maple walnut apple upside down cake

Sometimes, life just calls for cake. And sometimes that cake needs to be topped with ooey gooey caramel. Whether you’re celebrating an anniversary, a new job, a friend visiting, or heck, a birthday! Around these parts, we’re doing a bit of celebration for the first birthday of the Vintage Recipe Swap! While I haven’t been involved for a year’s worth of swaps, I’ve enjoyed every recipe I’ve swapped. And, duh, any excuse is a good excuse when it comes to baking a cake.

This month’s recipe is Maple Syrup Cake.

Although maple harvest is in the late winter and early spring, it seems to really sing in the fall. Maple pairs very well with so many foods we gobble up in October and November – spices, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and today’s co-star, apples. Between tart apple slices and practically sparkling fresh cider, the sweet depth of maple is fantastic in this dessert. A maple-infused, tart, sticky-sweet caramel that sits atop a dark, molasses-spiked cake with apple slices and chopped walnuts.

This cake is not for the weak of heart – it’s a dense, moist, sweet cake. Even without the caramel topping, the cake is plenty sweet. After drowning it in maple-cider caramel, you most definitely want to slice the cake thin and serve with coffee [or a dry rye cocktail if you’re like myself]. The recipe uses molasses and white sugar in place of brown sugar, giving you a dark, gingerbread-like coloring. If you’re not as into molasses, feel free to swap the white sugar for dark brown sugar and nix the molasses. But there’s one ingredient that I want to beg you to use: boiled cider. Boiled cider is a syrupy, caramelized, extremely reduced concoction. The bite that it adds to both the caramel and the cake is hard to replicate. While you can use apple juice concentrate, or buy some of King Arthur’s boiled cider, you can also just… boil cider. 32 ounces of delicious Red Jacket Orchards fresh cider [not spiced] boiled for about 90 minutes. Did I mention the final product is shelf stable?!

So get in the kitchen and make cake that celebrates the season. The cider won’t be around forever, nor will the apples stay tart and crisp. But while the chill is in the air, we can dig into a warm slice of maple walnut apple upside down cake with friends.

maple walnut apple upside down cake
adapted from the recipe above and this recipe.

for the maple caramel topping

makes 1 1/2 cups caramel

  • 57 grams [1/2 stick] butter
  • 28 grams [2 tablespoons] brown sugar
  • 140 grams turbinado [or white] sugar
  • 40 grams [2 tablespoons] boiled cider
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt


  1. In a medium, heavy saucepan, combine all ingredients. Heat over medium, bringing to a simmer. Once all sugar granules have dissolved, remove from heat. Set aside.

for the walnut apple cake

serves 8-10

  • 100 grams vegetable oil
  • 50 grams butter, melted
  • 150 grams white sugar
  • 2 taaspoons molasses
  • 39 grams boiled cider
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 177 grams all purpose flour
  • 2 medium apples
  • 75 grams walnuts, chopped


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9" round cake pan [make sure the pan is at least 2" deep.] Line with parchment and grease the parchment.
  2. In a large boil, add the oil, butter, sugar, molasses and cider. Beat together at medium speed (or with a strong arm and whisk) for one minute. Add the eggs, five spice and salt. Beat for an additional minute.
  3. Mix the flour with the baking soda and stir it into the wet ingredients. Gently stir until the batter is combined.
  4. Finely chop one apple and gently fold it into the batter.
  5. With the second apple, slice the top of the apple off evenly. Place that ring, stem side down in the center of the pan. Slice the apple into 1/4" slices and arrange the slices in a circle around the center apple.
  6. Top with 1/2 cup of the prepared caramel. Sprinkle the walnuts on top of the caramel. Carefully pour the cake batter into this prepared pan. [Drop dollops of it over the apple and spread gently if it's too thick to pour evenly.]
  7. Bake the cake until done. And by done, I mean until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out mostly clean. This can take as few as 50 minutes, or as long as an hour and 15 minutes. Watch and see.
  8. Remove the cake from the oven and run a thin spatula or knife around the edge of the pan to loosen. Let the cake cool for 5 minutes on a rack and the carefully turn the cake out onto a serving pan. Any bits of cake or sauce left in the pan should be scraped out and put on top of the cake.
  9. Optional: Add additional caramel topping. If the caramel is cool, reheat gently. Pour the warm sauce over the cake. Serve the cake warm or room temperature. Especially delicious with unsweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche.

13 Responses

  1. Well my friend we were definitely on the same wavelength with this swap! I love the dense flavors of this time of year and can imagine the different notes in your cake. Really nice! I did not see you on the Linkz though; you should add yourself so others will come looking!

  2. Oh my yum. Sounds fabulous and I love, love, love the presentation with the apple in the center; it looks so rustic and beautiful. I knew I was saving that last bit of apple cider for something, I just didn’t know it was for this caramel. Done!

  3. Found your link on Burwell General store. Love your recipe here. I just made two things this week that have primed me for making your cake. One was a maple walnut pear cake and the other was pomegranate “molasses” which is basically a reduction like the boiled cider here. Now I really want to try my hand at boiled cider and this cake. Great job!!

  4. Boiled cider, huh. I’m convinced! I just happen to have some cider in my fridge and it would be great to add another natural sweetener to my baking arsenal. I’m thinking it would be good on my oatmeal.
    The pictures of your cake make my teeth hurt (in a good way) and I bet it’s fabulous!

  5. Wow, that does look intense, in the EXACT WAY YOU WANT A CAKE TO LOOK INTENSE! I’m going to make this the next time I canoodle my way to a house with a fireplace and a couch and either a man or a dog… or all of the above. Perfection!

  6. I adore the apple in the middle, what a great presentation!

  7. This looks so rich, luscious, and amazing. What a perfect fall treat. Great job with the swap!

  8. This looks just delicious – the photos are mouthwatering!

  9. Wow! What a nice rich mix of flavors…the dripping caramel sauce and apples is a perfect coating to the cake! What a perfect dessert to have with coffee or a rye cocktail!

  10. What a beautiful, moist and rich cake! Looks really delicious!

  11. Love it. Looks sweet, moist and tasty. Love your take on this.

  12. I can almost taste this sticky, moist cake of yours! All the flavors put together epitomize the Fall and it is just perfect. I have never even heard of boiled cider, but as I love it in any incarnation, I am sure that it’s divine.
    Great recipe and beautiful photos!

  13. Beautiful photos Emily. The cake looks scrumptious. I’m going to try this out with some egg replacer soon, it’s on my ‘to bake – next list’.

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