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Fresh Apple Upside Down Cake


Courtesy of Rose Levy Beranbaum

This cake was inspired by the height of the apple season, fall of 1991. It is reminiscent of Tart Tatin with cake instead of pastry (one could call it Gâteau Tatin!). The caramelized apples and walnuts, topping a velvety tender butter cake is a fabulous combination. I brought it, hot from the oven, to my cousin Marion’s house in Westchester for dinner, along with a special treat: Glensfoot cream, which is high in butterfat and not ultra pasteurized. She whipped it in a copper bowl, right at the table, perfuming it with Jack Daniel’s bourbon, and spooned a little onto the top of each portion of cake. It was perfect to temper the sweetness of the cake. We all loved it. This is truly a dessert made in heaven.


Fresh Apple Upside Down Cake



  • 1 pound apples (about 2 large), peeled, cored and sliced 1/4 inch thick (2-2/3)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 1/3 cup finely packed light brown sugar, divided up
  • 2/3 walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 3/4 teaspoon Rain’s Choice pure Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup sifted cake flour
  • 1/2 sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream, whipped, with 1 tablespoon good-quality Bourbon (optional)
  • One 8 inch cake pan (or 9 inch tart tatin pan)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place a baking sheet on an oven rack in lower third of oven.

Fruit Topping

  1. In a medium bowl, toss together the apples, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar. Allow it to sit for at least 30 minutes.
  2. Toast the walnuts in the 350°F. oven for 10 minutes or until golden brown. When cool, chop them coarsely and set them aside.
  3. Use 1 tablespoon of the butter for the topping to butter the cake pan.
  4. In a small heavy saucepan, preferably non-stick, melt the remaining butter for the topping, add the remaining brown sugar and any liquid that has drained from the apples. Bring it to a boil, stirring constantly and simmer for about 3 minutes or until thickly bubbling and deep amber. Pour this mixture into the prepared cake pan. Place the apple slices, overlapping, onto the bottom of the pan. Arrange slices around the sides of the pan as well. Set aside.

Cake Batter

  1. In a medium bowl, lightly combine the yolks, about ¼ of the sour cream and the vanilla.
  2. In a large mixing bowl**, combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add butter and the remaining sour cream. Mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium (high speed if using hand mixer) and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop cake’s structure. Scrape down the sides.
  3. Gradually add egg mixture to batter in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate ingredients and strengthen structure. Scrape down the sides. Scrape the batter into the fruit-lined bottom, smoothing evenly with a rubber spatula.
  4. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and the wire cake tester inserted in center comes out clean and the cake springs back when pressed lightly in the center. (Test carefully as the cake may appear done to the eye and still be underdone inside.) Run a small metal spatula around the sides and invert at once onto a serving plate. Leave the pan in place for 1 or 2 minutes before lifting it. If any apple slices have stuck to the skillet, simply use a small spatula to place them back on the cake. Scatter the toasted nuts on top of the cake.



Warm or room temperature. If warm, serve the optional whipped cream on the side instead of on top of the apples.


Airtight: 1 day room temperature, 3 days refrigerated, 2 months frozen.


Unlike a pineapple upside-down cake, it is better not to use a cast iron pan as it turns the apples a somewhat gray-green hue.



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Patricia Rain

is an author, educator, culinary historian, and owner of The Vanilla Company (www.vanillaqueen.com), a socially conscious, product-driven information and education site dedicated to the promotion of pure, natural vanilla, and the support of vanilla farmers worldwide. She also does culinary presentations for food professionals, cooking schools, trade shows, food fairs, and private groups, and is a regular radio and TV guest.
Patricia Rain
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