Über Apple Upside-Down Cake

Being a baker has its hazards. Scorching hot pans. Molten caramelized sugar. Sharp knives. Heavy equipment that needs moving here and there.

But in addition to the inanimate objects that seem to have it out for us, we bakers also make many human enemies.

My co-worker, Juanito, often tells me he hates me. This usually occurs after I have set out a platter of cake scraps or a new dessert for the staff to try. He is not the only one. ‘I hate you,’ is a refrain I hear all too often, usually (but not solely) after the consumption of something I have baked.

If the way to man’s heart is through his stomach, then where am I going wrong?

I want you to try this cake. But I also want you to like me, and I fear that these two events cannot happen simultaneously. You see, this cake contains a lot of butter.* An unconscionable amount of butter. I even reduced the butter by 3/4 of a stick from the original recipe and there is still an amazing amount of butter in it.

It is also ridiculously easy to make, but, with little effort, winds up looking as elegant as a tarte tatin. Tender apples glisten like jewels atop a rustic dough, delicately flavored with vanilla and cinnamon, making you want to shove forkfuls of it in your cake hole until you beg for mercy.

The culprit? Evil culinary genius Ree. (It’s all her fault – hate her instead! I did, just a little.)

I bookmarked this recipe some time ago, when Kelly’s pink pearls first entered my life and I wastedspent a lot of time researching what to do with them in order to showcase their lovely color. Ree’s gorgeous photos and hilarious prose made me love this cake before it even became the menacingly buttery reality that it now is.

Apple slices are cooked in a skillet with butter and sugar (I reduced the quantities of both – you’re welcome!) until soft and beginning to caramelize. Pink pearls sure look pretty, but any tart baking apple will be awesome. A simple, buttery and crème fraîche-y cake batter, with more chopped apples folded in, gets spread thinly over the top. A brief stint in the oven, and the cake is turned out in all itsgooey, decadent glory. Serve it warm, with a scoop of vanilla or horchata ice cream, or at room temp with a dollop of whipped cream, because, really, why not go all out at this point?

Although, I guess all those apples do make it a tiny bit ‘healthy.’

So perhaps you won’t hate me after all.

Or at least, not for this cake.

*not to be confused with ‘Alot of butter

Let them eat:

Banana Upside-down Cakelets
Peach Buckle
Rhubarb Streusel Coffeecake

One year ago:

Two-Olive Sourdough

Über Apple Upside-Down Cake

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Serves 8 – 10

5 – 6 large, tart baking apples, such as pink pearls or ladies, or grannies
2 sticks of butter, softened, divided
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar (I used light, but dark would be fine, too.)
2 eggs
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat or spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup crème fraîche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375º.

Peel the apples and cut them off the core into 6 equal pieces. Melt one stick of butter in a well-seasoned 10″ cast iron or other oven-proof skillet. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over and stir to distribute evenly. Lay the apples, rounded side down, over the sea of buttery sugar, placing them snugly next to one another. You should have about one apple left over. Chop that up fairly finely and set aside. Place the apple-filled skillet over medium-low heat while you prepare the batter.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a regular bowl with a wooden spoon if you’re sans mixer/butch), beat the remaining stick of butter with the brown sugar until light and fluffy, 3 – 4 minutes on medium, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the eggs one at a time, beating to combine after each. The batter may break, but that’s ok. Whisk or sift together the flours, baking powder, salt and cinnamon into a medium bowl. Stir the vanilla into the crème fraîche. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter, mixing on low until just combined. Add the crème fraîche mixture, stir, then the remaining flour mixture, mixing until just combined. Fold in the chopped apple.

When the apples in the skillet are very tender and the butter mixture has begun to color slightly, after about 20 minutes, remove from the heat and dollop the batter over the apples. Carefully spread the batter with an offset spatula. Place in the oven and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the cake is golden and pulling away from the sides of the pan.

Let the cake cool for 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the pan to loosen, and invert a large plate over the pan. Using oven mitts, flip the whole thing over and remove the pan. Some apples/cake may stick to the bottom of the pan; this is easily repaired using a knife or offset spatula to spackle it back together.

Serve the cake warm or at room temperature. It is best the day of baking, but will keep well, tightly covered at room temperature, for a day or two, or refrigerated for up to three days.

10 thoughts on “Über Apple Upside-Down Cake”

  1. oh yum! and i won't hate you! or anyone else for that matter! especially like the 'shove forkfuls of it in your cake hole until you beg for mercy' bit….
    thanks for sharing! so jealous of those beautiful pink pearl apples!

  2. Sigh. As always hunting around for a recipe from you. But… it's adapted from PDub? I can't say I hate her. I was a big fan and should have seen the signs: new kitchen, cookbook signing – how am I supposed to win the Kitchenaid giveaway when there are 10,000 comments?? And next thing you know some sort of Bobby Flay cookoff. WTF?

    Phew. Apparently I have had some PW resentment to get off my chest. Alot. (Get it, alot??) But I promise to curb my resentment should I see you on Food Network.

    In the meantime, making this apple thingy for dessert tonight.

    1. I'm a Ree fan, what can I say? And this post is 4 years old, so cut a sister some slack. :) That being said, this is a fabulous cake and I'm pretty sure you and yours will love it in spite of its PDubious origins. I know I wouldn't mind 10,000 comments and a tete a tete with Bobby Flay… though I'm way too awkward in real life to ever be on TV.

    2. Well that was my rant, now you can hear my rave :)

      Despite dumping in all the sugar at the beginning (and thereby producing a sugar free dough), then forgetting the diced apple and resorting to sprinkling it on top of the dough after retrieving the pan from the oven… my friends ate every last morsel and they were not just being polite.

      I did not tell them the recipe contains two sticks of butter.

      Side note: This morning I read some of Ree's blog for the first time in 5 years. You both have a quirky story telling style I enjoy.

      Have a great day!

    3. That's fabulous!!! I'm so glad the cake worked out despite a couple of mishaps. (I'm going to clarify things in the recipe – sorry about that!) Good call on hiding the butter. :)

  3. ok i am just now making it in 2018 after my adult daughter Oona (yes the one you know Alanna) told me how she had just made it and how yummy it is…piles of butter and all:) i just took it out of the oven and am about to flip it…i used 1/2 buckwheat flour instead of wheat cause thats what i had.
    i will let you know. your writing along with the recipe made me laugh out loud so thank you for that too Alanna.

    1. Hi Lael! Thanks to you and Oona for trying this recipe – that just warms my heart. I bet the buckwheat was a delicious addition. How did you like it?

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