This homemade Apple Upside-Down Cake is a fluffy spice cake full of warm autumn flavors (like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) baked on top of brown sugar caramel apples. Make this caramel apple cake for Thanksgiving and wow your family and friends with its unique flavor.
Apple Upside-Down Cake Recipe with Caramel Apples
We’re nearing the holiday season, and as such, my mind is already squarely on Thanksgiving and our family’s Thanksgiving menu.
We are fairly traditional when it comes to our Thanksgiving meal, and I have a hard time straying away from the classic recipes we make time and again.
However, the one area where I find myself willing to expand my Thanksgiving culinary horizons is with dessert. We love our Apple Butter Pumpkin Pie, Caramel Apple Crumb Bars, and Butterscotch Pecan Pie, all of which are twists on classic pie recipes (amazing twists, if I do say so myself). And for those in the family who aren’t pie people, we’ve got Pumpkin Cheesecake, Pumpkin Earthquake Cake, and Maple Snickerdoodles.
And this year, we’re adding in this spiced Apple Upside Down Cake, which is the perfect apple dessert for apple season. Richly spiced cake batter is baked on top of brown sugar apples. As the apple cake bakes in the oven, the apples and brown sugar caramelize making a gooey caramel apple cake. It’s one of my favorite apple desserts!
Why This Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake Works:
- Apples: We use Honeycrisp apples in the recipe because they are sweet and sturdy. As the fresh apples bake, they turn into soft and juicy apples without becoming mushy or mealy in texture. Of course, you can use another apple variety if you prefer, such as granny smith (using a tart apple, like granny smith apples, will make the cake less sweet), Gala, or Pink Ladies.
- Spices: I love the blend of fall spices in this upside down apple cake recipe. While you can use a mix of cinnamon and apple pie spice, I prefer to make a homemade apple pie spice of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice.
- Buttermilk: Making an apple cake with buttermilk yields such a beautifully rich and fluffy texture with a tender cake crumb that cannot be replicated with another liquid. The buttermilk spice cake with the caramel apple topping makes an irresistible fall dessert you’ll want over and over again.
- Caramelized Fruit: The best part about upside-down cakes are the gooey, caramelized fruits baked in the cakes. This isn’t a classic upside-down cake, but the apples pair so well with the sticky caramel sauce, making it a perfect dessert for the season.
Upside Down Apple Cake Ingredients
The ingredients for caramel apple cake are relatively simple and mostly considered pantry staples.
- Unsalted Butter: Unsalted butter is used in both the cake recipe itself and in the caramel apple topping. Use unsalted specifically because there is already salt in the cake batter.
- Brown Sugar: With its rich molasses flavor, brown sugar enhances the notes of the spice cake batter, and when baked with the apples and butter, it turns into a gooey caramel sauce.
- Granulated Sugar
- All Purpose Flour
- Baking Powder and Salt
- Ground Cinnamon
- Ground Cloves
- Ground Allspice
- Ground Nutmeg
- Ground Ginger
- Buttermilk: Making an apple cake with buttermilk makes for a perfectly fluffy and moist cake.
- Vanilla Extract
- Sour Cream
- Honeycrisp Apples: As mentioned above, while I prefer honeycrisp apples you can use any type of baking apple you like (think galas, jonagolds, pink ladies, or granny smith).
How To Make Apple Upside Down Cake:
This is a brief overview of how to make this easy apple cake recipe. The full details and measurements are in the recipe card down below.
- Topping: Cut the apples into thin slices or rings. If you slice the apples into a ring shape, make sure you remove the center core. Pour the melted butter in a 9×9 baking dish (you can use a round cake pan or a square baking pan) and tilt the pan until the butter is spread evenly around the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle brown sugar over the top of the butter, and then lay the apple wedges on top of the brown sugar mixture. Set aside.
- Cake Batter: With a standing mixer or a hand mixer, cream the butter with brown sugar and white sugar. Add in the eggs, one at a time. Set aside.
- Dry Ingredients: Sift flour, baking powder, salt, and apple pie spice together. With the mixer on low or with a rubber spatula, slowly add the flour mixture to the batter.
- Wet Ingredients: Add in the buttermilk and mix until combined. Lastly, add in the sour cream and vanilla extract.
- Bake: Pour the cake batter on top of the apples and bake until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Cool: Allow the upside down cake to cool for a few minutes, then invert the pan onto a plate (flip the cake upside down) and lightly tap until you feel the cake release.
- Serve: You can serve caramel apple upside down cake warm, room temperature, or cold. I love it warm with a scoop of ice cream on top.
Make Ahead and Storage Tips:
- Make Ahead: This Upside Down Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce is best when eaten fresh. However, it can be made ahead of time as long as it is properly covered and stored in the fridge or freezer.
- Store the cake in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- While you can store an upside down cake at room temperature, I would suggest storing in the fridge or freezer because the fruit in the cake can make the cake go bad quickly when stored at room temps.
Can You Freeze Apple Upside Down Cake?
Yes! So how you do freeze apple upside down cake? First the cake needs to cool completely. Next, place it in the freezer for about 1-2 hours (this is called flash freezing), then wrap the cake tightly in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 3 months.
How Do I Slice Apples For Apple Upside Down Cakes?
- Rings: Core and slice the apples into rings. If you want to get extra creative, use a small cookie cutter to cut out a shape in the center of the apples. If you do apple rings, you will need 9 rings, which is about 1-2 large apples. I like slicing the apples into rings because it is reminiscent of a traditional pineapple upside down cake.
- Slices: Cut the apples into thin slices. If doing traditional apple slices, you will need 1 large apple or 2 medium apples.
Other Favorite Apple Recipes:
- Rustic Apple Pie with Crumb Topping
- Apple Pie Coffee Cake
- Apple Hand Pies
- Apple Cobbler with Cinnamon Biscuits
- Slow Cooker Spiced Apples
- Caramel Apple Cheesecake
- Caramel Stuffed Apples
Quick and Easy Baking Tips For Upside Down Apple Cake with Caramel Sauce
- Cake Pan: I used a 9×9 square pan. If you made this in a circular pan, it would need to be a deep dish circular pan, one that has about the same height as a square baking dish
- Apple Slices: As mentioned above, you can slice the apples in rings (like I did), or you can cut it into thin slices. You can leave the skin on the apples or peel them. It’s up to you.
- Caramel Sauce: The apples mixed with the butter and brown sugar make a thick caramel sauce. However, when I top with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, I like to add an additional drizzle of caramel sauce.
- Serve Warm: I suggest serving this cake warm with ice cream or whipped cream on top.
This homemade Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake is a fluffy spice cake full of warm autumn flavors (like cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg) baked on top of brown sugar caramel apples.
- 4 Tbsp butter, melted
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1-2 large apples (sliced into rings or traditional thin slices)
- 3/4 cup butter, softened
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
- 3 Tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp ground cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 3/4 cup buttermilk
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 3 Tbsp sour cream
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x9 square baking dish.
- Pour melted butter into your baking dish and tilt the pan around until the butter is spread evenly on the bottom. Sprinkle brown sugar over the top of the butter. Lay apple slices on top of the brown sugar. Set aside.
- With a standing mixer or a hand mixer, beat butter until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.
- Add in brown sugar and granulated sugar. With your mixer, beat the sugar with the butter until light and fluffy.
Add in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
Add in flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and all spices. Using your mixer (or a rubber spatula), mix until just combined (it’s okay if there’s still a little white in the batter).
- Add in buttermilk and mix until just combined.
- Lastly, add in the vanilla extract and sour cream, mixing until everything is just combined.
- Pour the batter on top of the apples, spreading in an even layer.
- Bake for 35- 40 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.
- Allow the cake to cool for about 10-15 minutes, then invert the pan onto a plate and lightly tap the pan until the cake comes out.
- Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream.
*Instead of using a square pan, you can use a 9x9 deep dish circular pan (about the same depth as a 9x9 square baking pan).
Here are some other Upside Down Cake Recipes: