Apple Upside Down Layer Cake with Maple Buttercream is made with three layers of cinnamon cake baked on top of fresh apples and a buttery rum-caramel. The layers are sandwiched together with real maple syrup buttercream.
From the outside this looks like a typical layer cake, but slice it open and you’ll find soft cinnamon-scented layers with fresh apples baked in a buttery rum-caramel topping. Mmm, mmm, good!
This cake was invented because I was often frustrated making nothing but layer cakes for 10 years. Don’t get me wrong, I love making layer cakes. In fact, the top 5 most popular posts on this blog are all cake-related recipes.
But, when I was running my custom cake business, Cake Art Studio, that’s all I did for 10 years; layer cakes, layer cakes and more layer cakes.
In pastry school I learned to make everything from bread, to cake, to pies, to candy. And, as someone who has been baking her entire life, I would often get a little itchy to expand the definition of “layer cake” beyond simple layers of cake and icing.
My Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake was invented for the same reason. Why just have layers of chocolate chip cake and icing? Why not add a cookie as one of the layers?
Autumn is a very busy time of year in the wedding cake business, so I wanted to create a special cake flavor for fall weddings.
Of course, apple/cinnamon is a perfect fall flavor. I’d thought about making a cake with an apple pie type of filling between the layers. But, can you imagine what might happen to a 5 tier wedding cake with slippery apple pie filling between the layers? Yikes!! It makes me shudder just to think about it.
I’d already created a cake flavor that I called the “Pineapple Flip”. I love old-fashioned pineapple upside down cake and wanted to somehow get that flavor into a wedding cake. So I stacked short layers of pineapple upside down cake with coconut-rum buttercream. Yum!!
For this recipe, I used the same concept, but with autumn flavors of apple, cinnamon and maple. The great part is, with the caramlized apples baked onto the cake layers there is no danger of the cake falling apart, even in a multi-tier wedding cake.
Although it is an unusual layer cake, it’s easy to put together. Just read the recipe and watch the video to see how it’s done. The layers are quite soft when they’re warm, but they become firm when chilled.
As long as you work with the layers while they’re cold, putting the cake together is as easy as any other layer cake. Once the cake is assembled it should be kept at room temperature so it’s nice and soft when served.
I think this cake is something special and unexpected. I hope you agree.
Watch the recipe video to see how-to put together an Apple Upside Down Layer Cake.
- 3 Tbsp. (1.5 oz, 40g) unsalted butter
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. (.75 oz, 20g) dark rum
- 3/4 cup (6 oz, 170g) light brown sugar
- 1/4 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 4-5 medium apples (24 oz, 700g), such as Granny Smith
Cinnamon Cake Batter
- 6 egg yolks at room temperature
- 3 egg whites at room temperature
- 1 cup (8 oz, 226g) sour cream at room temperature, divided in 1/2
- 1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
- 9 oz (2 cups, 255g) cake flour
- 1 1/4 cups plus 1/4 cup (10 oz & 2 oz) granulated sugar
- 3/4 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp. baking soda
- 1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 sticks plus 2 tbsp. (9 oz, 255g) unsalted butter at room temperature
- 1 Recipe Italian Meringue Buttercream
- 1/4 cup (1.5 oz, 40g) real maple syrup
- Preheat the oven to 325°F convection or 350°F conventional. Line the bottom of three 8 round cake pans with parchment paper.
- Combine all the ingredients for the topping, except the apples, in a small saucepan and heat until the butter is melted and the mixture just begins to boil. Divide the warm caramel between the 3 pans. Spread the caramel in the pans, leave a 1/2" border around edges, Set aside.
- Peel core and thinly slice the apples. Divide the apple slices between the three pans, pressing into a single layer. Set the pans aside while preparing the cake batter.
- Combine the yolks, 1/2 the sour cream and the vanilla in a small bowl, set aside. Sift the flour, sugar, leavening, salt and cinnamon into a mixer bowl. Mix the dry ingredients on low speed to distribute the leavening and spice. Add the butter and the remaining half of the sour cream and mix until it forms a thick batter. Increase the speed to medium and mix about 3 minutes until the batter lightens in texture and color. Scrape the bowl and beater. With the mixer on low, add 1/2 the egg yolk mixture. Mix until incorporated. Add the rest of the egg yolk mixture. Mix until incorporated.
- In another bowl, Whip the egg whites to soft peaks. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and whip to full peak. Fold 1/2 the whites into the batter, then fold in the remaining whites. Divide the batter between the 3 pans and spread to an even layer.
- Bake until the center of the cake springs back when lightly pressed, about 30-35 minutes. Allow the cakes to cool for 5 minutes then turn them out while still warm onto a parchment lined sheet pan. If any caramel or apples stick in the pan scrape them out with a small spatula and place back on the cake.
- Cool, apple side up, to room temperature. Wrap and refrigerate the layers for several hours or overnight.
- Make the buttercream according the to recipe, adding the maple syrup at the end of the recipe. Store at room temperature until ready to use.
- Divide the buttercream in 1/2, reserve one 1/2 for icing the cake, use the remaining for filling. Remove the chilled layers from the refrigerator. Unwrap and flip the cakes, apple side down, onto the plastic wrap. Use a serrated knife to trim off the crust on the top of each cake. Place 1 layer, apple side up, onto your serving platter. Place 1/2 of the filling onto the layer and spread it evenly to the edges. Place another layer, apple side up, onto the cake and spread the other 1/2 of the filling onto the apples. Flip the third layer onto the cake so the apples are facing down.
- Crumb coat the cake and chill until set. Ice the sides and top of the cake with the remaining buttercream. Decorate as you like. Serve at room temperature
This step is optional but I think the cake looks better without the crust and holds together better without it.
Variation: I also love to add ground walnuts to the maple buttercream filling for an Apple Walnut Maple flavor.
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