Salted Caramel Apple Cake

…Say what now? Salted caramel apple — mm-hmm, sure — cake, wait what??

I have to hand it to those creative brains out in the world that just sit around and think of things that are delicious on their own, and then COMBINE THOSE THINGS into ONE amazing thing.  I want that job.  

Seriously, for this recipe, someone said to someone else, “You know what’s really good?  Salted caramel.”  

“Yeah,” other person says, “And also caramel apples.”  

“You know what else?  Cake.”


Were they stoned?  Am I stoned?  No, my love for this cake is completely rational and sober.

Let’s break down the components, because otherwise my head might explode thinking of salted-caramel-apple-cake all together.  The recipe uses generous amounts of applesauce to create a cake that’s incredibly moist, but not heavy or dense.  You won’t mistake this cake for apple bread — not that there’s anything wrong with apple bread, but I might be disappointed to taste bread when I thought I was eating cake.  I used store-bought applesauce in mine, but I bet it’s amazing with homemade applesauce as well.  The spices in the cake are not overwhelming, so the apple flavor has a chance to shine.  (If you’re looking for more of a spice cake flavor, just add more cinnamon and such to taste.)

Salted caramel apple cake

Now the frosting!  If you skipped down to read the directions, you’re probably thinking, ummmm was she actually sober when writing this?  Because she says to boil the frosting, and, well, that’s weird.

Totally agree, AND YET…it’s good.  It’s, in fact, really really really good.  I’m told boiled frosting is an old-fashioned type of buttercream, one which I had never tried before.  And while the steps look a little odd, they’re also very simple.  The result is an amazingly light and fluffy frosting that melts in your mouth (could that be the tonnage of butter?).  Now, I’m a cream cheese frosting kind of girl (which is to say, I’m a human being, because I refuse to believe there’s anyone out there that doesn’t adore cream cheese frosting), and I considered switching up the recipe, but it was actually perfect with the original frosting as written.  Since the cake is so moist, you don’t want a super dense frosting.  Also, the strong flavor of cream cheese could overwhelm the more delicate apple flavors.  So, my opinion?  From one cream cheese lover to another, stick to the buttercream.

Finally, let’s talk about the salted caramel.  You can use a jar from the store if you’re short on time, or you can make it yourself.  But the most important thing for this recipe is to get the darkest, richest caramel you can.  See, the thing about adding lots of caramel to frosting is that the two are very different textures.  Caramel sauce is thick and viscous, while frosting is light and airy.  When you add caramel to frosting, you tip the overall texture towards the heavy side — and to even it out, you have to whip it with more sugar and butter.  Now what happens?  You’ve diluted the flavor of the caramel, which basically negates adding extra in the first place.  The solution?  Use a caramel with a deep flavor, so you can get away with adding less.   I recommend using this recipe from Brown Eyed Baker, and cooking it to a dark amber.

Of course, adding more salted caramel to the top of the cake is mandatory.  Adding extra to your own individual slice should be as well.

Salted caramel apple cake

This cake is basically fall perfection on a plate.  (I can’t tell you how hard it was to take this picture with cake on my fork and not eat it instantly.)  When the pumpkin desserts get to be overkill (I’m making things up, I know), switch to this and be happy.

Barely adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, which based it on Baked Explorations.

Salted Caramel Apple Cake
Lightly spiced apple cake with the lightest, fluffiest caramel buttercream frosting.
Serves: 16 servings
For the Cake:
  • 4 cups (482 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1½ cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups (496 grams) granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 cups (904 grams) unsweetened applesauce
For the Salted Caramel Buttercream:
  • 1½ cups (298 grams) granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup (40 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ cups (340 grams) whole milk
  • ⅓ cup (76 grams) heavy cream
  • 1½ cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, softened but still cool, cut into small pieces
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ⅓ cup (109 grams) salted caramel sauce
For the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. Grease three 8-inch cake pans. Then line the bottom of the pans with parchment paper, and grease that paper as well.
  3. Place the first 7 ingredients (flour through cloves) in a large mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly.
  4. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and beat until four minutes, until creamy. You can also beat it with an electric mixer in a large mixing bowl.
  5. Add the sugar and beat another 3-4 minutes until fluffy.
  6. Add the eggs and beat until incorporated.
  7. Turn off the mixer and add about a third of the applesauce. Beat on low, turn off again, and add about half of the flour mixture. Beat on low once more. Continue alternating flour and applesauce until they have all been added to the batter and beaten until just combined. Do not overmix.
  8. Pour the batter evenly into your cake pans. Bake for about 35-45 minutes. Cake will be done when a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs clinging to it.
  9. Cool the cake in the pans for 20 minutes on wire racks. Then remove the cake from the pans - the easiest way to do this is to place one hand on the bottom of the pan, and cover the top of the pan with the rack, then quickly invert. Cool completely before frosting.
For the salted caramel buttercream:
  1. Place the sugar, flour, milk, and cream in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens, whisking frequently, for about 10-12 minutes.
  2. After the mixture has thickened, pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or large mixing bowl if using an electric mixer). Beat for about five minutes - the mixture should be cooled at that point.
  3. Add the butter and vanilla and beat thoroughly on low, then beat on medium-high for about five minutes. The frosting should be light and fluffy at this point.
  4. Add the salted caramel and continue beating on medium high until well-incorporated and fluffy again.
For assembly:
  1. If your cakes have high points in them, trim the tops so they're relatively flat. Place one layer on a cake plate and top with about 1¼ cups of buttercream. Smooth the frosting.
  2. Add the next layer of cake, and top with 1¼ cups of buttercream and smooth.
  3. Add the final layer of cake.
  4. At this point, you may want to do a crumb coat. This means covering the entire cake with a thin layer of frosting, then refrigerating the cake for about 15 minutes to set the frosting. You can then finish frosting the cake without much mess. Personally, I made my cake layers ahead of time and refrigerated them covered in plastic wrap. When it came time to frost, the chilled cake layers held up nicely and did not require a crumb coat.
  5. Whichever method you choose, use the remainder of the frosting to finish covering the cake.
  6. Top with generous drizzle of salted caramel sauce.
I recommend storing the cake covered in the refrigerator. You may want to bring it to room temperature before serving. I also think it's delicious cold.

Barely adapted from Brown Eyed Baker, which based it on Baked Explorations.

 Salted caramel apple cake

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