This apple cinnamon upside-down cake is everything that I love about fall! The caramelized apple topping is deliciously gooey with hints of cinnamon. The lightly spiced cake is the perfect complement to the topping. This dessert is delicious served with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. It's the perfect excuse to use up all those leftover apples from the orchard!
Our kitchen is usually swimming in apples from late August through early November. I love visiting the apple orchard almost as much as I love baking with apples! This upside-down cake has been a favorite of mine for many years. I love the gooey caramel topping and the luscious spice cake underneath. If I have any apples left after this, I usually use them to make my next favorite apple praline cake.
Why you'll love this recipe
Taste & Texture: My favorite part of this cake is the little pockets of caramelized apple topping after you flip it over. This dessert is truly decadent. It's like an apple cake, an apple fritter, and caramel sauce all rolled together into one. The crunchy caramel bits in the topping perfectly complement the lightly spiced cake batter underneath. The soft apples tie everything together in a recipe that won't easily be forgotten.
Level of Difficulty: This cake is fairly easy to make. I'd say that making the caramel at the beginning can be a little tricky, as well as removing the cake from the pan. I've got tips below in the recipe for both of these steps, which should make everything else a breeze! Final verdict: medium level of difficulty for this upside-down cake.
Key ingredients and why we use them
- Apples: Apples are the star of this recipe. The best apples to bake with are firm enough to hold their shape during the baking process. I like to mix a few varieties of apples when I'm baking for added flavor profiles. Fuji and gala apples have some subtle differences and pair well together in this recipe.
- Dark Brown Sugar: Feel free to use dark or light brown sugar in this recipe. The brown sugar in the topping caramelizes with the apples while the cake is in the oven for a deliciously ooey-gooey consistency. If you think your brown sugar might be bad, use these tips to check and return it to a soft texture.
- Cinnamon: The cinnamon in the topping and the cake is another star of this recipe. I like to use Vietnamese cinnamon, which is the strongest and richest cinnamon you can find. Feel free to add ¼ teaspoon to the cake and topping if you are using regular cinnamon.
Frequently asked questions
Picking the best apple for baking is a bit of a personal choice. I think the most important component is finding an apple that is firm enough to hold its shape because no one likes mushy apple desserts… ugh. Ideally, you want an apple with a mix of tartness and sweetness. All of this being said, conventional wisdom often recommends Jonagold, Granny Smith, Fuji, and Honey Crisp for baking.
Vietnamese or Saigon cinnamon has a very strong and complex flavor profile. Typically, you should halve the amount of cinnamon in a recipe if you are using Vietnamese cinnamon. However, if you like its potent flavor profile, feel free to use it in equal measure.
To invert your cake, use one quick motion to flip the cake upside-down. Let the cake sit like this (upside-down) on the platter for 2-3 minutes. Gravity will help the cake release. Using a wooden spoon, give the pan a few taps to help the cake release. Then, carefully lift the pan off the cake. If some of the apple topping does stick to the pan, simply remove it and place it back on the cake!
HEATHER'S HELPFUL HINT
Work quickly with your brown sugar topping mixture once it reaches the boiling stage on the stove. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to smooth into the pan. The mixture begins to harden up very quickly.
The entire recipe is below and can be printed to save for later. Before you get there, let's walk through it step-by-step, so you understand what you're doing beforehand.
Start off by preparing your topping by mixing butter and brown sugar together until boiling on the stove.
Working quickly, smooth the brown sugar topping over the bottom of the pan and then arrange the apple slices in rows across the bottom of the pan.
For the cake, mix the dry ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside. Then mix the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Cream together until light and fluffy.
Add the eggs and vanilla to this mixture. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the milk—mixing well after each addition.
Mix until the batter is smooth and free of lumps. Smooth the batter over the apple slices and bake the cake in preheated oven for 55 to 65 minutes.
Cool the cake on a cooling rack for 15 minutes and then carefully invert onto a serving platter. Serve cake while warm.
Make ahead and storage tips
- Your apple cinnamon upside-down cake will taste best right out of the oven. However, you can store the cake— lightly covered—at room temperature for 3-4 days. I like to simply cover the serving platter with aluminum foil. The cake can also be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- If you want to freeze your cake, allow it to cool completely and freeze it the same day. Cover first with plastic wrap and then with aluminum foil. Write the name and date on the cake. Store in the freezer for up to three months.
There are a number of different ways to switch up this recipe according to your taste!
- If you don't like apples, you can try this recipe with pears or peaches as well. You could also go the route of a traditional pineapple upside-down cake.
- This cake is delcious even without the apple topping! Feel free to follow the instructions for just the cake and then top with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting—YUM!
- You could also make this cake in a cast-iron skillet. I love the recipe that the Pioneer Woman has for apple cake in an iron skillet.
Try these other cake recipes
Did you make this recipe? First, let me say THANK YOU for giving it a try! Please leave us a rating and leave any feedback in the comments section at the bottom of this post. I always love to hear your thoughts and ideas on what went well — and what didn’t — with a recipe! Be sure to check out some of our other recipes linked below!
Apple Cinnamon Upside-Down Cake
- 8-inch square pan
- parchment paper
- metal cooling rack
Brown Sugar Topping
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- ⅔ cup dark brown sugar packed
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 large apples peeled, cored, and cut into half-inch slices
- 1⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 2 eggs
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¼ cup milk
- Place a rack in the center of your oven. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit 20 minutes before baking your cake. Line the bottom of an eight-inch square pan with parchment paper. Spray the pan with baking spray and set it aside.
- In a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add dark brown sugar and heat to boiling while stirring occasionally. Remove pan from heat. Add cinnamon and stir until combined. Working very quickly, pour the mixture into the square pan and spread evenly over the bottom.
- Arrange apple slices in rows over the brown sugar topping. Place the apple slices closely together—it's okay if they overlap. You can even double-layer the apples if you have some extra.
- For the cake, mix dry ingredients (flour baking powder, cinnamon, and salt) together in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together granulated sugar and softened butter until fluffy and light in color. Add eggs to the mixture one at a time. Add the vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients alternating with the milk. Mix well after each addition until the batter is smooth. Spread the batter over the apple slices in the pan.
- Bake the cake in preheated oven for 55 to 60 minutes. The cake will be slightly browned on the top and a toothpick will come out clean. Cool the cake for 15 minutes on a cooling rack. Run a knife around the edges of the pan to loosen the cake and invert the cake onto a serving platter.
Notes and Tips
- To invert your cake, use one quick motion to flip the cake upside-down. Let the cake sit like this (upside-down) on the platter for 2-3 minutes. Gravity will help the cake release. Using a wooden spoon, give the pan a few taps to help the cake release. Then, carefully lift the pan off the cake. If some of the apple topping does stick to the pan, simply remove it and place it back on the cake!
- This cake can also be cooked in a nine-inch square baking pan. Baking time will be reduced, so check on your cake at 40 minutes to check for doneness.
- You can replace the apples with pears or peaches in this recipe. Any of these fruits will make a delicious cake!