Is there anything more beautiful than caramelized apples glistening on top of a fluffy, tender cake? Well, maybe a view of the sun setting over the Seine with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
But in the dessert realm, an upside-down apple cake is right there at the top of natural beauty. There’s no need for whimsical pastry design or spun sugar with an upside-down apple cake.
The cake is tantalizing in its simple, rustic, aromatic way. And hey, if you happen to be sitting on a quai along the Seine as you enjoy this cake, it certainly won’t hurt the experience.
I can tell you this from personal experience. Desserts like this upside-down apple cake are often sold in Paris bakeries, though the tarte tatin is more prominent.
I found myself enjoying a gateau tatin aux pommes (which literally translates to upside down cake with apples) on one of the cobblestone walkways along the Seine one afternoon. There’s nothing like tender cake with caramelized apples to make you relish the present moment.
Then, as if the experience could be any more ethereal, I watched the sky change from blue to purple and pink with the Tour Eiffel standing proudly against the magnificent backdrop. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
While the cake portion of this upside-down apple cake is delicious enough, the real star of this cake are the caramelized apples on top. Apple wedges are cooked in a hot butter-sugar mixture until a caramel-like syrup forms and the apples are tender.
The apples are layered in a sugar-coated cake pan, then topped with the syrup and cake batter. While coating the cake pan in large sugar granules (like turbinado sugar) is optional, I highly recommend doing it. The slight crunch the sugar gives along the outer edges of the cake is absolutely divine.
This is a cake that will impress all and have everyone dreaming of sweet, Parisian moments!
Upside-Down Apple Cake (Gateau Tatin aux Pommes)
- 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp unsalted butter plus more for greasing pan, divided
- 1/2 cup + 6 tbsp sugar divided
- 2.5 tbsp water
- 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 inch large apple any kind of sweet apple, 9 wedges total, peeled, cored and cut into 1- wedges
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- turbinado sugar for coating cake pan or another kind of large sugar granules
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 6-inch cake pan with softened butter. Then pour turbinado sugar into the pan. Move the pan from side to side to coat the bottom and inside edges of the pan with sugar. Temporarily set aside.
In a small skillet over medium heat, melt the 2 tbsp of butter. Once melted, add the sugar, water, and ground cinnamon. Bring the mixture to a simmer. Add the apple wedges and lower the heat to low. Cook one side of the wedges for about 8 minutes, then cook the other side for another 8 minutes, or until the liquid in the skillet has turned into a thick syrup.
Melt the remaining 1/2 cup of unsalted butter. Pour this into a large bowl with the 2 eggs, and immediately whisk vigorously until the eggs are paler than before. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar and whisk again to combine. Pour in the vanilla extract and give another quick whisk.
Add the flour and baking powder to the wet mixture and use a rubber spatula to stir everything together until you get a smooth batter.
To assemble the cake, place the apple wedges on the bottom of the cake pan (in any pattern you like). Pour the syrup from the pan over the apple wedges. Follow with the cake batter.
Bake the cake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Immediately after taking the cake out of the oven, run a knife along the edges. Let the cake cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then flip the cake out onto an awaiting plate. Any apple wedges that don't get flipped out can easily be scooped up with a fork and placed back onto the cake (no one will know!).