Spiced Upside-Down Apple Cake

Spiced Upside-Down Apple Cake

The very last issue of Gourmet sits in a stack along with the most recent issues of Saveur, Bon Appetit, and Food & Wine — all barely touched.  Holiday catalogs I’d rather not receive lay scattered in the mix as well reminding me that I should probably pay attention.  How can it be the end of November?  The month has flown by and with it my favorite season of the year, leaving only a few days to think about recipes I’d like to try this year for Thanksgiving.  Outside of making a simple list of traditional dishes and leaving it to sit on the kitchen counter, I’m still not prepared.

I’ve accepted that this just won’t be the year to try yet another way to mash and flavor potatoes with the likes of parsnips or roasted garlic, white truffle oil or black truffle shavings.  I won’t have to wonder why a stuffing recipe calls for freshly made cornbread that has to sit on the counter for a day before it can be cubed and tossed with other ingredients to make an herby stuffing.  And I’ve decided that deep-frying a ton of microscopically thin onion rings to flavor a new spin on the classic green bean casserole won’t be happening, either, even though it was quite a fabulous recipe.  No, we’re going to be relatively conservative this year which is why I was able to spend some time in the kitchen today trying a new recipe with some of my favorite flavors:  apples, pecans, and cinnamon with a hint of orange.

David Guas’ Spiced Upside-Down Apple Bundt Cake was perfect from the moment I saw it in Food & Wine’s “Last Bite.”  Even though I’ve never owned a bundt pan, it was the least of my worries because the recipe calls for buttermilk.  Whenever I buy buttermilk,  it gets pushed to the back of the fridge and is forgotten until long after the date stamped on it, then ends up down the drain.  Not this time!   I found it with a day to spare — not that I could tell given its characteristic pungent smell.

How does one tell whether buttermilk is sour when it always smells badly?  It’s a very good thing that it works so nicely as a cooking ingredient, don’t you think?

Spiced Upside-Down Apple Cake

The recipe can be found here in the November 2009 issue of Food & Wine.

Crab Apples

Make the streusel first and make sure to add the pepper.  Yes, it’s unusual, but it’s very nice with this cake since the apples are sweet.  They compliment one another well.


The spiced apples are so tasty I had trouble keeping myself from spooning them right into my mouth.  Make sure you saute them only until just beginning to soften and then spread them out on a baking sheet to set in the fridge to cool.

Apples Hot Spiced Apples

The cake batter is thick and easily spooned over the cooled apples in the generously oiled (Pam) cake pans.


The brioche tins baked for 45 minutes, and the 6″ round cake for 1 hour.   Test for doneness with a wooden skewer.  After they come from the oven, let them sit for 5 minutes before turning them upside-down on a baking rack positioned over a baking sheet.  You may have to rescue a few apples stuck to the bottom of the pan.  Just add them to the top of the cake.

Spiced Upside-Down Apple Cake

Divide the streusel evenly over the cakes, pressing gently into the apples.  They’re quite moist so let cool an hour before serving.

Spiced Upside-Down Apple Cake


  • I used cardamom in the streusel instead of cinnamon. I couldn’t resist. Its somewhat citrusy taste had me thinking of lemon pepper, but that didn’t quite pan out.  Although I could taste the pepper in the streusel when eaten alone, it was less noticeable when I sampled the finished cake.  I’d definitely add more pepper next time.
  • I didn’t have Calvados so used Laird’s Applejack instead.  No, it’s not quite French apple brandy from Normandy, but it worked out quite well in this cake.  There is no boozy taste at all — something I don’t enjoy in baked desserts.  If you’d rather not use alcohol, apple cider will work just fine.
  • Fuji apples were substituted for the Granny Smith’s because I was out of those as well.  Fuji’s aren’t as tart, but they held up well and the flavor was excellent.
  • We enjoyed this cake.  It’s super moist and surprisingly light in texture with hints of orange laced through it.  The streusel topping provides a perfect crunch.  Although pecans are ground in the streusel, I think next time I’d enjoy chopping a few more to add to the apples before spooning the mixture into the pans.
  • Raisins or dried cranberries would be a nice addition to this cake as well.
  • Definitely a keeper!
  • Oh — of course you can make this with one 10-inch bundt pan.

Spiced Upside-Down Apple Cake