Full apple flavor and served with a to-die-for apple cider caramel sauce, this Caramel Apple Cake is the perfect celebration cake for all your fall festivities. Three different types of apple are used to keep things extra moist and flavorful.
Make this cake for any fall celebration! It has three lofty layers of moist apple spice cake.
The apple cake layers are filled and frosted with creamy dulce de leche frosting. To serves, add a heavy drizzle of apple cider caramel. It might seem like extra work, but it adds so much extra flavor when sliced and served.
Making this cake for a fall celebration? The piped buttercream rosettes on top are party perfect!
- Why You'll Love This Caramel Apple Cake
- Tools and Equipment
- Steps for Making a Caramel Apple Cake
- Serving and Storage
- Decorating a Buttercream Flowers Cake
- What is Dulce de Leche?
- How to Make Homemade Dulce de Leche
- Baker's Notes
- More Apple Recipes to Make
- Join the Style Sweet Bake Club!
Why You'll Love This Caramel Apple Cake
Enjoy apples three ways in this Caramel Apple Cake recipe. Fresh apples straight from the orchard provide flavor and texture in the cake layers while the applesauce keeps them moist for days.
Lastly, we reduce apple juice then replace the cream in a traditional caramel sauce to give it a super flavorful punch to drizzle over cake slices.
- All-purpose flour - sift the flour if there are lumps; use the spoon and level method to measure
- Baking powder
- Ground cinnamon and ground ginger
- Baking soda
- Kosher salt - I recommend Diamond Crystal
- Neutral Oil - like avocado, grapeseed, or canola
- Granulated sugar
- Brown sugar - dark or light; packed when measuring
- Large eggs
- Unsweetened applesauce - this will make the cake super moist
- Fresh apples - I recommend a mix of sweet and tart like Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, and Pink Lady
- Apple cider - cook until reduced to make the caramel sauce
- Corn syrup
- Unsalted butter - for the sauce and buttercream
- Dulce de leche - look for this next to canned sweetened condensed milk
Tools and Equipment
- 8-inch round cake pans
- Stand mixer (a hand mixer is okay for cake but need stand mixer for buttercream)
- Offset spatula
- Rotating cake stand (helpful)
- Piping tips and bags (for decorating)
Steps for Making a Caramel Apple Cake
Dice the Apples - before getting started, make sure all of your ingredients are prepped before getting started, starting by dicing the apples.
Make the Batter - next, prepare the cake batter and fold in the diced apples
Reduce the Apple Cider - boil the apple cider until it reduced to ¼ cup.
Caramelize the Sauce - add the brown sugar and boil to 240°F.
Whip the Buttercream - add canned dulce de leche into the Swiss meringue buttercream
Decorate! - lastly, use a variety of piping tips to pipe spiral of buttercream on top of the cake.
Gluten-free: you may try using a one-to-one gluten free flour for the all-purpose flour
Brown Butter Apple Cake: swap the Dulce de Leche buttercream with the brown butter frosting here.
Easy Vanilla Frosting: for a simpler version, swap the buttercream for easy whipped frosting and serve with caramel sauce.
Serving and Storage
Serve this Caramel Apple Cake at room temperature with a drizzle of the apple cider caramel sauce.
Store the cake under a cake dome or wrapped loosely with plastic at room temperature overnight. Refrigerate leftovers, in a cake box or wrapped with plastic, for up to 4 days.
To freeze, wrap the baked and cooled apple cakes in two layers of plastic wrap. Freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw frozen cakes overnight in the refrigerator.
Decorating a Buttercream Flowers Cake
This recipe comes from Layered: Baking, Building and Styling Spectacular Cakes. While the cake in the book shows the sauce dripping lusciously down the sides of the cake, this version steals our favorite crescent of buttercream rosettes to crown the top.
To compensate for the decoration, the buttercream filling is thinner. Not to fear, the oil base and applesauce in the cake keep it moist for several days.
What is Dulce de Leche?
The caramel portion of this Caramel Apple Cake is delivered in two forms: the previously mentioned apple cider caramel sauce as well as the dulce de leche buttercream filling and frosting.
Ducle de leche is a Latin American confection made from caramelizing milk. The milk is cooked down until it thickens and resembles caramel sauce. During the cooking process, much of the water evaporates as the milk reduces and sugars caramelize, resulting in the thick, sweetened sauce.
You can easily make your own by boiling an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk (or even doing so in a slow cooker).* When it is done, the milk will be a creamy, camel-colored dream.
Ready-made dulce de leche is also available at some grocery stores.
How to Make Homemade Dulce de Leche
To make your own dulce de leche, remove the label from a an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk. Place the can on its side in a large pot or Dutch oven.
Next, fill the pot with water until the can is completely submerged by about two inches. Place on the stove and bring the water to a simmer.
Cook the sweetened condensed milk for 2 to 3 hours, keeping a watchful eye and ensuring that the can is always submerged in water.
When done, remove the pot from the heat. Very carefully remove the can with tongs and allow the can to cool at room temperature a wire rack (DO NOT open while it is still HOT) or it may squirt hot liquid upon opening.
- The best apples to use in this cake are Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Pink Lady
- For the buttercream, double this recipe for Swiss meringue buttercream.
- Keep cake at room temperate if serving the same day as assembled. Store leftovers in a cake box or loosely covered in plastic wrap in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
More Apple Recipes to Make
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Caramel Apple Spice Cake
Caramel Apple Spice Cake
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup + 2 tbsp neutral-flavored oil like grapeseed or canola
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup brown sugar packed
- 4 large eggs
- ¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
- 1 ½ cups finely diced peeled apples such as Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, or Pink Lady
Apple Cider Caramel
- 1 cup apple cider
- ½ cup brown sugar packed
- 1 teaspoon corn syrup
- 2 teaspoon unsalted butter diced
- 1 Large recipe Swiss Meringue Buttercream See notes
- ¾ cup dulce de leche
- gel food coloring optional
- sugar pearls optional
Caramel Apple Spice Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour three 8-inch cake pans and set aside.
- Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a different mixing bowl (or in a stand mixer), whisk together the oil, sugar, and and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until combined.
- Add in half of the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Mix in the applesauce. Add in the remaining dry ingredients and stir – stopping just before the last of the flour streaks disappear. Fold in the diced apples until combined.
- Evenly divide the cake batter among the prepared pans. Bake for 23 to 26 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
Apple Cider Caramel
- Place the apple cider in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and continue to cook until it reduces down to ¼ cup. From there, add in the brown sugar and corn syrup. Turn the heat up to high, and cook until the mixture registers 240°F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat. Stir in the butter until smooth. Pour the caramel into a heat-safe container and allow to cool and thicken before use.
- Remove 1 ½ cups of buttercream and stir in ⅓ cup of the dulce de leche. Place one cake layer on a cake board or serving dish. Spread on half of the dulce de leche buttercream with an offset spatula until smooth. Place the second layer on top and repeat. Flip the third layer (so the the bottom of the cake faces up) on top.
- Mix the remaining dulce de leche into the remaining buttercream. Crumb coat the cake and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Once chilled, frost the cake with the buttercream - being sure to reserve 1 to 2 cups for the decoration.
- For the decoration, tint the remaining buttercream your color(s) of choice. Fill piping bags fitted with various piping tips (we like 1M, #32 and #16). Follow the instructions on How to Make a Buttercream Flower Cake to complete the design. Finish the top with a sprinkle of sugar pearls, if desired.
- Serve with a drizzle of apple cider caramel.