Turn that Frown Upside-Down Apple Cake

My fiancé and I were headed to have dinner with some friends of his from college (I won’t say what years that may have been) and their two boys. I was extra excited because my Food and Wine Baking Bucket Bucket List Challenge Apple Upside-Down Cake (month 8, whooo) was going to be the perfect, caramel-apply dessert to bring — and it’s easy to make!

Apple Cake Sugar
Bringing the sugar to 360 degrees or until amber colored

My favorite thing about the whole night (besides the cake) was when our friends’ two-year-old son told the same knock-knock joke to us over literally thirty times. It went something like this:

Ben: knock-knock
Me: Who’s there?
Me: Ghost who?

Over and over again until I was actually crying because I was laughing so hard – it was pizza, apple cake, lobster tail pastries, and adorable Ben’s leftover Halloween joke that ended up making the night great.

Apple Cake with Sugar

Back to the cake though, I have to admit: I was not a fan of the Food and Wine recipe I linked to above. It seemed too complicated and cumbersome for my taste so after looking looking over about a dozen similar recipes, I came up with the below that I hope you’ll enjoy. If you’re familiar with an apple tatin, it’s similar, except instead of puff pastry, it’s made with cake. And it’s best served warm so the touch of spice cake acts like a warm pillow while the apples and caramel melt together in your mouth.

Apple Cake Close Up

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the dish
1 1/2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced into 12 pieces
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Confectioners’ sugar


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Generously butter a 9-inch glass pie dish and arrange the apples in concentric circles, packing them tightly.

Combine 1 cup of the granulated sugar and 1/3 cup water in a small saucepan and cook over high heat until 360 degrees on a candy thermometer or until it turns a warm amber color swirling the pan but not stirring. Pour evenly over the apple slices.

Meanwhile, combine the 6 tablespoons of butter and the remaining 3/4 cup of granulated sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Lower the speed and beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the sour cream, zest, and vanilla and mix. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and add it to the electric mixer, just until everything is wet.

Pour the cake batter evenly over the apple slices and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes in the dish and then invert the cake onto a flat plate. If an apple slice sticks, just peel it off and replace it on the cake. When completely cooled, dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Yield: 6 decently sized slices

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