upside-down apple and prune plum spice cake + salted caramel sauce

It all started with a desire for salted caramel sauce, after going many months without it. To be truthful, though, I knew what I was going to make as soon as I saw these seasonal prune plums at my grocer. I harbor a desire to turn everything into an upside-down cake, with the apple spice cakes typical of autumn no exception.

Ordinarily these spice cakes are filled with apple chunks or applesauce, and are tasty, but are also mildly boring and relatively thoughtless to make.

This upside-down version of a spice cake (or a spice cake tatin, if you will) provides some extra built-in flavor, through the glorious layer of caramelized apples and prune plums. It packs a well-spiced punch as well, thanks to additions of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, cardamom, and Grand Marnier in the batter.

Bonus: it’s pretty to look at. Bonus 2: The spiced salted caramel sauce is a good substitute in life for anything edible. So delicious!

As I leisurely put together this caramel sauce and cake, I reflected on the last time I had tried my hand at an apple spice cake. I was living in France at the time. Memories sifted through my mind hazily.

I thought back to the glares I received from stylish French people when they saw me pairing Chacos with a bright yellow-green rain jacket. I remembered the time the yard of my apartment was torn apart by my landlady’s construction men in her effort to create a mini-empire of apartments. And then the subsequent time when two weeks of rain flooded the yard, and my roommate and I had to repeatedly make our way through a foot of water to get to our home.

I thought of the familiar sights I saw everyday during my bus commute. Of the smells of freshly-baked almond pastries. Of those teeny tiny cups of coffee. Of the funny short man I saw playing a saxophone that one time. Of all the neat things in my landlady’s backyard, and how her side of the house was very beautiful, while ours was frightening and falling to pieces. Of how I washed all my clothes by hand, because I was too shy to walk down the street to the laundromat. And of the scary mannequin that leered at me in Aigues-Mortes.

It was my time in France, back in 2007, that got me started taking pictures of my baking successes. Due to the sketchy gas oven in my apartment, and my lack of interest in food styling and proper lighting, everything that I documented then looked pretty much the same. But from the granola cake, to the kiwi cake, to this apple spice cake’s predecessor, I was hooked.

I do hope you’ll try this recipe out. It has enough deliciousness to equate to at least a few months of fond memories from time spent abroad – mannequin excluded.

Upside-Down Apple and Prune Plum Spice Cake {original recipe}

Serve with Spiced Salted Caramel Sauce (recipe follows)

I’ve mentioned before that I make my tartes tatins (and upside-down cakes) using a 10-inch cast iron skillet. It is an ideal pan for this cake, as there is no need to flip or disturb the apple plum layer until the cake has finished cooking. If you don’t have this size cast iron pan, you can heat the butter, sugar, apples and plums in a skillet, before transferring to a buttered and floured parchment-lined cake pan.


For the caramelized layer:

3 apples (I used McIntosh, they bake well), cored and sliced
5-10 prune plums, pitted and quartered
6 tbsp butter
2/3 c. brown sugar

For the cake batter:

1 c. rye flour
1/2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsp butter, room temperature
1 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp + 2 tsp Grand Marnier
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp cardamom
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. heavy cream


In a 10-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat, combine butter and brown sugar. Melt and mix. Arrange apple and plum slices as desired, and allow mixture to cook for two to three minutes, until caramel apple aromas waft up at you. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (or a large bowl equipped with a mixing implement and a strong arm), cream butter and brown sugar for two minutes.  Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Mix in vanilla, Grand Marnier, and all spices. Add flour mixture in two parts, alternating with the milk and heavy cream, beating at low speed.

Pour batter into cast iron skillet over apples and plums. Butter will rise up around the edges of the pan – don’t worry. Bake cake on center oven rack for 40-45 minutes until an inserted cake tester shows it has cooked through. Allow to cool in the pan for ten minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the skillet to free any adhering cake. Place a large plate on top of the skillet, upside down, and in one smooth motion, flip to turn out the cake onto the plate (you will likely need oven mitts as the cast iron will still be hot). If any fruit bits have stuck behind in the pan, return them to their rightful place on the cake

Cool cake until warm or to room temperature. Served with Spiced Salted Caramel Sauce.Store cake in fridge, well-wrapped, for up to three days.

Spiced Salted Caramel Sauce {original recipe}

Makes ~2 c.


1 c. sugar
6 tbsp butter
3/4 c. heavy cream
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cardamon


Pour sugar into a large heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat. Let sit until sugar melts, and begins turning a light amber color. Stir if necessary to break up any large chunks, but otherwise let it be. When the caramel has turned a medium amber (the darkness is up to you – you want to let it caramelize sufficiently without burning. Remember that it will continue to cook for a few seconds after it has been removed from the heat), add butter and stir until mixed. Add cream, salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, and cardamon, and stir. Remove from heat and cool slightly.

Pour into a glass jar and cool completely. Cap and store in fridge or freezer.


43 thoughts on “upside-down apple and prune plum spice cake + salted caramel sauce

  1. How lovely that you had a stint in France. I’d be quite keen to live overseas for awhile – I have my birth country and my adopted country, wouldn’t mind having an extended fling with a third, fourth…
    And this is a pretty cake indeed. The caramel, the spices, the use of rye in the flour mix! It must taste quite magnificent.

    1. It’s been so long since I’ve been abroad, that I’m now reduced to writing retrospective posts while drooling over pictures of store-bought 8-packs of pain au chocolat. Oh, yum.

      I love adding rye flour into most things I make these days. I find it gives an extra hearty, nutty oomph!

  2. wow. this is so pretty and looks sooo good too. pinned this for sure, but not sure i’ll ever get around to making it (mine wouldn’t come out nearly as nice i’m sure)… well done!

    1. Oh no, I’m sure yours would come out just as pretty! I was awfully impressed by how I didn’t lose a single apple slice to the pan this time around – you can doooo it! :)

  3. Ok, anything with “+ salted caramel sauce” is bound to be amazing. My favorite episode of anything Foodnetwork, is Tyler Florence Ultimate when he learns to make apple tart tatin from a little old french guy. It was how I idealize France in my head. I love your pictures. They are also the France I have in my head.

    1. Hehe, I agree. There’s nothing like a dose of not-too sweet caramel to light up my life!

      I’d love to learn to make tarte tatin from a well-seasoned French man. Sounds like the France I didn’t get to experience, but had hoped to… ah, France.

  4. After chocolate, caramel is my favorite flavor. So delicious! I am not typically into fruity desserts, but this looks mighty tasty (the caramel definitely helping with that).

    You lived in France? How cool! You must tell me everything about living in a foreign country, as I keep kicking around figuring out how to live in England. Give to me your datas.

    1. My datas have been properly secured by the creepy mannequin you see above. You must get through him to get to me. I can tell you everything, but it will take a fairly long time…? For now, I’ll say that living in England will be so bloody pricy that you may end up skint.

      Those were a few Briticisms for you, to acclimate you to your new home in mother England.

      Caramel so so so bloody good.

  5. This post fills my heart with such happiness and wonderment and joy. Oh travel! Europe! Burnished golden sweet cake! Ladyfriendyou! xo

    1. Ah, my polished/enhanced golden sweet cake! Such the delicious creation courtesy of ladyfriendme.

      This post filled my heart with happiness and wonderment and joy as well. How lucky you are right now, dear gallivanter at large!

  6. Yum! The barrage of very end of summer fruit overwhelms me–figs, Concord grapes, prune plums…where do I begin?!

    Perhaps I’ll just skip the hard decisions and bust out some blueberries.

    1. No figs to be seen up here… but I was happy to snatch up some prune plums! Would you believe I didn’t buy a single nectarine or peach this year? Just couldn’t justify the cost:/

      Corcord grapes – I could get on that train. I bet it’s a tasty one.

      Yeah, enough discussion. Time for some ever-appetizing blueberries, hah:)

  7. This sounds utterly wonderful. Just when I think I can’t possibly get any more excited by salted caramel sauce, you go and put cardamom in it. Sounds every bit as dreamy as your time in France.

  8. Wow. that mannequin was one scarey dude!!! Yikes! Funny you should bring up the landlady–I was somewhere very recently and saw a small statue of liberty and thought of her, and her desire for such an object.
    Also like the photo of the sign with the guy with the beer stein and the giant pipe. Fun for you to go back and look at your many photos. Some trip!
    Your cake looks wonderful–creative and yummy–good combination:D

    1. Hehehe, such a frightening mannequin!

      I forgot about her persistent interest in small Statues of Liberty (despite her also-persistent tirades against Americans). Such a strange woman. Her kitchen sure was beautiful though!

      So nice to go back and look at these photos, and with a slice of cake to boot :)

  9. What a fantastic set of memories to have! Oh, and this cake and the sauce look delicious … I just want to breathe in the loveliness …

    1. Fantastic, indeed. These memories make me so happy to think back on, though they also make me mighty hungry for pastries I can’t find around here!

      Thankfully there’s some leftover caramel sauce in the freezer, so I can go sneak spoonfuls every now and then ;)

    1. Alas, it was only for 5 months. I lived in Montpellier, just a short ways outside of the city center. Such a beautiful part of the country, with Les Cévennes nearby…

      When am I going back – the question that plagues me nearly every day! I would love to do a bike trip through France and Germany, but if that happens it will probably still be a few years out. I long to return something fierce!

  10. Emma, everything about that cake works for me. Salted caramel sauce, tarte tatin, plums….
    I’ve been wondering how you are and what’s happening on your dreaming front. Are you still going for it? I hope so!

    1. Hey Erin,

      YES! I am still going for it! I’m so very very close to revealing my big ol’ project for all the world to see – so close:) I’m just waiting on an important aspect of the venture that is not within my control, but is hopefully close to being finished. Not to be cryptic or anything ;)

      Everything about this cake was so amazing. I’ve held off all day – time for a big spoonful of caramel sauce!


  11. It is glistening and gorgeous! I love a cake like this that perfectly compliments a hot mug of tea. That salted caramel sauce sounds incredible.

  12. I’m unsure of what makes me happiest; this cake (and my vow to make it very, very soon) or the France photos. Both, i say. I love all things upside-down cake, and this is gorgeous.

    although that creeptastic mannequin will actually be giving me nightmares. yikes.

    1. France photos for me, but perhaps because they’re all that remains (the cake is long gone).

      That mannequin IS creeptastic. Poor marketing strategy, if you ask me!

    1. Hehe, I’m glad to make you say woaaaaaahhh any day! Hah. Yeah, no more words needed. Just a mouth and spoon :)

      1. YUM YUM YUM!! I was just thinking, as I savored some caramel sauce this evening, how much I should make caramel ice cream…

    1. I think the ones at this shop were the only maniacal ones I spotted. I would have to say, though, that no, the French didn’t seem completely normal to me. But then again, I was the weird one in the Chacos and bright coat, getting stared at for being a fashion atrocity:D

  13. First, those pictures are AMAZING. Well done, lady. Second, this post contained no updates on New Venture. Which is very disappointing. The salted caramel sauce HELPS, but does not completely cancel out this omission.

    1. Thank you, other lady!

      New Venture is moving, I promise. I’m stuck waiting for one crucial item. Once I have said item, I’ll be going public like whoa! Promisepromise.

      Although maybe I’ll just be lulled into a continual distraction of ‘looking at the shiz you made at baking school today.’ That’s how it’s been this week!

And now I'd like to pass the mic / So you c'mon and do anything you like ...aka, Leave your reply.

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