A buttery caramel sauce goes in the bottom of the cake pan before the apples and the batter, so when you turn out the cake, it’s bathed in sweet gooey goodness. No one would complain if you dolloped each slice with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream before serving.
- ¾ cup sugar
- ¼ teaspoon lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces, plus more for the pan
- Pinch of salt
- ½ cup slivered or chopped almonds, lightly toasted
- 2 large, crisp apples, such as Gravensteins or Granny Smiths, peeled, cored, and chopped into ½- to 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup buttermilk
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch round cake pan with 2-inch sides (a non-stick baking pan is a plus, but do not use a spring-form pan).
For The Topping:
Combine the sugar, lemon juice, and ¼ cup cold water in a small, heavy saucepan. Brush the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush, and let sit for a moment so the sugar can absorb the water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with the wet pastry brush, until the mixture starts to turn color around the edges, 5 to 7 minutes. Gently swirl the pan to even out cooking, and continue to cook until the sugar turns amber, about 30 seconds more. Don’t let the caramel get too dark as it cooks more once in the oven. Remove the pan from the heat, and immediately add the butter, stirring until completely melted. Add the salt.
Pour the caramel into the cake pan, tilting the pan to spread it evenly, and scatter the almonds on top. Arrange the apples on the caramel and set aside.
For The Cake:
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt. Set aside.
In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar and lemon zest, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, pausing to scrap the bowl. Beat in the vanilla.
Reduce the mixer to low speed and alternate adding the flour mixture and buttermilk in 5 additions, starting and ending with one-third of the dry ingredients, scraping the bowl a few times, and mixing until the batter is just smooth. Pour the batter onto the apples and spread it evenly with a spatula.
Bake until golden and the center springs back lightly when touched, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then flip the cake onto a serving plate (preferably one with a little rim). Let the cake pan sit upside down for a moment so the caramel can drip onto the cake, then pull it away. Serve warm or at room temperature.