Apple Upside Down Cake

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Last year my father got it in his head to make an apple upside down cake. Every fall our trees are loaded with apples and dad is always looking for excuses to bake with them. Well, he tried three different recipes, and each one turned out with the same problem—they appeared to be cooked, had cooked the proper amount of time as called for by the recipe, the tester came out clean, but when he went to cut into the cake, the inside was gooey. The last time this happened, dad swore like a sailor, threw the whole cake in the sink, and vowed to never attempt an apple upside down cake again. (Ever have days like that?)

I don’t know what possessed him to try his hand at it again. Perhaps the intervening year softened the pain of the memory of three failed cakes? Or perhaps he is just easily seduced by cake recipes, and the combination of this recipe he found in an old issue of Bon Appetit and apples on sale at Whole Foods for 99 cents a pound was just too tempting to ignore. Or perhaps it had finally dawned on him (us) that the Granny Smiths we had been using to attempt similar cakes gave off too much liquid to work properly in the recipes. In any case, his perseverance has paid off with this cake. It’s terrific! We can’t wait to make it again.

Apple Upside Down Cake Recipe

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  • Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Ingredients

  • 8 Tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups white, granulate sugar divided (1/2 cup and 3/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 pounds Braeburn, Jonagold, or Golden Delicious apples (about 4 medium), peeled, quartered, cored, each quarter cut into 2 wedges
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup whole milk
    • 1-9-inch cake pan with 1 1/2-inch high sides

Method

1 Preheat your oven to 350°F. Butter the sides of the cake pan. Line the pan with a 10-inch round of parchment paper. The paper will come up 1/2-inch up the sides of the pan. Butter the parchment paper.

2 Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a non-stick skillet on medium heat. Add 1/2 cup sugar and cook until sugar dissolves and mixture turns golden brown, stirring occasionally (use a wooden spoon), about 6 minutes. Add apple wedges to the pan and gently stir to distribute the caramel evenly across the apples. Cover the pan and cook until apples release their juices, about 5 minutes. Uncover and cook until apples are tender and caramel thickens and coats the apples, stirring occasionally, about 13 minutes more. Remove apples and caramel sauce and place in the prepared cake pan.

3 Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. Place cornmeal in a large mixing bowl. Pour 1/2 cup boiling water over the cornmeal and stir to blend. Add 3/4 cup sugar and 6 Tbsps (3/4 stick) butter to the cornmeal mixture. Beat until well blended. Beat in vanilla and eggs. Beat in the flour, salt, baking powder mixture alternating with the milk. Pour the batter over the apples in the cake pan.

4 Bake until top is golden and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool cake in the pan for 5 minutes. Then run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the sides of the pan. Carefully invert the cake onto a serving plate or dish, and remove the parchment paper. Cool for 15 minutes.

Serve with vanilla ice cream.

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Recipe from Bon Appetit, February 2003.

Showing 4 of 44 Comments

  • Spalva

    Made this yesterday and loved it — it’s gone already! Just recommended it to Alicia Paulson over on Posie Gets Cozy. I will definitely return to this recipe over and over this year. I like it much more than my usual tarte tatin. Good job, dad!

  • Tracy

    I made this cake and it was delicious! I used canola oil in place of the butter and it came out really moist and delicious. I kept the butter in the caramel portion.

  • Julie

    Great looking and, more importantly, great tasting cake! I used skim milk, but the cake was still delicious – nice and moist. I followed the rest of the recipe exactly, and it came out beautifully. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Edith Pearl

    I made this yesterday to bring to a brunch and was quite sad to only get one piece. I love this recipe and will absolutely use again and again, with other fruits as they come into season. I made it exactly as the recipe directed with two small additions, one of a pinch of salt to the caramel, and another of a pinch of crushed lavender that I added to the flour mixture. The cake was moist, dense and had a great texture from the cornmeal. The cake was devoured and someone even scraped the crumbs off of the serving plate, which I had secretly hoped to do myself.

  • Heidi S.

    I made this cake today and it turned out wonderfully!! I used fuji (sp?) apples and it was AMAZING. Great alternative to the pineapple upside down cake. Thank you Pioneer Woman for the suggestion!!!

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