Brown Sugar Apple Upside Down Cake with Apple Cider Caramel and Spiced Walnuts

By • September 25, 2009 30 Comments

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Author Notes: I love upside down cakes because they are beautiful and rustic at the same time. Apple cider caramel has become a family favorite for it's delicious apple and spice flavor. This cake is an excellent time to use a silicone cake pan. When you turn the cake out, you can actually push it out with your hand to make sure you get a clean patten on the top.erinmcdowell

Food52 Review: WHO: apartmentcooker is a culinary school grad who "lives for cooking dinner and eating anything she can get her hands on."
WHAT: A gorgeous apple upside-down cake to add to your autumn dessert list.
HOW: Layer apples and batter together in a pan, bake, and then top with apple cider caramel and a spiced-walnut mixture. Dig in.
WHY WE LOVE IT: The caramel and walnuts make an already-special apple cake even more party-worthy. Think autumn, squared -- plus an outrageous-smelling kitchen, to boot.
The Editors

Serves one 8" cake

Apple Cider Caramel

  • 1 quart apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. In a large pot, bring the apple cider to a boil. Reduce heat slightly, and simmer the cider until it reduces to about a cup. Do not stir the cider after this point (it may crystallize if over-agitated).
  2. Continue to reduce the cider until it begins to get thick and caramelize. When the caramel is thick and could coat a spoon, remove the pot from the heat.
  3. Stir in the butter and salt. Spread half of the caramel at the bottom of a greased 8" cake pan. Reserve the other half of the caramel.

Brown Sugar Apple Upside Down Cake

  • 2 Honeycrisp Apples, very thinly sliced (1/8" thick)
  • 5 ounces butter
  • 1 1/3 cups dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  1. Fan the apples into the base of the prepared cake pan (with caramel in the base) into a circle, with the points of the apples going to the center. Set aside.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, scraping well after each addition. Add the vanilla, mix to combine.
  3. Alternately add the milk/heavy cream and the dry ingredients, mixing just to combine.
  4. Scoop the prepared batter into the pan atop the apples. Bake at 350 until baked through, about 15-25 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean.
  5. Heat a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the walnuts, and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  6. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves, and continue to cook, tossing to coat. Let cool completely before using them to garnish the finished cake. Serve the cake warm, topped with reserved apple cider caramel and the spiced walnuts.

More Great Recipes: Fruit|Cakes|Desserts

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Comments (30) Questions (4)


9 months ago Hannah K

I agree with the comments of Sujatha and The Fiery Epicurean. Should've read through comments before baking I had to bake this cake for an hour and 15 minutes! And I spent most of the time managing the oven mess (read: cleaning as it baked!) so my house wouldn't be consumed with smoke. The cake eventually baked, as as the Fiery Epicurean said (and I'll add to) for the effort it took to deal with the mess this cake became in the oven, it did not taste special at all. For an elegant apple cake dessert I highly recommend : Gâteau Breton aux Pommes


11 months ago The Fiery Epicurean

I would agree that the baking time is significantly off. I think I would've used a 9 inch pan instead of an 8 inch pan next time to avoid that are bubbling over in the oven. I think this is a great base recipe but it needs to be rewritten with more thorough instructions as it just seems like a bunch of random things compiled together and published...I didn't think it was the best dessert either the cake was just okay it almost tasted like dry unflavored oatmeal and there's nothing really outstanding about that


11 months ago Sujatha

Should have looked at these comments before baking. As others have mentioned, bake time was seriously off. Cake was gooey in middle at 40 min, and i was fooled by a tester that appeared clean. So surprised that i even reheated my oven with a temp probe later to check it, but my oven temp is right on. I would say check at 45, and expect at least 50-55 min bake time. Not the first time i have had an issue with bake times or preparation details on this website, love the ideas on this site but the details are often "off." Will make a habit of checking comments in the future. Wouldve been delicious, btw, and of course my kids have eaten most of it anyway.


12 months ago Melinda

I am going to try this recipe out using black walnuts.


over 1 year ago Regine

Why don't you enter this recipe in the walnut contest?


over 1 year ago Selina

Totally in love with this cake. Although it's all been said, I do have to agree that the bake time should be altered. I foolishly didn't read the comments before making it for my husband's Grandmother's 81st birthday (when will I ever learn?.) Since I had wanted to serve it warm, it threw off the timing of the afternoon a little bit, but when it finally cooked through, it was the stuff of brown sugar fantasies. . . Thank you!


about 2 years ago Ghost House Kitchen

This cake was very yummy!~ I made it for my husband's birthday last year. I will try it again when apples come back to market.


about 2 years ago cathy

I also had a problem with the time to bake....mine was done in 45 min. Also the quart of apple cider I think I should of simmered longer but it simmered down to 3/4 c. and slightly coated the spoon so I thought it was thick enough but it ran almost completely out of my 8" spring form pan! I had placed my spring form on a foil wrapped cooking sheet and the cider ran out of spring form and onto the foil and charcoaled black. Made a mess but have released from the spring form and it looks I'll see how it tastes tonight! Was wondering if a special brand of Apple cider would work better or just should have thickened and reduced less than the 3/4 c. but because the recipe said reduces to about a cup I thought it was about right :( Not so. Beware.


over 2 years ago Cinnamin

This is gorgeous! I must try this...have never tried an apple upside down cake with cider!


over 2 years ago softenbrownsugar

Shared this on our Facebook Page. LOVE Brown sugar recipes!
Thank you! (I also included the warning about maybe using 2 pans instead of one.) :o)


almost 3 years ago jarchitek

Definitely make this in two layers! As is, the receipe is too much for one regular 8" cake pan. I was afraid that the cider caramel would be too salty and overpowering for the cake, but it wasn't. This is a good recipe and makes an absolutely delicious cake.


almost 3 years ago Fresa

Made the cake with some modifications and it got rave reviews at Thanksgiving. Doubled the amount of apple cider caramel I made and turned the cake into a 2-layer one, with a layer of caramel and cider at the top of each layer, using the same amount of batter (one recipe total) in 2 8- inch pans. Added some butter and sugar to the nuts after toasting them so they were sort of candied. Came out great.


almost 2 years ago Amanda Peoples

that sounds gr8 thanks for the idea!


almost 3 years ago lauren_helms

As mentioned my previous commenters, the baking time was incredibly off - I had to bake mine for somewhere between 40-45 minutes and I have an oven thermometer so the temp is accurate. I think the 8 inch pan is too small, I agree that a springform pan seems like a better idea. I love the idea of this recipe but the instructions were pretty incomplete.


almost 3 years ago babszilla

The baking time was wrong, it was more like 40 min, and I think I will try it in a spring form pan.


almost 3 years ago bunditoast

add to question from Tinarina. When do you take it out of the pan?
Regarding nutmeats. Any nutmeat that compliments caramel works for me.


almost 3 years ago Manhattan Tart

About how long does the cider caramel take to boil down to a cup, and about how much additional reduction is necessary to thicken (how much final liquid am I looking for, about 3/4 c)? How much in advance can the cake be baked, if I'm trying to front-load the work/oven time for Thanksgiving day?


almost 3 years ago tinarina

When do you take the cake out of the pan? Right when it comes out of the oven or is it better to let it cool a bit?


almost 3 years ago georgiegirl

I'm sensitive to walnuts, so don't put them in anything, except at Christmas when I make my mom's special fudge. Then I try not to eat too many pieces!! There's no reason pecans wouldn't work great in this recipe, too.


almost 3 years ago gorzd

what about pecans or another substitution for the walnuts? family member is, alas, allergic to walnuts...


almost 3 years ago kasia S.

replace the family member :P just kidding, it sounds great, I bet pecans would work too!


almost 3 years ago erinmcdowell

You can totally use pecans! I have a friend who says "walnuts taste like wall" and won't eat them, so I've done it with pecans too!


almost 3 years ago aargersi

Abbie is a trusted source on General Cooking.

holy cow this looks amazing!