Molasses Apple Upside Down Cake

An Apple Molasses Upside-Down Cake with a little help from Harriette and Betty

I started the day in a frugal mood.  A bowl of apples shoved to the back of the refrigerator, were threatening to wither and turn brown.  Oh no! My grandmothers and great-grandmothers would not stand for that!

Remembering that incredible butter and molasses spread I had discovered along with this recipe for pumpkin/cornmeal bread, I cored and sliced the apples and threw them in a skillet with butter.  When they were nicely browned, I drizzled them with molasses.

Apples and molasses

The apple slices browned in butter and molasses

But what do do next?  Maybe put them over a cake? It was time to pull out one of those vintage product cookbooks from my shelf.  This one–Betty Crocker’s Cake and Frosting Mix Cookbook (1966)–seemed perfect.  Betty always has a suggestion, and this book takes you from the basics of baking (with a mix of course) to some fancy decorating.But everything in the book seems doable for the ordinary person.

I love how the illustrations show imperfect decorations.  See the dribble on that little petit four in the foreground?  It makes the reader feel that they could do this do.  Maybe our expectations in the 1960s were a bit tamer than today?  Unless you count the expectation that we would polish silver and actually have a tea party with several kinds of cake.

But back to the recipe search–as I thumbed through the book, I saw several pages of upside-down cake recipes, including an apple upside-down cake. Ah-ha!

One of my mother’s go-to desserts that we all loved, was pineapple upside-down cake. How I loved that gooey syrupy top that surrounded the pineapples and maraschino cherries that Harriette Kaser baked on the bottom of an iron skillet, until it was carefully turned upside down in all its glory.

The Betty Crocker Cake Book suggests using one jar of cinnamon apple rings, drained, instead of pineapple slices in their basic pineapple upside-down cake recipe.  Pour 1/4 cup of butter (1/2 stick),  into the cake pan and top with brown sugar and  the pineapple slices and cherries.

Betty Crocker cake mix

Betty Crocker cake mix and recipe for Upside-Down cake

I already had a skillet with apples browned in butter an molasses (instead of brown sugar).  All I had to do was arrange them, mix up the Betty Crocker© spice cake mix and pour it over the top.

 upside-down cake apples

Cooked apples arranged for upside-down cake.

The book suggests using one-half of the prepared mix. Because my skillet was a little larger than a regular 9″ cake pan, I used a bit more than half. ( I made the remainder of the batter into cupcakes, to freeze for later.)

The cake needs to bake at 325 degrees (since the pan is dark), and took about 45 minutes.

With upside down cakes, you must invert them on the serving plate immediately when they come out of the oven.  With a cake pan, that is fairly easy, but with a heavy iron skillet and a heavy platter, it is a challenge.  As you see, it didn’t break up and fall apart (whew!), even though I did not get the cake centered on the platter. Imperfect. Just like a real cook.

Apple Upside-Down Cake

Apple Upside-Down Cake

The only remaining challenge is letting it cool before I can dig into that molasses-buttery goodness.

Apple Molasses Upside-Down Cake

Serves 10-12
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 1 hour, 10 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 30 minutes
Allergy Egg, Wheat
Meal type Dessert
Misc Child Friendly, Pre-preparable, Serve Cold


  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 3 tablespoons Molasses
  • 5 Small apples (cored and sliced)
  • 1 box Spice cake mix


1. Melt butter in iron skillet
2. Stir in sliced apples. Cook until soft (about 20 minutes), stirring occasionally.
3. Drizzle molasses over and stir to coat apples. Arrange apples in an attractive pattern in pan.
4. Mix cake mix according to directions on package
5. Pour 1/2 of the batter into the skillet on top of the apples.
6. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. (Or bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees if using a 9" round cake pan)
7. When you take skillet (or pan) out of oven, immediately invert onto serving platter. Leave skillet on top of cake for about ten minutes. Lift off and let cake cool on platter.
8. Serve plain or with whipped cream.


You can use the remainder of the cake batter to make a one-layer cake or 9-12 cupcakes, following baking directions on cake mix box.

If you do not care for spice cake, substitute another flavor of cake mix.

Used copies of Betty Crocker’s Cake and Frosting Mix Cookbook are available at If you purchase through this link, you are supporting and helping with my research. Even though it costs you no more, I make a few cents on each sale through my links. THANKS!

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2 thoughts on “Molasses Apple Upside Down Cake

  1. Kerry Dexter

    this sounds delicious — and I was never a fan of pineapple upside down cake. I always liked fresh fruit better, and fresh pineapple just would not work, I think, in an upside down cake! apples and spice cake though — what a fine idea.


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