Brown Butter Apple Tarte Tatin Cake
Two classic desserts converge in this great recipe featuring fall’s favorite fruit. The change of seasons has never tasted better!
Why choose between cake or pie when you can have both? This Apple Tarte Tatin Cake is a hybrid of pineapple upside-down cake and tarte Tatin [tart tah-TAN], and made with brown butter, a classic French technique. It gives the cake a very nutty and rich flavor — the perfect end to a Thanksgiving Day celebration. With caramely apples embedded in a buttery, super-moist cake, it’s nothing short of sensational. Plus it’s so easy to make!
As for equipment, all you’ll need is a 10-inch cast-iron or ovenproof nonstick skillet. Cast iron is our favorite skillet in the Test Kitchen for this dessert.
FOR THE APPLES, SIMMER:
FOR THE CAKE, MELT:
Test Kitchen Tip
There are two key steps to this cake: making the caramel and the browned butter.
CARAMEL: What’s important here is to cook the sugar syrup long enough for good flavor and color, but not to the point that the caramel turns bitter. Once it’s the color of iced tea around the edges, take the skillet off the burner. The syrup in the middle might be lighter than you want, but the residual heat will help to darken it.
BROWNED BUTTER: You could use plain melted butter for the cake, but its flavor is so much better if the butter is browned first. Simply melt and cook the butter to the point that the milk solids darken. Slow melting is critical — the butter is more apt to scorch over high heat. Regardless, keep a close eye on it since the butter can burn very quickly
Preheat oven to 350°.
For the apples, simmer sugar, water, lemon juice, and salt in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium heat; cook, swirling the pan, until mixture is golden, 6–8 minutes. Off heat, carefully stir in cream (caramel will sputter), butter, rum, and vanilla; cool slightly.
Arrange quartered apples in the caramel, packing the pieces tightly (they shrink during cooking); transfer to a baking sheet and set aside.
For the cake, melt butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat until milk solids turn brown, swirling the pan often, about 5 minutes. Set browned butter aside to cool.
Whisk together sugar, shredded apple, browned butter, eggs, and zest in a bowl.
Add flour, salt, baking powder, ginger, and cardamom; whisk just until blended. Spread batter over apples in skillet, and bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, 45–50 minutes. Allow cake to cool 10 minutes, then carefully invert onto a serving platter.
Dust warm cake with powdered sugar before slicing. Serve cake with Raisin Sauce and Sweetened Sour Cream.
For even browning, swirl the skillet, don’t stir — stirring with a spoon could cause the sugar to crystallize.
Peel and halve the apples, then remove the core and any remnants of the stem using a melon baller or knife.
To fit all the apples, arrange cut sides down in caramel, then place two pieces, rounded sides down, in center.
Slowly brown the butter in a saucepan. Watch for the milk solids to settle in the bottom and turn deep brown.
Whisk together sugar, shredded apple, browned butter, eggs, and lemon zest before whisking in the dry ingredients.
To prevent drips during baking, place the skillet on a baking sheet, then spread the cake batter over the apples.
Unmold the cake while it’s still warm. Otherwise, the caramel will harden and the cake will stick to the pan.
If bits of apple, caramel, and cake remain in the pan, patch any holes with the remnants. Before serving, sprinkle powdered sugar over the cake. It gives this rustic dessert a sophisticated quality.
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 15g 23%
Sodium 261mg 10%
Carbs 60g 20%
Fiber 2g 8%
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.