Apricot Upside-Down Cake is made with a brown-butter,  brown-sugar topping and soft sponge cake. A hint of orange blossom is perfect here.

Apricot Upside Down Cake on a sheet pan

I’ve never been good at favorites. As in, what’s your favorite cake? What’s your favorite color? What your favorite anything. I love them all.

Same with this apricot upside-down cake. I would never want to have to decide which part I like best: the brown buttery, dark brown sugary apricot fruit layer? Or the cake layer, made from a light sponge, or genoise. The perfection of each is, well, perfect and the two layers together are double perfect.

Brown butter in a saucepan

Brown sugar topping for upside down cake in a pan

We are huge fans of pineapple upside down cake, which I always throw together at Thanksgiving for just one more dessert on the already loaded dessert buffet. It’s also one cake that I use a mix for, however hesitantly, because the pineapple flavor comes through so well in the cake. And the texture is so light and delightful.

But now that I have the cake perfection that is the genoise of the apricot upside-down cake, I’m going to apply it to pineapple upside down come holiday-time. I better start tracking down the pineapple extract now.

Cake batter and whipped egg whites in bowls

Genoise cake batter in a bowl

My sister Peggy started bringing this cake to the family cookouts last summer. We go completely cuckoo for anything apricot, so when she showed up with a massive sheet pan of glistening apricot upside down cake? The dessert world here changed . . . . We’re usually all about pie mid-summer, and here we are proclaiming this cake among the best things we’ve EVER EATEN.

The topping is made with brown butter with dark brown sugar. I find there is no better pairing than this caramel-like flavor with a hint of our beloved orange blossom water. Need I say more? Use a good, higher-fat cultured butter if you can, such as Plugra or Kerrygold.

Apricots over brown sugar topping for upside down cake in a pan

Cake batter over apricots in a pan

Batter over apricots for cake

Upside down cake out of the oven

The cake takes more than mixing together wet and dry ingredients with butter or oil. And definitely more than ripping open the bag of mix. But the rewards here are so worth it. We’re separating the eggs and mixing the yolks with the butter/flour/milk. Then whip the whites in a clean bowl with clean whisk attachment. Then fold the whites into the batter with a rubber spatula.

The result is an absolutely beautiful, light cake—a sponge, that soaks up the brown buttery goodness like a dream.

My new favorite.

Apricot Upside Down Cake on a sheet pan

Apricot upside down cake slice on a blue and white plate

Apricot Upside Down Cake on a sheet pan

Apricot Upside-Down Cake

Servings: 15 depending on slice size
Recipe by: Maureen Abood

Use higher fat, cultured butter for the cake topping, such as Plugra or Kerrygold, for richness. Based on a wonderful recipe by Maria del Mar Cuadra. Other stone fruits, such as plums or peaches, would be delicious here as well.

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Ingredients

For the topping:

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more to butter the pan
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 apricots

For the cake:

  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
  • 2 large eggs, separated, room temperature
  • 1 cup whole milk, room temperature

Instructions

  1. Adjust rack to the middle of the oven. Heat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 13x9x2 cake pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment, then butter the parchment. This will help ease the cake out of the pan.

  2. To make the topping, in a stainless skillet or saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. The butter will foam and then quickly the solids will brown. Swirl the pan as the butter cooks. When the solids are golden brown, about 5-7 minutes, remove the pan from the heat immediately. The butter can go from golden to burned quickly, so keep a close eye.

  3. Stir the brown sugar, orange blossom water, vanilla, and salt into the butter. Sprinkle the wet, sandy mixture evenly over the parchment in the pan.

  4. Halve the apricots, remove the pits, and cut each half into four wedges. Line the cake pan with the apricots in four long rows, nestling the apricots closely together.

  5. To make the cake batter, sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

  6. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, in a large bowl beat the sugar and 8 tablespoons softened butter on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.

  7. Alternate adding the flour mixture and the milk in three additions of each (six additions total). Add the vanilla and orange blossom water and mix until combined.

  8. In another clean bowl with clean attachment, beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks, but are not dry. Take care not to over-beat the egg whites.

  9. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the batter until fully incorporated. Do not over-stir.

  10. Scrape the batter evenly over the apricots in the cake pan and spread evenly.

  11. Bake the cake until golden and the top bounces back when touched in the center, 45 to 50 minutes. Cool the cake for 15 minutes, then turn over onto a sheet pan or large serving platter. Remove the parchment if it came off onto the apricots. Serve immediately, or anytime for 3 days. Cover with plastic and keep at room temperature.

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