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Apple Upside-Down Cake

Scott Phillips

Servings: 8 to 10

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

Nutritional Information

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


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 9×2-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.


Rate or Review

Reviews (11 reviews)

  • steveftc | 10/08/2018

    Delicious cake, and fun to make. I followed recipe exactly but - for the apples I measured by wieght 2lbs, not 4 apples. I used just picked apples and needed 9. Still sliced quarters into thirds and that seemed to be the right size even though the apples were small. It took much longer than 8 minutes to boil off of the juices and brown the apples so I upped the heat so the apples wouldn't get mushy. When making the sauce, I started timing when the syrup bubbled to the top of the pot. It took 4 minutes to reach the proper color and consistency.

  • janmacwill | 12/24/2016

    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.

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