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Apple Upside-Down Cake


Serves 8 to 10

  • by from Fine Cooking
    Issue 119

The flower pattern that’s revealed once this cake is inverted will be defined best by an apple that holds its shape. A sweet variety will complement the nutty brown butter in which the apples are cooked. Serve the cake on its own or with vanilla ice cream.

For the apples
  • 2 lb. (about 4 large) sweet apples that hold their shape when cooked (such as Braeburn, Golden Delicious, or Jonagold), peeled, quartered, and cored, each quarter sliced into 3 wedges
  • 1 large lemon, finely grated to yield 1 Tbs. zest (reserve for the cake) and squeezed to yield 1 Tbs. juice
  • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces
  • Pinch table salt
For the topping
  • Unsalted butter, softened, for the pan
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
For the cake
  • 4-1/2 oz. (1 cup) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp. table salt
  • 3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and slightly softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
Prepare the apples

In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice.

In a heavy-duty 12-inch skillet, cook the butter over medium heat until it has a nutty fragrance and there are brown bits on the bottom of the skillet, about 4 minutes. Immediately add the apples and salt and toss gently with a heatproof spatula until well coated. Cook, uncovered, for 5 minutes, tossing once. Toss again, cover, and cook, tossing every 2 to 3 minutes, until the apples are tender, 6 to 8 minutes.

Uncover and cook, stirring gently, until some of the apples begin to brown and any liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes more. Set aside until cool enough to handle.

Make the topping

Butter a 9x2-inch round cake pan, line the bottom with parchment, and butter the parchment. Have ready a pastry brush and a small bowl of water.

Put the sugar, cinnamon, and 1/3 cup water in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stop stirring and, using the pastry brush dipped in the water, wash any sugar crystals from the side of the pan. Continue to cook, without stirring, until the caramel begins to color; then swirl the pan until the caramel turns an even, deep amber, about 3 minutes. Immediately pour the caramel into the prepared cake pan, swirling to evenly coat the bottom. Let cool.

Starting in the center of the pan, arrange the cooled apple slices on the caramel in slightly overlapping, tightly packed concentric circles. Set aside.

Make the cake

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, cardamom, and salt.

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl and beater with a rubber spatula. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar, the reserved lemon zest, and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Scrape the bowl and beater.

With the mixer on medium speed, slowly sprinkle in the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, taking 20 to 30 seconds to add it. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until pale and creamy, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping once to scrape the bowl and beater.

Add the egg and beat on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Add the yolks and beat until incorporated, 1 minute. (It’s OK if the batter looks curdled.)

With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients in three additions and the milk in two additions; scrape the bowl and beater as necessary and mix each addition just until smooth.

Using the rubber spatula, spread the batter evenly over the apples. Tap the pan down on the counter once or twice to settle the batter. Bake until the cake springs back when gently pressed and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 40 to 45 minutes.

Transfer the cake to a rack and run a small, sharp knife around the edge to release it from the pan. Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes.

Holding the pan between your palms, rotate it briskly back and forth on the countertop to release the apples from the bottom. Invert the cake onto a cake plate and slowly remove the pan and the parchment. If any apples have shifted, reposition them. Let the cake cool for at least 1 hour before serving.

Make Ahead Tips

The cake can be baked up to a 1 day ahead and kept covered at room temperature.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 370, Fat (kcal): 16, Fat Calories (g): 140, Saturated Fat (g): 9, Protein (g): 3, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 4.5, Carbohydrates (mg): 56, Polyunsaturated Fat (mg): 1, Sodium (g): 130, Cholesterol (g): 95, Fiber (g): 2,

Photo: Scott Phillips

What I learned...Don't wait to add the cinnamon at the end of cooking the caramel as a few other reviewers suggest. When I did, it all puffed up and cooked, making it hard to pour or spread. Use the apples they suggest, and don't cut thinner than they suggest. My daughter convinced me that I should use Granny Smith, not the golden delicious I planned to buy. The granny smith turned mushy pretty quickly and the golden delicious held up much better.

I made this cake and it was good but would change a few things: 1) apples need to cook on the stove for about half of the time, otherwise they will turn to mush. I also wouldn't cook with the lid on because that speeds the "mush" process. 2) It's hard to tell when the caramel has turned dark amber because of the cinnamon. I would cook the sugar and water for a while and add the cinnamon once the sugar and water cook down a little. It also helps to drip the caramel from a spoon to see color. 3) My cake looked beautiful, however it needed to bake longer. This cake probably should bake for at least 50 minutes. It's definitely a beautiful cake and tastes amazing. Oh I also added some dark rum in with the milk which worked well. I will make it again with modifications.

This was a bit time consuming, but oh so well worth it. I had some pears sitting in my fridge so wanted to use them in this cake, and oh boy am I glad that I did. This cake was amazing. I am an experienced baker and usually make some changes but in this case I followed it to the letter and it turned out great.Made it yesterday and it is gone already. Thank you Fine Cooking for another great recipe.

HOW outstanding can this be! I am not a baker, but am SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO glad I saw this recipe! Served with vanilla ice cream, got a rave review! The cake is not difficult if one has the patience and S-L-O-W-L-Y goes through each step too! I used granny Smith apples, they kept their shape, TRUE! Here's a photo of what the outcome looked like too! [img][/img] [img][/img] Can you please help me out separating the photos? I have them on separate lines, but when I preview, it pushes everything together. Thank you!

This cake is preposterously delicious, and perhaps a little dangerous as we couldn't stop eating it. I'm not sure what went wrong with other reviewers. I was very careful with my apple choice (Jazz apples) and gentle with them in the pan. I don't always follow prescribed times in recipes so much as what the end result should look like, and the apples turned out toasty and gorgeous. The caramel I made sure to pull off the heat quickly as I didn't want a hard caramel. The cake is a pillowy sponge cake that absorbs all the delicious juices from the apples and caramel... I don't know how you can call this cake ordinary, it's divine!

Made this for Canadian Thanksgiving. A lot of work for something that turned out rather ordinary. Family liked it because it wasn't too sweet but I wouldn't make it again.

I have to agree with fguidry: This was also my first dissappointment with a Fine Cooking recipe. I was having company for afternoon tea and thought what a beautiful cake to make for this. Thankfully I bought a doz Granny Smiths. I used the weight measurement stated 2 lbs when weighed that was 4 apples not 2. The article states that Granny's will hold their shape and are an aceptable choice for this recipe. The first 4 apples became apple sauce with a few lumps when cooked as directed. The second batch I cooked less than half the original time and still had less than desirable results. The next issue was the caramel- I could not tell when it was coloring due to the cinnamon added at the begining. Third was the overly labourus butter creamy method used. I saw no improvement or determent in adding all the sugar to the creamed butter(I did not cube the butter first)it was a cool room temp to begin with. The great thing is the taste is Fabulous-The texture of the cake was lovely. The appearance of the apples was not the beauty as pictured. However I did have 2 very tasty cakes and no one complained. They all asked for seconds! Next time (and I will make this again) I will not cook my apples - but will toss them in the melter and browned butter. I will not add the cinnamon until I have a golded brown caramel. I will cream all the sugar at once with the butter.

Yes, there is definitely a typo in the printed edition when it comes to the number of apples. The web and iPad version both say to use 4 large apples, and that seemed to work for me. The cake looked beautiful, was very tasty, and was a wonderful way to ring in fall.

I haven't tasted this one yet, but I just got it out of the oven. I followed the recipe without adjustment or substitution and I don't see how the cake as specified could look like the one in the illustrations. The instructions specify 2 apples / 4 / 3 = 24 slices. The cake in the illustration has 56 or so apple slices. My cake has a gorgeous glossy but rather stiff layer of caramelized sugar encasing the apples. I don't see that feature in the illustration. The instructions for cooking the apples, hmmmmm. Start with 3 oz butter, cook on medium heat for 11-13 minutes, then cook until any liquid has evaporated?? In my experience that's about 5.5 oz of fat in the pan and it's not going to evaporate, folks. But it will keep me from being able to tell when the water is gone. And my honeycrisp apples were just short of applesauce when I stopped cooking at about 7 minutes. I've had one wonderful meal after another cooking from "Fine Cooking" and I dive into a new recipe confident that it will work as described and illustrated. This is my first disappointment.

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