Growing up in Florida I never saw an apple tree, I saw plenty of orange trees but always wished I could go apple picking. I would see images of people on fun apple picking outings and feel instantly envious! I wanted fall leaves and crisp cool autumn days! While everyone up north was wearing cozy fall sweaters I was still wearing my shorts and flip flops and blasting the air-conditioner! (I have to admit though that when there’s so much ice on the ground in the winter that I can’t walk my chihuahua I wish for Florida weather! ) Ack! We wish for what we don’t have sometimes! 😛
I didn’t get to see a real live apple tree until I moved to New York six years ago. Since picking my own apples was something I always wanted to do, when I got the chance I picked way too many for two people to ever eat! We gave some away but still had too many so I started making spiced apples in the crockpot for spooning over vanilla ice cream and stirring into oatmeal but I wanted to try a recipe that just lets the flavor of the apples shine through. I think this upside-down cake recipe really showcases my gorgeous apples without hiding behind a lot of spices although if you really wanted to you could certainly throw in some apple pie spice if you like.
The cake part of the recipe is really just a quick bread so it comes together easily plus the addition of cornmeal in the batter helps the cake hold up to the weight of the apples. Pre-cooking some of the apples before putting them in the bottom of the pan infuses the apples with caramel-like buttery goodness!
I definitely recommend using firm apples like Granny Smith so that your apples hold their shape during the cooking process. I did mix it up with what I used but all the apples I had were pretty firm.
You will need a 9-inch cake pan with 2-inch sides for this cake. If you don’t have one you could use an 8-inch square pan. Give this easy cake a try and let me know what you think!
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, plus extra for pan
- 4 Granny Smith apples or firm red apples (about 2 pounds), peeled and cored
- 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons juice from 1 lemon
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon cornmeal (optional)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon table salt
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- FOR THE TOPPING
- Generously butter bottom and sides of a 9-inch round, 2-inch-deep nonstick cake pan; set aside. Adjust oven rack to the lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut all apples in half, then cut 2 of the apples into 1/4-inch-thick slices; set aside. Cut remaining 2 apples into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
- Heat butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. When foaming subsides, add 1/2-inch-thick apple slices and cook, stirring 2 or 3 times, until apples begin to caramelize, about 6 minutes. (Do not fully cook apples.) Add 1/4-inch-thick apple slices, brown sugar, and lemon juice; continue cooking, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves and apples are coated, about 1 minute longer. Transfer apple mixture to prepared pan and lightly press into even layer. Set aside while preparing cake.
- FOR THE CAKE
- Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk granulated sugar, brown sugar, and eggs together in large bowl until thick and well mixed, about 45 seconds. Slowly whisk in butter until combined. Add sour cream and vanilla; whisk until combined. Add flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly over apples. Bake until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Cool pan on wire rack for 20 minutes. Run knife around sides of cake to loosen. Place a wire rack over cake pan. Holding rack tightly, invert the cake pan and wire rack together; lift off cake pan. Place wire rack over baking sheet or large plate to catch any drips. If any fruit sticks to pan bottom, remove and place it on top of the cake. Let cake cool for 20 minutes and then transfer to a serving platter.