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Caramelized Apple Upside-Down Spice Cake

Chef Maria Helm created this luxurious cake as a birthday surprise for Robert, who loves caramelized fruit and spices, back when they were dating.

slideshow Beautiful Desserts

  • Servings: MAKES ONE 10-INCH CAKE

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  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 Fuji or Granny Smith apples (about 2 1/2 pounds)—peeled, cored and cut into 6 wedges each
  • 1/4 cup brandy
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • Vanilla ice cream, for serving


  1. Butter a 10-inch cake pan. Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the apple wedges in an even layer and cook over moderately low heat, turning halfway through cooking, until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the brandy and simmer until the alcohol cooks off, about 3 minutes. Add the sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples are browned and the sugar caramelizes to a deep golden, about 12 minutes.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked apples to the prepared cake pan and arrange them in concentric circles. Pour the caramel over the apples.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°. In a medium bowl, mix the buttermilk with the egg yolks and vanilla. In a large bowl, combine the cake flour, sugar, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Using an electric mixer, beat in the butter. Gradually add the buttermilk mixture, beating on low speed until well blended.
  4. Scrape the batter over the apples in the pan and smooth the top. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool until warm, then invert onto a large plate. Cut the cake into wedges and serve with the vanilla ice cream.

Make Ahead

The cake can stand at room temperature for up to 5 hours before serving.

Contributed By Published August 1998

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