
For a totally different look, you could try baking this cake in a bundt pan. My cranberry cake is an great example of an upside-down cake baked this way.
You might also try using half of the cake batter to make a more shallow cake. That way, you would have a great proportion of apples to cake, more like an apple tarte tatin. You would need to reduce the baking time if you use this method.
Try making this with pears instead. It works really well. (If you happen to have a lot of pears around though, you should totally try my pear cake!)
Lastly, consider baking single serving upside-down cakes in little ramekins. You can see an example of this in my dulce de leche flan (which interestingly is also served upside-down).
Apple Upside Down Cake
Caramel Apple Topping Ingredients
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter melted
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- zest of 1 lemon
- 1 1/2 pounds tart apples sliced thinly (about 24 slices per apple)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 cup unsalted butter room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups brown sugar packed
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup sour cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- zest of 1 lemon
Caramel Topping Instructions
- In a small mixing bowl, mix all ingredients except the apples until smooth.
- Pour into the bottom of a greased 9 1/2" round cake pan or springform pan.
- Arrange sliced apples on top of the caramel.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice.
- Beat butter and sugars together in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
- Beat in eggs, sour cream, vanilla extract, and lemon zest until blended.
- Mix in flour mixture a little bit at a time until just combined.
- Spread batter over apples.
- Bake for one hour (up to 85 minutes) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Bake time will vary based on your oven and how moist the apples are.
- Let the cake cool for five minutes and then carefully invert onto a plate.