A large bowl, overflowing with apples of all different colors and textures, sitting on a wooden table.

What Can I Do With All These Apples?

Fall can be a joyful season for family togetherness. Chilly nights, hayrides, pumpkin patches, and making soup… It’s the perfect time for hearty outdoor activities followed by cozy indoor time — cooking, eating, relaxing, reading, and just being together.

My favorite outdoor fall activity is apple picking. My kids are also enthusiastic apple pickers, which makes for a nice afternoon in the orchard.

Yet every time, what feels like a modest amount of apples at the orchard, once transported back home, looks like… an awful lot of apples.

What are we going to do with all these apples?

Of course there are many wonderful things you can do, but we almost always lean on the same, favorite post-apple picking recipe: our family’s adaptation of Deborah Madison’s recipe for “Pear-Almond Upside Down Cake.”

Deborah Madison is, of course, the doyenne of vegetarian cooking and the owner of Greens Restaurant in San Francisco. The original recipe can be found in her cookbook, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

But we’ve successfully made variations of this receipt with apples and even stone fruit — and not a bite goes uneaten.

Apples still on the apple tree, in a family-friendly u-pick orchard.

Apple-Almond Upside Down Cake

Adapted from “Pear-Almond Upside Down Cake” in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

For the fruit
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3 or more apples (or pears, or plums, or other stone fruit…)
For the cake
  • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 eggs, room temperature (This is important!)
  • 2/3 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose, or other wheat flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

First, make sure your butter and eggs have been sitting out for a while, so they are really at room temperature.

Then preheat the oven to 375°F.

Prepare the fruit

In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, heat the butter and brown sugar until the sugar is melted and smooth. Remove pan from the heat.

Slice the apples (or other fruit) thinly, and arrange slices in the bottom of the pan, on top of the melted butter and sugar. (If your kids are old enough to work safely near the hot pan, this can be a fun, creative part of the process; we love arranging the fruit in beautiful patterns. At the end, this will become the top of the cake, so your time spent arranging the fruit nicely will be rewarded!) Set the pan aside.

Make the batter

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and almond extract. Then beat in the eggs until smooth. Finally, stir in the almond flour and remaining dry ingredients just until mixed.

Gently spoon batter over the fruit layer in the cast iron pan.


Carefully set the pan In the center of the oven and back for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and springy in the middle.

Remove the pan from oven, and let it sit briefly before flipping the cake onto a serving dish or board. Here’s how:

How to flip the cake

Be super careful with this part; cast iron pans are heavy and awkward, and it will be super hot! Here’s how I like to flip my upside-down cake so it turns out right-side up and ready to eat.

  1. Choose what you want to serve the cake on. I usually use a wooden cutting board, but this could be a serving plate or dish. I recommend something with a flat surface that’s not heat-sensitive, as it will be touching the hot cast iron pan.
  2. Place your board face-down on top of the cast iron pan (which still has the cake in it).
  3. Using sturdy heat-protective mitts, grasp both the pan and the board together.
  4. Flip both pan and board in one smooth motion. Now the board should be on the bottom, and the cast iron pan is on top (but upside down).
  5. Carefully jiggle the pan as you lift it up, revealing your right-side up upside down cake!

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