Ever since canned pineapple became widely available in the early 1900s, pineapple and upside-down cake have become practically synonymous. But there was a time when this cake was made with seasonal fruit such as apples. The technique was straightforward: Pour melted butter and brown sugar into a pan or skillet, add sliced apples, spread cake batter over them, and bake. The apples caramelize on the bottom of the pan, revealing a layer of burnished amber fruit when the cake is upturned—or at least that's what should happen.
After testing a few recipes, it was clear why sweet, juicy pineapple had overshadowed the humble apple. Rather than a luscious topping full of deeply fruity flavor, the apple slices tasted bland and watery.
To restore apple-pie order to this upside-down cake, the folks at America's Test Kitchen had to start at the bottom with a sturdy cake, then work their way up to a flavorful topping made from just the right type of apple.
Watch this video for step-by-step instructions or get the recipe at America's Test Kitchen (free registration required).