Apple Upside-Down Cake: decidedly decadent!

Don’t you want to just pick up your fork and stab the computer screen right about now?

This apple upside-down cake, with its drizzle – no, make that a flood – of apple-flavored caramel, oozing over the top and dripping down the sides, is probably the most over-the-top apple dessert I’ve ever eaten.

Never mind probably; it IS the most ridiculously delicious apple anything I’ve ever had.

Trust me, it was SO tough when Sue and Andrea, my fellow test kitchen bakers, were testing this recipe. And testing, and testing, and testing…

Sue: “What do you think, is the caramel too thin?”

Me: “It’s perfect.”

Sue: “Well, I think it could be a LITTLE bit thicker…”

So she’d make it again.

Sue: “What do you think? Cake moist enough? Too moist?”

Me: “It’s unbelievable. Don’t change a thing.”

Sue: “I think it could be just a TOUCH firmer…”

On and on it went. I swear, she and Andrea baked the cake like 8 times. And they were right; each time it was just a little bit better.

Then came time for catalogue photography. And this cake was one of the feature photos, which meant it had to LOOK perfect.

Cake after cake came out of the pan imperfect; two slices of apple stuck, or they’d shifted slightly out of alignment during baking, or the caramel didn’t ooze just right.

Poor us, here at King Arthur; we had to eat ALL those “failures.”

I finally had to physically avoid the employee kitchen, where the sampling goes on. I couldn’t resist taking a bite any time one of these rich cakes appeared. And they appeared several times a day.

Talk about wreaking havoc with the diet… But every slice was well worth it.

And hey, that’s why we have Weight Watchers meetings right here on site. Along with Pilates and yoga and 10-minute “power exercise” sessions.

So we can do our duty, no matter how tough: bake, sample, bake, sample, bake, sample, all day long…

It’s a tough job (NOT), and we’re happy to do it!

Bake this cake, and see if you agree it’s just ridiculously over the top. Warning: it’s very moist, quite dense, and just at the edge (but not QUITE there) of being too sweet. If you’re a fan of light/fluffy, understated cakes, walk away from this Apple Upside-Down Cake.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a 9″ round cake pan at least 2″ deep.

Line the bottom with parchment, and grease the parchment.

Now, select 2 medium-sized apples. I’m using Granny Smiths, because when I was baking this cake for photos the fresh seasonal apples weren’t in yet. Any firm baking apple (not McIntosh or Cortland) should be fine.

Slice the top, including the stem, off one of the apples and set it aside before peeling and slicing the rest of the apples into 1/4″ thick wedges.

Place the apple top, stem side down, in the middle of the pan, and overlap the rest of the apple wedges in a ring around it.

Next, the syrup. The apples may brown a bit as you make the syrup, but no worries; they’ll be a deep mahogany brown once they’re baked, anyway.

Combine the following in a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl:

4 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons boiled cider or thawed apple juice concentrate
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup light corn syrup

Can you skip the corn syrup? No, but you can substitute maple syrup, if you like the maple-apple flavor combo. You could also try Lyle’s Golden Syrup; agave syrup (though it’s sweeter than I like); or honey, though honey tends to burn easily.

Heat over low heat (or in the microwave), stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

Pour 1/2 cup of the syrup mixture over the apples in the pan, and set the rest aside.

Gee, looks like I missed peeling part of one of the apples… D’oh! Whatever.

Next step: the cake.

Place the following in a mixing bowl:

3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
2 tablespoons boiled cider or thawed apple juice concentrate
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

Beat until smooth.

Add the following:

1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups (6 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 large apple, peeled and finely chopped
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

Stir until well combined.

Pour the batter atop the apples in the pan. Place the pan onto a baking sheet, for easiest handling.

Bake the cake for 50 to 55 minutes.

It’ll rise to the rim of the pan. This is why you need a pan that’s at least 2″ deep. Don’t just eyeball it – get our your ruler and measure. If it’s pretty close but not quite 2″, you may have some spillover; that’s why we love parchment – easy cleanup!

When the cake’s done, it’ll be golden brown, and a toothpick inserted near the center should come out clean, or with just a few moist crumbs clinging to it.

Remove the cake from the oven, and run a thin spatula around the edge to loosen.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a serving plate, bottom side up.

Lift off the pan.

Ta-da! Scrape out any sauce that remains in the pan, and spread it over the cake.

Guess I should have greased the sides of the pan more; a bit of the cake’s sidewalls got left in the pan. But never fear, that caramel-apple syrup you made awhile ago is about to cover any imperfections.

Reheat the syrup, if necessary to make it pourable. If butter starts to separate as you reheat, add water by the teaspoonful and stir until the butter rejoins the rest of the sauce.

Pour the sauce over the cake.

It’ll dribble and ooze over the sides; if it doesn’t, give it some encouragement with a spatula.

Well, mine’s not as pretty as the one they photographed for the catalogue, but then, I only made it one time. Good enough for me!

Slice and serve warm, or at room temperature. Plain, unsweetened whipped cream (or VERY lightly sweetened, and enhanced with vanilla) is always welcome.

Did I mention this cake is dense and moist?

The tartness of the apples offsets the caramel beautifully. Dig in!

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Apple Upside-Down Cake.

Print just the recipe.

Enjoy a dozen more of our very best apple recipes.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Peggy McGough

    Can’t wait to try this. Apples are my favorite food, and you mentioned NOT using McIntosh or Cortland. Why not? Granny Smith apples are so expensive that I rarely purchase them. Thanks for your reply. A faithful KAF baker.

    Reply
    1. Susan Reid

      MacIntosh apples are much more watery and don’t hold up well to baking. Cortlands are botanical cousins to Macs, and have the same issue. Other, firmer apples that work for this would be Braeburns or HoneyCrisps; also Jazz. Maybe one of these won’t be so costly at your store? Susan

  2. Pintesting Anne

    This came up on my Facebook memories – and I’m so glad! This looks like the perfect thing to bake once our power is restored. (Stupid hurricane Irma.) It looks similar to the French Tart Tatin. Can’t wait to make this!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Here’s hoping the power and your baking abilities are fully restored soon, Anne. Best of luck! Mollie@KAF

  3. Tanna Jones

    Autumn and we pick apples from the local orchard and I need new recipes … this is my new favorite apple cake! I used half white whole wheat in place of half the AP, and honey for the corn syrup (added lovely floral note!). This will be the cake I take to our two invites for Thanksgiving.
    Thank you once again. KAF is the place I trust for goodness.

    Reply
  4. Januarie York

    I’ve made this two or three times and am making it again tonight.

    I love this, quite possibly my favorite cake to make!!!! Thank you for this. My goodness this is life serving on a fork.

    Reply
  5. Kamilah Sayyidi

    This cake was delicious! Everyone loved it, super moist like you said. Thank you for sharing the recipe.

    The only changes I made was I didn’t use any apple juice or cider as we didn’t have any. I just substituted with tablespoons of water for the cake mix. Then for the caramel, I used heavy whipping cream and omitted the cider and corn syrup. Heavy whipping cream made a nice yummy creamy caramel drip.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      While this cake is delicious, it’s not a great contestant for being frozen. The caramel-apple syrup will become a sticky mess if it is frozen and thawed. You could consider freezing the cake without the syrup and then preparing the syrup when you are ready to serve it if you like. If this is the case, be sure to heat the cake up slightly in the oven before pouring the caramel syrup over the cake. The warm cake will make absorb the syrup better. Or, if you are looking for a delicious apple cake that freezes beautifully, check out our Old Fashioned Apple Cake. (Freeze without the frosting.) I hope that helps! Kye@KAF

  6. Emily

    I currently have one baking right now! I improvised a bit… with no boiled cider or apple juice I used hard cider which I boiled and reduced by half. Also, out of excitement, I forgot to hold back half the sauce. Hope this didn’t change how it bakes.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      The sauce might make it a bit goopier on the bottom (top) but the cake itself should be okay. It may take a few minutes longer to bake through, but keep an eye on it. Be sure to turn it out when directed. Happy baking! Laurie@KAF

    1. PJ Hamel, post author

      Sure, I don’t see why not. I’m not sure how much of the batter to use to fit the pan (all of it? just part?), but perhaps you could figure it out by comparing the weight of the dry ingredients in the box to the weight of the dry ingredients in the recipe. Good luck – let us know how it comes out. PJH

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