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The upside to fall flavor: Crisp, carmelized cake great for autumn’s apples

By the Editors of Relish Magazine
The upside to fall flavor: Crisp, carmelized cake great for autumn’s apples
(Photo: Mark Boughton Photography / styling by Teresa Blackburn)

Few fruits are as iconic to American culture as the apple, a fairly ironic fact when you consider that only the super-tart crab apple is native to our shores. Nonetheless, we continue to be inspired by the fruity transplants, and the sight of the fruit hanging heavy on the tree is a welcome reminder that fall is here.

In this apple cake, the apples are caramelized in a combination of sugar and sorghum, topped with a cornmeal-fortified sweet batter and baked. Invert for an apple-topped cake, or serve straight from the pan. Either way, a heavy-duty, ovenproof skillet, like cast-iron, is crucial. It creates a crunchy crust and tender middle. Crisp apples such as Granny Smiths or Braeburns work best, but not to be exclusive, tart, crisp pears, another harbinger of fall, work beautifully as well.

Upside Down Apple Cake

After baking, invert the cake so that the caramelized apples are on top, or serve it directly from the pan, without inverting at all.


¼ cup (½ stick) butter

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup sorghum or molasses (optional)

3 to 4 crisp, tart apples or pears, peeled, cored and cut into wedges


½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

²⁄³ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 eggs, room temperature

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

½ cup cornmeal

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk or yogurt

  1. Preheat oven to 375F.

  2. To prepare apples, melt butter in a 10- to 12-inch cast iron (or heavy ovenproof ) skillet over low heat. Add sugar and sorghum to pan and stir. Place apple wedges in the pan, trying not to leave large gaps. Cook over medium-low heat about 15 minutes.

  3. To prepare cake, beat butter and sugar using an electric mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla and eggs. Combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add buttermilk and flour mixture alternately to butter mixture and mix until well blended.

  4. Remove skillet from heat. Spoon batter over apples and spread to cover completely. Place in oven and bake 20 to 25 minutes, until cake is golden brown and bubbly. Let cake cool in skillet 5 minutes, then invert onto a serving plate, arranging any apple slices that have fallen off the cake. Serves 10.