Apples and caramel are a match made in heaven, and this cake capitalizes on that delicious combo. A simple caramel sauce lines the base of the pan, then apple slices are arranged atop the sauce, followed by a layer of butter-rich cake batter.
When you serve it, the sauce drizzles down the sides of the cake and makes a beautiful autumn dessert.
Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan. Cut out a circle of parchment paper and line the bottom of the pan. Set aside.
Combine the brown sugar, 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) of the butter, and the honey in a small saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to high and boil the sauce for 2 minutes. Immediately pour the hot caramel into the bottom of the prepared pan.
Starting at the outer edge of the pan, arrange the apple slices in a slightly overlapping concentric circle over the caramel, with the curved edges of the apples against the side of the pan. Add a second layer of apples. Set the pan aside while you make the cake batter.
Place the granulated sugar and the remaining 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) of butter in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high until the mixture is light and fluffy, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. At medium speed, beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla extract. The mixture may look slightly curdled at this stage, but don’t be concerned.
Meanwhile, place the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a clean bowl and whisk to blend. At low speed, add half of the dry mixture to the batter, alternating with half of the milk. Add the remaining dry mixture and milk, and mix just until combined.
Carefully spread the batter over the apples. Bake until the cake is golden brown and has pulled away from the sides of the pan, 45 to 55 minutes. Transfer the cake to a wire rack and let it cool for 30 minutes to allow the caramel sauce to thicken a bit. Place a serving plate on top of the cake, invert the pan over the plate, and gently remove the pan and the parchment paper. The caramel will drip down the sides of the cake, so be careful when you flip the pan over the plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.