How do you like them apples?

This rustic dessert combines a sweet topping of fresh fried apples with a delicately spiced cake layer. The inspiration for this is a classic French tarte tatin, an upside-down apple tart that requires tons of peeling and finicky caramel.

I simplified things by using Southern-style fried apples for the topping and a basic Betty Crocker cake recipe, tweaked just a bit.

Ingredients (makes one 9" round cake or two smaller cakes):

For the topping:

  • 4 apples, peeled and cut into 8 wedges each
  • 2 T. salted butter
  • 3 T. light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon

For the cake:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 large apples, peeled and grated or finely diced

fried apples
Photo by Sarina Petrocelly


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Start the topping by prepping your apples. Cut them in half, then in quarters, and peel each with a paring knife. Slice each quarter into two even wedges and keep them in a bowl of cool water while you work. Drain and dry the apples with a paper towel, then add them to a frying pan on medium-high heat with the butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Sautée for five minutes, stirring gently with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to break up the apples! Set aside to cool while you make the cake batter.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars with a hand mixer. Add the eggs and mix well until combined. Dump in the dry ingredients and vanilla, then give it all a good mix. Fold in the grated apple.

Take the fried apple wedges and arrange them in a pretty pattern on the bottom of your 9" cake pan. Pour the pan juices on top of the arrangement. Carefully add the cake batter on top of the apples, and don't worry about spreading it out perfectly. It will spread more while it cooks, and you don't want to risk spoiling the pattern.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until a tester toothpick comes out clean. Let it cool a bit before you turn it out. This is a very forgiving cake, so you can gently replace any apple slices that fall off as you unmold it.

Serve with ice cream, whipped cream, or on its own.

cake, ice cream
Photo by Sarina Petrocelly


  • I did a smaller, 6" round cake and a separate portion in a loaf pan, both baked for about 30 minutes. This works if you want one "for company" and one just for yourself. 
  • You can use just about any kind of apple, but I find that Granny Smith and Empire work best when baking.
  • Pears would work well in this recipe too, if you prefer them. If you're cooking them while firm, bump up the pan-frying time until a slice is cooked through but not mushy when you taste it. Apples break down a little easier when you bake them than firm pears do.
  • Don't be alarmed if the cake looks really brown. That's just the brown sugar in the fried apple mixture. My loaf pan slices did come out looking pretty homely, but they tasted just fine.

Do your family have a favorite apple dessert? What is it, and what kind of apples do you use? Let us know in the comments!