This apple upside down cake is a simple recipe with stunning results! Sticky caramel and apples line the bottom of the pan, only to become the top of the cake once inverted after baking. No extra decorations required!
I’ve been on an apple kick these past couple of weeks, sneaking apples into everything I’m baking. Blondies, scones, rolls and even pancakes for breakfast. Apples have become as frequent in my kitchen as chocolate, which if you know me is quite a surprise (my pantry is never without at least three types of chocolate).
This caramel apple upside down cake is the latest in my apple addiction. Upside down cakes are some of my favorites to make. They are easy recipes with no special ingredients, yet they come out as showstoppers that wows any dinner guests. The best part is you don’t need any extra decoration. Once you invert the cake, the caramel apple layer becomes its own stunning cake topper.
The base of the cake is a soft, tender, buttery cake that is spiced with cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg and optional orange zest. It’s a subtle flavor that pairs perfectly with the layer of sweet, sticky caramel and juicy apples.
Now making caramel may sound scary, but I assure you it’s nearly impossible to mess up in this apple upside down cake recipe. Even if it’s gritty and the sugar hasn’t fully dissolved, the baking time in the oven helps smooth things out to make the caramel topping sticky, smooth and perfect.
Preparing the Apples for the Apple Upside Down Cake
Before you begin making caramel or mixing up your batter, you’ll need to cut up the apples into thin slices. Lucky for you, I’ve already made a blog post that details how to cut the apples. The key is thin, even slices that are of a similar size (this helps ensure an even bake).
This caramel apple upside down cake recipe calls for two apples, and I prefer to use tart ones, like Granny Smith, but you could also use sweet apples, like Pink Lady.
Making the Caramel Apple Topping
Now that the apples are ready, it’s time to move on to the caramel apple topping. The first step is to prepare your pan so it is ready to fill as soon as the caramel is done. I like to use a round, 9-inch springform pan for this apple cake since it makes it easier to release after baking, but you can use any pan you have. Whatever pan you choose to use, make sure to line the bottom with parchment paper. This is also a good time to preheat your oven so it is ready once you are finished making the caramel apple cake recipe.
For the caramel topping, heat the butter and sugar over medium heat in a small, deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan. The choice of dark or light brown sugar is yours, but using dark brown sugar will give you a deep caramel color. I used light brown sugar for the cake in the photos, which is why the caramel is light colored.
Continue cooking over medium heat until the butter is melted, the sugar is dissolved, and the mixture is bubbling. This will take about 3 minutes. Your mixture may still be grainy from the sugar and not entirely smooth. Don’t worry about this, as it will melt completely in the oven.
Pour the caramel in the pan and tilt the pan to spread the caramel over the entire bottom. Top the caramel with the apple slices, in a flat pattern, covering most of the caramel. Set the pan aside while you prepare the batter.
How to Make Apple Upside Down Cake
The batter for the apple upside down cake is a fairly straightforward one. Whisk together your dry ingredients and set them aside while you cream your butter and sugar in a mixer. The creaming process will take at least 3 minutes – you want it light and fluffy – and you will need to scrape down the sides a few times to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.
Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Follow this with the orange zest (if using) and vanilla extract, mixing until combined. Turn the mixer on to a low speed and slowly add in the flour mixture, in three additions, alternating with the sour cream (or buttermilk or yogurt) in two additions, starting and ending with the flour. Be careful not to overmix your batter, as this will result in a dry and not fully risen cake.
Pour the batter into the pan, on top of the caramel apples, and smooth the top. Bake the apple upside down cake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Let the cake cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before running a knife around the edges to loosen it up. Using oven mitts, carefully flip the pan onto a plate, inverting the cake so the apples are on the top. If using parchment paper, gently remove it. Let the caramel apple upside down cake cool completely before serving.
I recommend making this cake as close as possible to serving time, since the topping looks best when it’s fresh. It still tastes great days later, but the apples will dull slightly and not be as glossy as the day it was made.
Other inverted (upside down) recipes:
- 5 tablespoons (75g) unsalted butter
- 3/4 cup (150g) light or dark brown sugar
- 2 apples , peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4-inch thick wedges
- 1 1/2 cups (200g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup (1 stick/115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (175g) granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest , optional
- 2/3 cup (160 ml) sour cream
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C and grease a 9-inch round cake pan. For an easy release of the cake later on, line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper, and use a springform pan if you have one.
- In a small, deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan place butter and sugar. Cook over medium heat until butter is melted, sugar is dissolved, and mixture is bubbling, about 3 minutes. Don’t worry if the mixture Is a bit gritty and not smooth. It would all melt in the oven. Pour into prepared pan and swirl pan until bottom is evenly covered with the caramel.
Place the apple slices flat in the pan in a circular pattern, covering most of the caramel layer. Set aside.
In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.
- In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes until fluffy. scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract and orange zest, if using. On low speed, beat in the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating it with the sour cream in 2 additions, starting and ending with the flour. Do not over mix.
- Pour batter carefully over apples and smooth the top. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow cake to cool in pan on a wire rack for exactly 15 minutes, then run a knife along the edges of the pan and invert onto a plate. If you used parchment paper, gently remove it. Allow cake to cool completely.
- Serve slices warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for several days.