It’s been a dreary week as the last leaves fall from the trees and the cold overtakes us once again. It’s only November 2nd, but it feels like it’s winter – the snow has been flying for a few days. The cold, damp weather and some time off work prompted me to do quite a bit of baking the past few weeks. The winner of the bunch is hands down this gorgeous, buttery caramel apple cake. Few things soothe the hate I feel towards winter better than caramel and apple.
The key to this cake is following the procedure. It leaves you with a soft, buttery pound cake without lumps. I used Gala apples which worked perfectly because of their crispness, but I’m sure you could use your favorite kind of apple, too. Enough talk, on to the recipe!
The first step is making the caramel sauce, which was easier than I thought. The first time I tried to make caramel sauce was in a professional kitchen under pressure, and I ended up clarifying the butter and making a sweet compound butter instead of caramel. I tried again and the second try turned out, luckily! This is less of a caramel and more of a sugar goo that bakes down in the oven. Simply combine brown sugar and half a stick of butter and bring the whole thing to a boil. Once it reaches a boil remove it from the burner, add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and spread it in the bottom of the pan. Lay peeled, sliced apples evenly on top of the caramel. My one regret after seeing the visual result of the cooked apples is not layering the rows closer together. Next time, I will probably slice another whole apple to really pack in that yummy baked apple texture.
The rest is easy peasy – make the cake batter, spread it on top of the apples, and bake that sucker for 55 to 65 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
It comes out golden brown, crisp around the edges, caramel boiling up in between the apple slices. This is the hardest part…waiting 15 minutes to invert the pan and see the final result! I made 16-minute muffins to make the time go by faster, and it didn’t. It really didn’t.
Finally, I inverted the pan and….beauty in the corm of perfectly roasted apples and gleaming caramel sauce. Yes, please.
Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake
- 1/4 cup (half a stick) butter
- 2/3 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 medium apples, 3 small apples, peeled and cut in to 1/2″ wedges
- 1 1/3 cups flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup softened butter
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup milk
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease a 9×9 baking pan generously. In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt 1/4 cup of butter and stir in the brown sugar. Heat until boiling, stirring frequently, until the mixture boils. Remove it from the heat and add in 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Spread the caramel evenly in the bottom of the pan and layer the apples neatly on top of the caramel. Overlap them tightly for a cake with more fruit.
In one bowl, mix together your dry ingredients – flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt, and set these aside. In another, larger bowl, beat together your softened 1/2 cup of butter and 1 cup of white sugar until it’s fluffy. Hindsight 20/20, I would recommend a hand mixer for this and not elbow grease. I definitely broke a sweat on this one. Beat in your eggs one at a time until the batter is smooth. Add the vanilla and begin adding in the flour mixture, alternating additions of flour with additions of milk. After each addition, beat the batter until it’s smooth and fluffy. Spread the batter over the apples.
Bake for 55 to 65 minutes (I baked mine for about 61 minutes in a glass 9×9 Pyrex pan) or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 15 (very long) minutes, run a knife around the edges of the cake to loosen it from the pan, and invert the cake on to a heat proof plate. Store loosely covered.