Calendar official or not, fall's in full swing around here, guys - I got an email last week from the Washington State Board of Nursing that it's coming up on time to renew my nursing license, and that email usually shows up right around the first week of fall.
There’s something so classically fall about caramel apples – every produce section I walk by in the grocery store there’s a huge apple display that usually has caramel next to it somewhere. 😉
Annnnd I can only pass that display so many times before I *have* to buy some caramel. ANNNND with a suggestion from a friend that I make an apple crumble cake – the combination of those two elements gave rise to this cake! 😊 Recipe below!
Apple Cake layers:
1 c butter
2 c sugar
2 t vanilla extract
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
4 c flour
4 c apples (I used golden delicious), peeled and grated or chopped
1 c pecans, chopped (optional)
Crumble topping: (for top of cake layers and cake filling)
½ c butter
1 c flour
1 c brown sugar
1 c chopped pecans
Mix all ingredients together thoroughly in a bowl, and dump onto a piece of foil on a baking tray – don’t spread it out too much or it might all burn, but the thinner you spread it the more caramelized and toffee-like it will get. 😊 Bake at 350 degrees for 14-18 minutes, until the edges are caramelized and crunchy.
Blend butter, sugar, eggs, and vanilla together. Add dry ingredients and mix, then add apples and nuts. Divide batter evenly between the prepared cake pans (I find a kitchen scale helpful for this part). This guarantees your layers will bake to be the same height.
Mix topping ingredients (butter, flour, brown sugar, and pecans) together until crumbly. Sprinkle about 1/3 c on top of cake layers.
Bake for 35-37 minutes if using 8 inch pans, or 37-38 minutes for 7 inch cake pans (or until a skewer comes out clean). Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then run an offset spatula around perimeter of the pan to separate the cake from the pan. Place cake layers into the freezer for 45 minutes, to accelerate the cooling process.
2 Golden delicious apples, chopped
1 T caramel
Cook apples and caramel together over low heat until the apples are soft; remove from heat and cool.
Caramel sauce can be purchased at any grocery store, but if you're up for an adventure and want to make your own - AverieCooks.com is the home of my favorite of all the recipes I've tried so far! No caramel recipe is fool-proof, but this one gave me the least trouble with burning and crystalizing. 😉
AverieCooks 'The Best and Easiest Homemade Caramel Sauce'
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon light-colored corn syrup (can be omitted but helps reduce crystallization)
1/2 cup whipping or heavy cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract, optional (or substitute with bourbon, rum, Grand Marnier, or a favorite liqueur)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste (for a true ‘salted caramel’ sauce, I use 1 teaspoon)
- Tie up your hair, put your phone down, get small children out of the kitchen. Have all the ingredients in place including hot mitts and a glass jar or heat-safe container nearby. You’re working with boiling sugar and your full attention on the recipe is necessary.
- In a medium to large saucepan (use a pan much larger than you think you’ll need because the sauce will bubble very vigorously at the end), add the sugar, water, corn syrup and bring to a boil over high heat, whisking until sugar has dissolved.
- Allow the mixture to boil for 5 to 12 minutes, or as necessary, for it to turn caramel-colored, at which point it will likely be smoking slightly. The final stage where the mixture turns from pale amber to that perfect shade of caramel can go quickly, in less than 30 seconds, so keep a watchful eye and don’t let it burn. Super stinky and you’ll have to start over. Throughout the boiling time, you can swirl the pan gently every minute or two if necessary, but the less the sugary mixture gets on the sides of the pan, the better in preventing crystallization in the final sauce.
- As soon as the sauce has turned caramel-colored, reduce the heat to low.
- Very carefully and slowly, add the cream. Stand back because mixture will bubble up considerably.
- Optionally, and very carefully, add the vanilla and salt, to taste. Stand back because mixture will bubble up again.
- Whisk until sauce is smooth and combined, and let it boil another 1 minute, which helps thicken it up. - Transfer sauce to glass jar or heat-safe container (easiest to pour into a 2-cup measuring cup and then easily pour into glass jar). Allow sauce to cool uncovered to room temperature; sauce thickens considerably as it cools. Sauce will keep airtight at room temp for at least 1 month.
Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream Frosting:
8 oz (one package) cream cheese, softened
16 Tablespoons (two sticks) butter, softened
6-7 c powdered sugar
1-3 Tablespoons milk
1/3 c caramel sauce
1 T clear vanilla extract
1/4 t. salt
Beat together softened cream cheese and butter; slowly add in powdered sugar alternating with milk until frosting reaches desired consistency. Add vanilla and salt and beat until well combined.
- 1 8- or 9-inch cardboard cake circle
- small / large piping bag & small / large tips
- 2-3 red apples of your choice – I used Pink Lady apples 😊
- 1 container of dipping caramel (or bag of caramels to melt down) – I found homemade caramel sauce a little to thin for dipping apples
- skewer for dipping apple in caramel
- Cake leveler, cake turntable, offset spatula, and bench scraper - not all 100% necessary but incredibly helpful!
Place a smear of frosting on your cake circle (to keep the cake from sliding while you decorate it) and center your first cake layer in the center of the circle. Spread the layer with frosting. With a small piping bag, pipe a rim of frosting around the outer edge – this will keep your filling from showing through to the outside of the cake. Spread cooked apples, toffee crumble, and a drizzle of caramel over the cake layer, and center the next cake layer on top. Repeat the process with your remaining cake layers.
Now you're ready to crumb-coat . If you're unfamiliar with crumb-coating, it's just what it sounds like - a thin layer of frosting over the entire outside of the cake to keep crumbs out of your final layer 😉
Once your crumb coat has set (this takes about 5-10 minutes in the fridge), add your final layer of frosting and smooth. I like to use an offset spatula and bench scraper for this part. Once your cake is covered, place it into the fridge or freezer to set the frosting.
Okaaaay – now it’s time for the caramel drip! 😊
I put my caramel into a squeeze-bottle for this part, but I've seen people use piping bags for this for this also. Make sure your cake is chilled - I think I probably left mine in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, and I've heard putting your cake in the freezer for 10-20 minutes is a good way to get drips to set. I warmed my caramel just slightly (about 5 seconds in the microwave) to thin it so it would pipe a bit more easily. Slowly pipe the caramel around the upper edge of the cake, pausing every inch or so to let more caramel fall in a drip down the side of the cake. Return cake to the fridge to set the drips.
I don’t feel like dipping apples needs that much explanation – but since I used a type of caramel that needed to be melted down in a saucepan, I found it easiest to put a skewer into the top of the apples to dip them, and then roll them in the toffee crumble pan. I set them on a plate to chill in the fridge so the caramel would set. With the whole apple I wanted on top of the cake, I removed the skewer once I had the apple positioned.
Cut another dipped apple into sections – I rubbed some lemon juice onto my slices to keep them from turning brown. Arrange the slices on top of the cake, and sprinkle with more bits of toffee crumble. Add another of caramel drizzle for good measure if you like – and step back and admire your work! 😉
Make this recipe? Let me know how it went - or find me on Instagram and tag @IntensiveCakeUnit in your photo! 🙂