Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake

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
  • extra flavorful like our 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. Use both in this cake. The cake is super soft and cinnamon-spiced— tasty on its own, but even better with the apple topping.

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 8-10
  • 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

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 here for more information.

Keywords: apples, caramel, upside down cake

134 Comments

  1. This was delicious! I think in the future I might try it with a bit more spices, but this was really great. Definitely going to become a holiday staple in my house.

  2. Do you think this recipe would be good with peaches?? Have a ton of peaches given to me by someone and I don’t really care for peach cobbler. Thank you!!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bri, We haven’t tested it but you could. You may also want to consider using the recipe for Pineapple Upside Down Cake and use peaches instead of pineapples and cherries. Slice the peaches thin and blot dry as you do with the pineapple. Here are even more peach recipes to try!

  3. Sally, I have a question not a comment. In several recipes you mention liking a convection oven. Do you adjust the temperature or baking time printed with your recipes when you use convection? If yes, what do you do? Thank you.

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      All of the recipes on this site are written for conventional settings. Convection ovens are fantastic for cooking and roasting. If you have the choice, we recommend conventional settings when baking cakes, breads, etc. The flow of air from convection heat can cause baked goods to rise and bake unevenly and it also pulls moisture out of the oven. If you do use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake. Hope this helps!

  4. Hi Sally. I have made this recipe several times and it turns out perfect everytime! . I was wondering if I can half this recipe? Will it work?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Alef, we’re so glad to hear you love this recipe! You can certainly halve this recipe by halving all of the ingredients. We recommend trying it in a 9×5 inch loaf pan. We’ve never tested it, but that’s what we would try first. We’re unsure of the best bake time.

  5. Sally, you’ve made me the King of muffins. now I’m venturing out into cakes and found this recipe. I want to give it a try but I need some guidance with respect to “tenting” the cake with foil halfway through the baking time. I understand how to tent a turkey but how do you tent a cake? do I just place foil on top of the cake? thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Walter! Yes, place foil on top of the cake, but bend it (“tent it”) so that it stands up off the cake pan a bit just to ensure the cake won’t touch the foil while baking.

  6. Hey Sally
    Could coconut milk work instead of whole milk?
    Thanks!

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Zehava, Whole milk is best, but you can use lower fat or nondairy milk (like coconut milk) if needed.

  7. hi there – is it still 177c in a fan oven? thanks

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Poppy, All of the recipes on this site are written for conventional settings. Convection ovens are fantastic for cooking and roasting. If you have the choice, we recommend conventional settings when baking cakes, breads, etc. The flow of air from convection heat can cause baked goods to rise and bake unevenly and it also pulls moisture out of the oven. If you do use convection settings for baking, lower your temperature by 25 degrees F and keep in mind that things may still take less time to bake. Hope this helps!

  8. Hi Sally, could you please let me know how to make this in loaf pan? Thank you!

    1. Stephanie @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Michelle, You can try cutting the recipe in half and baking in a 9×5 inch loaf pan. We’ve never tested it, but that’s what we would try first. We’re unsure of the best bake time.

  9. Anita Mishra says:

    Just made this today – didn’t have a pie dish but made it in an aluminium cake pan. I put a lightly greased parchment square – covering under and on the sides of the cake. Also kept the layer of walnuts on top of the apples and for good measure folded blueberries in the main batter- everything else followed to the T. Took 70 minutes to bake in my 25 litre Phillips OTG on the lower third but came out wlefect – the batter was not as dense as banana bread or pound cakes, moist and almost light compared to the apple layer – perfectly caramelised. Love this recipe! Had been eying it for weeks and finally took the leap today -YummY!!!!

  10. I just baked this for breakfast! WOW! So good! I used one duck egg and one chicken egg and apples from my tree. The cake took 52 minutes to bake. Absolutely delicious!

  11. Hi Sally, this looks great! Do you think it would be suitable for freezing once cooked? Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Rosie! Unfortunately, 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. We do have some make ahead instructions in the recipe notes, if that would be helpful for you. Hope you’ll give this cake a try!

  12. Cláudia Pinheiro says:

    hi, can i bake the cake at night and serve it in the morning/day after, or it must be consume right away?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Claudia, this isn’t the best cake to make ahead of time 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. Enjoy!

  13. Do you think using a box cake would work?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      We haven’t tested this cake with a box mix but let us know if you do!

  14. Hello,
    Was wondering since I only have a round metal cake pan, would it be alright to place a baking sheet underneath and place the toppings and apple on top of the sheet? Or will this impact the caramelization process? I am kinda sensing that it won’t turn as good with a baking sheet underneath.. anyone tried it?

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Sara, as long as your cake pan is about 2 inch deep, you shouldn’t have any issues with overflowing. However, 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. Hope you enjoy the cake!

  15. Just made this and it’s absolutely delicious and so easy to do! My new favourite bake.

  16. Can I use a spring form pan?

    1. Michelle @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Christine, If you have a 9″ spring form pan, it should be fine.

  17. Hi Sally, my entire family complained about this recipe… not making a big enough cake! Lol, looks like I have to make a second one tomorrow.

  18. Helene Schilian says:

    Made this for dessert for our Rosh Hashanah dinner. Rave reviews all around, even from my picky husband! Made recipe exactly as written.

  19. This was amazing! Everyone loved it

  20. I only have springform pans, an 8’ and a 10’- which one should I use? And should I put down the parchment paper liner?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Bryn, an 8″ springform pan will be too small, so the 10″ will be your best bet. Parchment would help ensure the cake doesn’t leak through the springform pan, but we haven’t tested this recipe using parchment paper. Let us know if you give it a try!

  21. Tried this recipe and it’s fantastic. I used crushed worther’s hard candies 1/2 cup and 1/4 brown sugar. Everything else the same. Yum!

  22. Could I make this in a cast-iron pan?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jamie, A cast iron skillet should be great! We recommend at least a 10 inch size.

  23. Cherlyn Griggs says:

    I made this yesterday, measuring accurately all ingredients. It came out of my pan perfectly and it was good, but I found it a little dry. I’m wondering if it was because I used 5% cream in place of milk (as I only had skim milk).

  24. Hi. I made this cake and baked it 49 minutes yet it was still completely undercooked in the middle but perfect on the outside. I’m worried that if I baked to cake longer to cook the middle that it would make the rest of the cake dry. Any suggestions? Thank you!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Jess, for next time, you can gently tent the edges of the pan with aluminum foil so that they are protected from over browning, while continuing to cook the middle part of the cake. Hope this helps!

  25. Would this recipe work in mini Bundt pans? I’d like to serve it in individual portions.

    Thanks!

    1. Lexi @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Allison, that should work just fine. We’re unsure of the exact bake time. Let us know what you try!

  26. This truly was an amazing recipe, however, had to do mine with a twist. I found that I was out of apples but had homemade apple sauce. I made the caramel and placed it in the baking pan along with the apple sauce in the fridge to cool. Later placed the batter on top & baked for 50 mins at 350°F. My family loved it, sure to use this recipe next time with apples.

  27. Colleen McHugh says:

    Can I adjust this recipe to make it gluten free?

  28. Any issues with the apples going brown when preparing the topping the night before?

    1. Trina @ Sally's Baking Addiction says:

      Hi Amanda! If covered tightly, there shouldn’t be a problem. Enjoy!

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