Before the pineapple took center stage, every upside-down cake featured the apple. Nowadays you can’t research upside-down cake recipes without finding a slew of pineapple results. Without any hint of dying love for the pineapple variation, it is no wonder the traditional apple upside-down cake has become a lost recipe. This intrigued me as all lost recipes do and I set out to reignite the spark in the modern generation that the traditional had generations ago.
To do this would require a direct focus on the apples. They would not only have to stand out from the cake enough to make a statement against the modern pineapple, but blend in with the cake just enough to create a cohesive bite that would delight any taste bud. This seems like an easy task until attempting it. Apples are a lot more complicated to work with than the pineapple, which is probably why the hustle and bustle of our modern society has chosen to favor the pineapple version. Apples have an extensive amount of preparation (peeling, coring, slicing), they brown quickly when exposed to oxygen, they are extremely firm and take longer to cook, AND let us not forget…they carry A LOT of hidden liquid (a true ninja fruit). Makes you want to reach for that can of pineapple now doesn’t it. Have no fear there are solutions to all of apple’s issues, well maybe not the prep part. Apple prep is always tedious and downright unpleasant no matter how many tricks you try or gadgets you buy. Oh look I rhymed. That was easy enough :)
So I can’t solve the apple prep issues but the discoloration is easy to fix with a few drops of lemon juice. To kill two birds with one stone, precooking some of the apples in a skillet before placing them in the bottom of the pan helps speed up the cooking time so that the apples and cake cook evenly but also solves the hidden liquid issue by allowing the excess to excrete during heating. Besides solving problems, cooking the apples in the skillet presents some perks. While cooking, the apples become caramelized in their own juices with the help of a little bit of sugar. This not only infuses the apples with delicious flavor, but also makes the top of the cake a showstopper.
With the apples in check, the cake must also be up to par. This means creating a cake that is able to stand up to the pressure of such beautiful apples weighing heavily down on it. The easiest way to make sure the cake wouldn’t buckle under such immense pressure (stupid diva apples) is to use the quick bread method which introduces less oxygen into the cake batter, allowing for a sturdier crumb. With all the science figured out, and a little additional touches of flavor, the apple upside-down cake was ready for its debut. Although I will always have a special place in my heart for pineapple upside-down cake (the first recipe my grandfather ever showed me how to bake) I can’t deny how awesome this cake is. My boyfriend is not a sweets person and needless to say he needed no help in finishing this cake off.
Note: This cake serves 8… unless you have an individual who adores apples…in that case it may be 2 servings!!!
Apple Upside-Down Cake
- 4 tbsp. (½ stick) Unsalted Butter; cut into 4 pieces; plus extra for greasing the cake pan
- 4 Golden Delicious or Granny Smith Apples (approximately 2 pounds); peeled & cored
- 2/3 cup Light Brown Sugar; packed
- 2 tsp. Lemon Juice
- 1 tsp. Apple Pie Spice; divided
- 1 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
- 1 tbsp. Cornmeal
- 1 tsp. Baking Powder
- ½ tsp. Salt
- ¾ cup Granulated Sugar
- ¼ cup Light Brown Sugar; packed
- 2 Eggs
- 6 tbsp. (¾ stick) Unsalted Butter; melted & slightly cooled
- ½ cup Sour Cream
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- For the topping: Butter the bottom and sides of a 9 inch round, 2 inch deep nonstick cake pan. Adjust oven rack to the lowest position and preheat oven to 350°. Slice two of the apples into ¼ inch thick slices; set aside. Cut the remaining 2 apples into ½ inch thick slices. Heat 4 tbsp. butter in a 12 inch skillet over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted completely and the foaming has subsided, add the ½ inch thick slices of apple and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples begin to caramelize, about 5 minutes. Be sure you do not fully cook the apples!!! Add the ¼ inch thick apple slices, 2/3 cup brown sugar, lemon juice, and ½ tsp. Apple Pie Spice. Continue to cook apples, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the apples are coated, about 1 minute more. Transfer the apple mixture to the prepared cake pan. If desired, arrange apples into a design and press gently into an even layer. Set aside to prepare the cake.
- For the cake: Mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, & remaining ½ tsp. of Apple Pie Spice in a medium bowl; set aside. Whisk the granulated sugar, ¼ brown sugar, and eggs together in a large bowl until thick and thoroughly mixed. Slowly whisk in the 6 tbsp. of butter until combined. Add the sour cream and vanilla; whisk until combined. Add the flour mixture and whisk until just combined. Pour batter into the pan and spread evenly over the apples. Bake the cake until it is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 35 to 40 minutes.
- Cool the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the sides of the cake to loosen it. Place a wire rack over the cake pan. Hold the rack firmly and invert the cake and wire rack together; lift off the cake pan gently. Place the wire rack over a baking sheet to catch any drips. Allow the cake to cool another 20 minutes and then transfer to a serving platter, cut into pieces and serve.
SPECIAL THANKS TO: