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

September 25, 2009
Photo by Joseph De Leo
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. —Erin Jeanne McDowell

Test Kitchen Notes

WHO: Erinmcdowell is our resident baking expert.
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-inch cake
  • Apple Cider Caramel
  • 1 quart apple cider
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 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
In This Recipe
  1. Apple Cider Caramel
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  1. Brown Sugar Apple Upside Down Cake
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Alternately add the milk/heavy cream and the dry ingredients, mixing just to combine.
  5. 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.
  6. Heat a small saute pan over medium heat. Add the walnuts, and toast, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  7. 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.

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I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, The Book on Pie, is out on November 10th, 2020.