Apple Upside-Down Cake
When I’m looking for a comforting dessert on a crisp fall day, I reach for this apple upside-down cake. It’s a richly spiced cake covered in decadent brown sugar caramelized apples. Try it warm with whipped cream or ice cream.
In this version, 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.
The primary ingredients you’ll need for this cake are:
- Apples – I suggest using a crisp, tart apple like a Granny Smith or a Gala. You don’t want the apples to get too mushy – they won’t look as nice on top of the cake.
- Brown sugar and white sugar – The caramel is made with brown sugar, but the cake itself uses both for the most robust flavor.
- Spices – I use cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice. You could also use a store-bought apple pie spice blend.
- Lemon zest – The lemon zest brightens the flavor of the cake. It goes so well with the apples!
- Sour cream – Sour cream gives a little tang to the cake and gives it a nice, moist texture. If you don’t have sour cream, you can use yogurt instead.
How It’s Made
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 a springform pan because it is so easy to remove the cake after baking, but any pan of the correct size will work. If you choose to use a springform, be sure to wrap the edge of the 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 batter evenly over the apples.
The 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.
Expert Tips and FAQs
Make sure to flip the cake out after just five minutes. If you wait too long, it may stick to the pan. Also, if you use a springform pan, it makes removing the cake super easy!
Yes! You can make this as a Bundt cake; my cranberry cake is a great example of this.
Use half of the cake batter to make a more shallow cake. That way, you would have a greater proportion of apples to cake, more like an apple tarte tatin. You would need to reduce the baking time if you use this method.
Yes! See my pineapple upside-down cupcakes for an example of the technique.
This recipe also works really well with pears. (If you happen to have a lot of pears around though, you should totally try my pear cake!)
Store the cake at room temperature for up to 4 days. To keep it fresh for a longer time, 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!
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.
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