Cakes/ Dessert/ Fruit Desserts

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

November 5, 2020

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!

Apple Upside Down Cake

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.

Apple Upside Down Cake

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.

Apple Upside Down Cake

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.

Apple Upside Down Cake

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.

Apple Upside Down Cake

Other inverted (upside down) recipes:

5 from 1 vote
Apple Upside Down Cake
Apple Upside Down Cake
YIELD: 9 inch cake

Caramel Apple Topping
  • 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
  1. 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.

Make the apple topping:
  1. 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.
  2. Place the apple slices flat in the pan in a circular pattern, covering most of the caramel layer. Set aside.

Make the cake:
  1. In a medium bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and spices. Set aside.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Serve slices warm or at room temperature. Leftovers can be kept in the refrigerator for several days.

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  • Reply
    November 6, 2020 at 1:32 am

    This looks so delicious!! Just a quick question regarding the sour cream, can you substitute plain yoghurt in an equal amount. I live in Africa and we don’t always find sour cream in the shops unfortunately. I was happy to see you’d mention yoghurt as an alternative 🙂 x

    • Reply
      November 25, 2020 at 6:47 pm

      Wonderful recipe! Hi Sophie! I’m an experienced Baker from NC, USA. I have subbed full fat Whole) Greek yogurt for sour cream many times with no noticable difference. I have also used 2% Greek yogurt or Whole Buttermilk in recipes calling for sour cream. I would try it and just watch it frequently while baking.

      • Reply
        December 6, 2020 at 12:13 pm

        Thank you so much Abbie. I’m pretty sure we’ve got full fat Greek yoghurt in the supermarkets here so I’ll give it a go 🙂 xx

  • Reply
    Inggrid Silitonga
    January 6, 2021 at 11:17 pm

    What kind of apples are suitable for the cake? Thank you

    • Reply
      January 7, 2021 at 3:19 am

      I prefer to use tart ones, like Granny Smith, but you could also use sweet apples, like Pink Lady.

  • Reply
    January 7, 2021 at 4:42 pm

    Hi, this recipe looks amazing! I don’t have sour cream, would Creme fraiche work??

    • Reply
      January 11, 2021 at 1:35 am

      Yes, it would work 🙂

  • Reply
    September 29, 2021 at 6:50 am

    Hi there! I was wondering if I could bake this in an 8 inch round pan. Would that work? Would I have to change the baking time?

    • Reply
      Talia @ Pretty. Simple. Sweet.
      October 1, 2021 at 4:25 am

      Hi Susan! Yes, you can definitely change the pan size. I would recommend following this article to adapt the recipe. You may need to bake the cake for slightly less time, but not too much less. Start with 30 minutes and check every 5 minutes to see if it’s done 🙂

  • Reply
    October 3, 2021 at 2:56 am

    Hi it seems a good recipe but how much butter milk we have to use in it please mention

    • Reply
      Talia @ Pretty. Simple. Sweet.
      October 5, 2021 at 2:17 am

      Hi Sawera, this recipe does not contain any butter milk. It calls for sour cream, which you can substitute for buttermilk if you choose. You can use the same amount in volume as the sour cream, which is 2/3 cup 🙂

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