In today’s post: Apple upside down cake is the perfect fall dessert: a soft spice cake topped with caramelized apples. Start with a cake mix to make it fast, easy and delicious!
Up until a few weeks ago, I had no idea Apple Upside Down Cake was even a thing. I actually thought I had dreamed it up all on my own: if pineapple upside down cake is good, wouldn’t a spice cake topped with caramelized apples be even better?
Well the answer is yes, it’s way better, but also…I am obviously not the first person to give this a try. So this cake isn’t totally original, but it is totally delicious! It has all your favorite fall flavors: apples, cinnamon, spices, and caramel (butter + sugar). While it bakes your house will smell like your favorite fall candle, and it tastes even better!
The cake starts with a super simple caramel mixture made from melting butter and brown sugar together. Sliced apples get nestled into the caramel, and then it’s all topped with an easy spice cake batter that comes from a cake mix (easy!!). As the cake bakes, the apples soften in the caramel and release juices into the cake. When you turn the whole thing out you have a light, spiced cake topped with caramelized apples that are bursting with flavor along with just a little bit of extra moist cake at the top.
The best part about this recipe is that it begins with a boxed cake mix, which means you don’t need as many ingredients and it comes together so quickly! You’ll mix up the cake mix with eggs, oil, and water. You’ll also need apples, butter, brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon to make the delicious caramelized apple topping – but don’t worry, that’s super easy to mix up as well!
How to Make Apple Upside Down Cake
Like I said, making this cake is simple. Here’s the basic process (recipe card follows):
Prep the apples
You’ll need about two pounds of apples for this cake, and you’ll begin by peeling and slicing them. I like to use Granny Smith apples because they have tons of flavor and once they are baked with the caramel sauce they taste plenty sweet. If you don’t want to use Granny Smiths, I’d recommend another apple with lots of flavor, like a Honeycrisp. Peel the apples, then quarter them and cut out the core. Cut each quarter into 3-4 slices, depending on how large your apples are.
Make the Caramel
Making a caramel sauce might sound intimidating, but all we’re actually doing is melting butter and sugar together. In a small saucepan, you’ll melt the butter along with the brown sugar and cinnamon, and continue to heat it until it just starts to simmer around the edges. Remove it from the heat and whisk in the vanilla. The caramel sauce will be thin; don’t worry about cooking it until it thickens since it will continue to cook in the oven.
Now you can pour the caramel sauce into a lightly greased 9×13 pan and top it with the apple slices. The apples will shrink when they cook, so overlap them as shown below:
Make the Cake Batter
Now it’s time to mix up your cake batter, starting with a boxed spice cake mix. I usually prefer baking from scratch, but I actually love using box cake mixes because they yield incredibly light, soft cakes with a minimum amount of effort. Please note that this recipe uses less water than is called for on the back of the cake mix box. That’s because the baking apples will add plenty of moisture to the cake, so be sure to follow the recipe card here when mixing up your cake batter.
Once it’s mixed, spread the cake batter evenly over the apples and your cake is ready to bake.
Bake, Cool, Flip
Because there’s a fair bit of moisture in this cake, you want to be sure to bake it through all the way, so expect to bake it a little longer than you’d usually bake a boxed cake mix. In my oven it takes exactly 34 minutes to bake all the way through. Test it by gently pushing on the top of the cake – it should spring back and not leave an indent. You can also test with a toothpick in the center of the cake – it should come out clean.
Once your cake is out of the oven, let it rest for 15 minutes. Then place a large cutting board or cookie sheet over your cake pan and (using oven mitts), flip the entire thing over. Give it a moment, then remove the cake pan. I use a gently greased glass pan and have never had trouble with the apples sticking.
You can serve the cake right away if you’d like, but it will slice better if you give it another 15-20 minutes to cool.
To store, you can gently cover the cake with foil or plastic wrap. I store it at room temperature, although I know some people prefer storing upside down cakes in the fridge.
- 1 box Spice Cake Mix
- 3 Eggs
- 2/3 cup Water
- 1/2 cup Oil
- 2 pounds Apples Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, etc.
- 6 tbsp Butter
- 1/2 cup Brown Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla
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- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Peel and slice the apples (12-16 slices per apple).
- In a small saucepan melt the butter. Add the sugar and cinnamon and heat until just simmering. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Lightly grease a glass 9×13 inch pan. Pour the caramel sauce (the butter/sugar mixture) into the pan and spread it out evenly. Layer the apple slices over the caramel sauce, overlapping apples.
- In a medium bowl, beat together the cake mix, eggs, oil, and water. Beat for approximately 2 minutes. Spoon the cake batter over the apples in the pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, until top of cake springs back when touched and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Allow cake to cool in pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cutting board. Serve warm or allow to cool to room temperature.