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This caramel apple upside down cake is a fall must-make. Combining a soft cinnamon-spiced cake with buttery caramelized apples, we’re essentially getting two desserts in one. After inverting, the topping’s juices seep down into the cake and add unbeatable flavor and moisture. What you’ll love most, besides the flavors, is that there’s no fancy decoration required—the lovely garnish is literally baked into the cake!

apple upside down cake

One of the first recipes I published was caramel apple upside down cake. It’s a forever favorite and totally deserving of that early spot in my archives. I bake this recipe at least once every fall season and have made a couple minor updates to the recipe over the years. The cake is better than ever. I figured you’d appreciate seeing what I’ve done!

This Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake Is:

  • melt-in-your-mouth soft & moist, like this apple cake but remixed a bit!
  • extra flavorful like my beloved apple cinnamon bread
  • easy—no crazy ingredients or techniques required
  • perfectly sized for a small family or gathering
  • the best destination for your freshly picked apples 😉

Try it at least once. I guarantee it will be a repeat recipe in your kitchen.

apple upside down cake on white cake stand
apple upside down cake with 1 slice removed

Apple Upside Down Cake Topping

The topping is baked underneath the cake. After the cake slightly cools, we’ll invert it onto a serving plate. The caramel flavor comes from the butter and brown sugar. Combined with vanilla and apples, the topping alone makes this a recipe worth repeating. It’s downright GOOD.

I know you’ll appreciate this: I mention this above, but it’s worth repeating. Apple upside down cake is basically already frosted– once you invert the cake, the garnish is already there!

A few preliminary notes on the topping:

  • The topping in my original recipe had a little too much butter. I also reduced the cinnamon and put more in the cake itself.
  • Melt the butter and brown sugar together on the stove, then cook for 1 minute. The mixture will slightly thicken and take on a caramel-like flavor that intensifies as the cake bakes. Not a lot of recipes do this, but it makes a big flavor difference. In my pineapple upside down cake recipe, we simply add melted butter to the cake pan and sprinkle the brown sugar on top. As a result, you don’t really get the same caramel flavor. Perfectly fine for that recipe, but why not take an extra minute here?
  • Arrange the apple slices on top of the butter/brown sugar mixture. Try to squeeze as many apple slices in the pan as you can. No one has ever complained about extra caramel-y apples!
apple slices arranged in glass a pie dish

Let’s Make the Cake Batter

The cake batter is pretty straightforward and similar to the original recipe. Like most cakes, the base is creamed butter and sugar. Regular sugar lightens up the crumb, while brown sugar adds flavor. We use both in this cake. The cake is super soft and cinnamon-spiced— similar in taste and texture to apple cupcakes.

The batter differs from my pineapple upside down cake. Pineapple rings are heavier than apple slices, so we use cake flour, egg whites, and sour cream in that recipe to help keep the crumb light. Here we can use whole eggs and all-purpose flour.

Two Baking Tips:

  1. You can bake this cake in a cake pan or pie dish, but make sure it’s at least 2 inches deep. I recommend this pie dish, which is 1.8 inches deep but I never have an overflow issue.
  2. Because of the wet bottom layer (which is the topping), the cake takes much longer than a typical 1 layer cake. Its juices will bubble up the sides, creating these incredible caramelized edges. (See the edges below? They’re so good!) With upside down cakes, it’s always good practice to place a baking pan or sheet on a lower rack to catch any juices should they splatter over the edges.
apple cake batter before and after baking
caramel apple upside down cake
slice of apple upside down cake

Expect a Dense Cake

I’ve made hundreds of upside down cakes, or so it seems, and I say with 100% certainty that this style of cake will always be on the denser side. (Unless you are using store-bought cake mix.) The cake is served upside down. The weight of the topping, which is the bottom of the cake as it bakes, weighs down the crumb beneath it. Upside down cake will never be as light and airy as white cake. If you were to make this exact cake batter and serve it right-side-up, the cake would taste much airier. Does that make sense?

While this apple upside down cake is mega soft and not nearly as dense as, say, pound cake, it’s not overly light either. I know you’ll love its unique texture, especially paired with the caramel apple topping. Let me know how you like it!

Print
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apple upside down cake with 1 slice removed

Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: serves 810 1x
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This stunning apple upside down cake combines a soft cinnamon-spiced cake with a delicious buttery caramel topping. Pack those apples into the pan– this cake can hold a lot and you won’t regret those extra slices!


Ingredients

Scale

Topping

  • 6 Tablespoons (85gunsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 medium apples, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices (1.52 cups slices)*

Cake

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (188g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (100g) packed light or dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 Tablespoons (90ml) whole milk, at room temperature*

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  2. Prepare topping first: Combine butter and brown sugar together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk occasionally until butter has melted. Cook, whisking constantly, for 1 minute as mixture thickens. Remove from heat and whisk in the cinnamon and vanilla extract. Pour into an ungreased 9×2 inch pie dish or round cake pan. (Make sure the pan is 2 inches deep. I recommend this pie dish, which is 1.8 inches deep but I never have an overflow issue.) Arrange the apple slices neatly on top, overlapping where necessary. See photo above. Place pan in the refrigerator for a few minutes as you prepare the cake batter. This helps solidify or “set” the topping’s arrangement.
  3. Make the cake batter: Whisk the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together. Set aside.
  4. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Add both sugars and beat on high speed until creamed together, about 1 minute. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. On high speed, beat in the eggs and vanilla extract until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Turn the mixer onto low speed and as the mixer runs, slowly pour in the milk. Beat on low speed just until all of the ingredients are combined. Do not over-mix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  5. Remove topping from the refrigerator. Pour and spread cake batter evenly over topping.
  6. Bake for 40-46 minutes, tenting foil on top of the cake halfway through bake time to prevent the top from over-browning before the center has a chance to fully cook. The cake is done when a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out mostly clean– a couple moist crumbs are OK. Don’t be alarmed if your cake takes longer or if the cake rises up and sticks to the foil. (We serve the cake upside down anyway!)
  7. Remove cake from the oven and cool on a wire rack for just 15 minutes. Invert the slightly cooled cake onto a cake stand or serving plate. Some of the juices from the topping will seep over the sides– that’s ok. You can slice and serve the cake warm, but the slices will be messy. I find it’s best to cool the cake completely at room temperature before slicing and serving. Do not refrigerate the cake to speed up the cooling process because it could end up tasting overly dense.
  8. Cover leftover slices and store for up to 3 days in the refrigerator or 3 months in the freezer. Thaw at room temperature. I don’t recommend freezing the cake as a whole because the topping arrangement doesn’t thaw very nicely. See make ahead instructions below.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead Instructions: You can refrigerate the topping in step 2 for up to 1 day. If refrigerating for longer than 1 hour, cover it tightly. Other than that, this isn’t the best cake to make ahead of time or freeze because the apples will settle down into the cake– while still tasty, the presentation won’t be as pleasing. You can, however, prepare the cake batter’s wet ingredients (cover and refrigerate) and dry ingredients (cover at room temperature) separately up to 1 day ahead of time, then continue with the recipe the next day. Let the wet ingredients come to room temperature before mixing.
  2. Old Recipe: The current cake recipe was updated in 2020. If you loved the old cake recipe, originally published in 2012, here it is: increase the topping’s butter to 1/2 cup (1 stick; 115g) and add 1/4 teaspoon each of ground cloves and ground nutmeg when you stir in the cinnamon. Sprinkle 1/4 cup of walnuts on top of the apples before pouring/spreading on the cake batter. In the cake batter, reduce the milk to 1/4 cup (60ml).
  3. Apples: Use your favorite variety of apple. I typically use Granny Smith, Fuji, or Honeycrisp.
  4. Milk: Whole milk is best, but you can use lower fat or nondairy milk if needed.
  5. Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read more about the importance of room temperature ingredients

Keywords: apples, caramel, upside down cake

Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. I followed the directions exactly. It just popped out of that pan. It smelled so autumnal and yummy baking. And it w as delicious for dessert! Thanks for the great directions for another scrumptious recipe.

  2. I’m very interested in making this recipe for a crowd, so I would be converting it to a sheet cake. Do you think doubling the recipe would be necessary for that size?

    1. Hi BB, We have not tested this cake as a sheet cake, but you can try doubling it and baking in a 9×13 inch pan. We are unsure of the bake time needed but let us know if you give it a try!

      1. Fail proof recipe. I got it correct with the first try itself! That doesn’t happen to me often. It’s also easy to prepare. My kitchen was not as messy as it would get for other recipes. The texture is denser but soft. I reduced the sugar a little. Would there be a way to make it less buttery?

    2. This cake was delicious! I waited exactly 15 minutes before flipping it over but still had problems with some of it sticking though so mine didn’t turn out very pretty. Next time I will wait between five and ten minutes before flipping.

    3. Hi, BB! I made this a few weeks ago as a single recipe in a 9×9 pan. Just made it today, doubling the recipe and baking it in a 9×13. Turned out great! I ended up using 3 large Granny Smith apples which provide more than enough for the topping.

  3. What a delicious recipe, tomorrow I am going to make it because Sunday is my birthday
    It’s a delicious dessert to celebrate!!!
    A hug
    Pato

  4. So delicious! Will be making this one again. Turned out just like the picture and I served it with vanilla ice cream. Thank you so much for the great recipes that are easy to follow 🙂

    1. Hi Carmen, salted butter will work in a pinch. Feel free to reduce the salt in the cake to 1/4 teaspoon. You can use salted butter in the topping as well with no other changes to the topping recipe.

  5. My cake did not rise as much as I expected but it was cooked as the toothpick came out clean
    Also my caramel wasn’t as liquid as the recipe depicted. Instead it just set on the top and didn’t drip at all
    Could you tell why this happened?

    1. Hi Zainab, I wonder if the cake was under-baked and therefore it doesn’t rise enough. Were you using a ceramic pan by chance? I ask because ceramic takes longer to heat your baked goods and maybe the cake (and caramel layer) didn’t have enough time to cook properly.

      1. Made this tonight. I ran a knife along the outer edges to free it up slightly because I overbaked the edges by a couple of minutes. It just popped right out. Next time I’d do more apples for the topping because the cake is a bit dry. Not sure what else I could do to add moisture. I ended up drizzling caramel topping all over the top after it was out of the oven and that helped a lot. Yummy for sure!

  6. I made this cake this weekend. It was delicious! My cake didn’t come right out of the pan after 15 minutes, so I ran a knife along the edges and it came right out. It’s the perfect size cake for our small family.

  7. This recipe was very good. I doubled the recipe and baked it in a 9×13 pan. It worked great. I did make a couple of changes. Instead of the 1 cup butter (the doubling amount) in the batter, I used 1/2c vegetable oil and 1/2c unsweetened applesauce. Applesauce can be used at a 1:1 ratio for the fat (butter or oil) in a baking recipe. I usually do this when I bake, especially with carrot cake, banana bread and muffins of all kinds. The applesauce doesn’t change the taste and just takes on the flavor of the batter. It is a “healthier” option than 100% fat. I also diced up more apple and threw it in the batter. Next time, I will add more apple to the batter and make the pieces larger as after baking the apple pieces weren’t really noticeable. I would also toss the apple pieces in some cinnamon sugar. Next time, I will also increase the cinnamon/nutmeg in the batter. The top was beautiful and the cake was moist and light. I think I might add some toasted pecans to the caramel apple topping!

  8. Made this while my toddlers were napping this afternoon & it came out beautifully. No overflow issues & wonderful taste.

  9. I made this cake today and it was super delicious!! I used Granny Smith apples and a 9 in cake pan. I did sub cloves for the nutmeg due to an allergy but made no other changes to the recipe. I very lightly sprayed the cake pan as I was worried about sticking. The cake came cleanly out of the pan and looked so pretty and tasted even better. Thank you for this wonderful recipe! Will definitely make again.

  10. Hi Joan! I’m making this today for my coworkers tomorrow, could you please let me know how long you baked it in the 9×13? So happy to hear it turned out great, a 9-inch cake wouldn’t be enough for my sweet-toothed work friends. 😉

  11. Love this recipe! The flavor is perfect and it was super easy to follow!

  12. Will a 10 inch cake pan work? It’s the only one I have that is deep enough. I tried my 9 inch pan (1.5 inches deep) and it overflowed. Still tasted delicious but made a huge mess in my oven.

    1. Hi Bridget, you will lose some flavor and moisture by replacing all of the brown sugar in both the topping and cake. But feel free to try it and let us know how it turns out.

  13. I am making this this weekend and have an 8” or 10” cake pan. Which would be a better choice? It looks delicious and I’m serving it for Canadian Thanksgiving Dessert!

    1. Hi Annie! A 10 inch cake pan would be better. Keep an eye on the cake in the oven as it will bake a little faster in a larger pan.

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