Caramel apple 'flipped over' cake

The caramel bottom provides a nice sweetness that complements the tartness of the apples, caramelized pecans add a nice crunch, and the brown sugar cake pulls this fall dessert together in a lovely way.

The Pastry Chef's Baking
This caramel apple upside-down cake is just right for fall and the holiday dessert table.

It's finally officially autumn. We were still experiencing some residual summer heat when I made this so it wasn't cool enough for me yet but it's apple season nonetheless. I had milk to use up, so I flipped through my files of recipes I still need to try and came up with this one. It's a caramel apple upside-down cake and seemed just right for fall.

Two challenges for me with this recipe: (1) I don't own an apple corer. So I couldn't make a nice neat cylinder down the center of the apple to make pretty slices. Turns out that didn't matter since you can't see the apples all that clearly once you add them to the brown sugar caramel and toasted pecans. (2) I had more than enough sliced apples from the two called for in the recipe to make a double layer in a 9-inch pan.

I worried I wouldn't have enough room for the cake if I used up all of the apples and made a third layer. So I ended up using 1-1/2 apples and snacked on the rest. There was just enough room for all of the cake batter to come to the top of the pan. I did fret momentarily that the batter would overflow the pan and cause a mess in my oven but I alleviated this concern by tearing off a large piece of aluminum foil and setting the pan over that in my oven.

Fortunately, nothing overflowed or spilled. It was hard to judge when the cake had baked enough because you can't poke the toothpick straight down without hitting the apples or caramel on the bottom. Instead, you have to angle the toothpick so you're mostly poking through cake. Apples release moisture into the mixture so you don't want to underbake it too much or it'll be too mushy. And of course you don't want to overbake it either.

The caramel bottom didn't get flow-y caramel-y (you know what I mean) like it does in my Caramelized Pecan Pumpkin Upside Down Cake but instead set into more of a penuche texture once the cake had cooled. So don't expect drippy caramel when you flip the cake over. And that's good news if you don't want to make a mess.

I really liked this cake. The caramel bottom (or top) provides a nice sweetness that complements the tartness of the apples, the caramelized pecans add a nice crunch, and the brown sugar cake pulled the whole thing together. In fact, I liked this cake so much, I may replace the pumpkin upside down cake with this come Thanksgiving time. Just for a change of pace.

Caramel apple 'flipped over' cake
From "Cakes to Die For" by Beverly Shaffer

For the filling:
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 tablespoons chopped pecans, toasted
2 large tart-crisp apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan.
2. In a small bowl with a pastry blender, combine the brown sugar and butter until crumbly. Stir in the pecans. Press onto bottom of cake pan.
3. Arrange apple slices atop sugar/butter mixture.

For the cake:
1-1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole milk

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.

2. In a large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the brown sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Scrape bowl. Add the egg and vanilla, beating until well combined. Scrape bowl.

3. With mixer on low, alternately add the flour mixture and the milk to the sugar mixture, beating until mixture is combined.  Scoop batter into apple-lined pan; quickly and gently spread batter to smooth.

4. Bake for 34 to 46 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let stand 5 minutes on a wire rack, then run a knife around the inside edge of pan. Invert onto a large platter. Cool 20 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 8-10.

Related post on The Pastry Chef's Baking: Snickerdoodle apple cobbler

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