Caramel Apple Cake

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Caramel Apple Cake

I can be such a party pooper when it comes to surprises. Every year before his birthday, I spend weeks searching for the perfect gift for Mike, which I buy in secret and then stash away. This is all wasted energy really, since I always, always tell him what it is before his birthday (really, it’s sort-of a windfall for him).

At Christmas I’m no better. I’ve been known to bribe my sister with Tim Hortons coffee (her favorite) and homemade muffins for information on gifts. I can’t help it, lol…the anticipation is too much for me!

Caramel Apple Cake 2

And I won’t even talk about the surprise party my mom collaborated with my college roommates to throw for me on my 21st birthday. Suffice to say, I was more than surprised – shocked, actually – and while I recognize that they did an amazing thing for me, surprises are not my strong point and I was not the happiest camper. (Don’t worry, I got over it quickly…chocolate cake and presents helped with that. ;) )

Mike knows about my strange issues with surprises. And being the sweetheart that he is, he usually obliges my eccentricities. Except last week when he called me mid-morning one day, to say that his boss was coming for dinner that night and could I make something nice. It was a total surprise, but I was prepared without even knowing it.

Caramel Apple Cake 3

You see, I always have an abundance of apples on hand, especially this time of year (I just recently went apple picking), and what goes better with apples than caramel? (Ok, maybe peanut butter…or cinnamon…but caramel is definitely another great pairing.) I had actually made caramel sauce the night before to drizzle over some apples, and I was in the process of dreaming up this cake when he called.

Timing is everything, is it not? ;)

While I didn’t make this cake for the Eid, it would absolutely be a lovely thing to celebrate the occasion with; I’m wishing everyone a very happy Eid al-Adha!

Caramel Apple Cake 4

Caramel Apple Cake
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 1 2-layer 9-inch round cake, or about 12 servings
Caramel Apple Cake:
  • 2 cups (255 g) all-purpose flour
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup (120 ml) canola oil
  • ½ cup (120 ml) milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 lb (450 g) apples, peeled, cored, and shredded (I used Cortland)
  • ½ cup (120 ml) Caramel Sauce, divided (store-bought or use the recipe for homemade caramel sauce below)
  • 1 batch Vanilla-Cinnamon Frosting (recipe below)
Homemade Caramel Sauce:
  • ½ cup (120 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) unsalted butter
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
Vanilla-Cinnamon Frosting:
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter, at room temperature
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable shortening, at room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ plus ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¾ lb (340 g) powdered sugar (also called confectioner's sugar or icing sugar)
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons milk
  1. Preheat oven to 350F; butter and flour 2 (9-inch) round baking pans.
  2. For the cake, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a medium bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy, then whisk in the oil, milk, and vanilla. Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the wet, and then fold in the shredded apple, being careful not to over-mix.
  3. Divide the batter between the 2 prepared pans, and bake until golden on top and a toothpick inserted inside comes out clean or with just a couple crumbs, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool completely before assembling.
  4. For the homemade caramel sauce, combine the cream and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside.
  5. Add the sugar and water to a medium-sized thick-bottomed pot; turn the heat on medium-high and cook until the sugar is caramelized and amber in color (see this post for more explanation); you can give the pot a swirl to help the water and sugar dissolve, but do not stir until about ⅔ of the sugar is melted. From that point on, gently stir constantly with a wooden spoon.
  6. Once the sugar turns amber-colored, carefully add the butter and salt, and stir to combine. Once the butter is melted, turn off the heat and carefully pour in the cream mixture, stirring until smooth. Cool completely before using or storing.
  7. For the frosting, use a handheld electric beater to cream together the butter, shortening, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Alternate between beating in the powdered sugar and milk until all the powdered sugar is added and the frosting is smooth and creamy.
  8. Measure out 3 tablespoons from the ½ cup of caramel sauce that you'll need for this recipe; transfer it to a small bowl and reserve it for drizzling on top of the cake once it’s frosted.
  9. To assemble the cake, turn 1 cake round out onto a cake stand. Spread on the remaining caramel sauce from the ½ cup that you'll need for this cake (other than the reserved 3 tablespoons), leaving a border of about ½-inch all around.
  10. Refrigerate 1 hour or until fully chilled, then carefully place the other cake round on top. Frost the top and sides with Vanilla-Cinnamon Frosting, and drizzle the reserved 3 tablespoons of caramel sauce decoratively on top.
  11. Chill the cake 1 hour before cutting and serving; wrap any leftover cake in plastic wrap and store in the fridge.
Caramel Apple Cake batter recipe was inspired by the batter I made for my Apple-Pear Crumb Cake.

Homemade Caramel Sauce recipe was adapted from Simply Recipes’ Caramel Sauce.

Vanilla-Cinnamon Frosting recipe was based on my go-to recipe for basic American buttercream.

Homemade Caramel Sauce Recipe Yield: The recipe I listed above will yield about 1½ cups of caramel sauce; however, for this recipe you will only need ½ cup.

A Note on Storing Caramel: This keeps well in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Like any caramel sauce, it will harden after being refrigerated; to soften, you can gently warm it up in the microwave or on the stovetop.

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  1. says

    This looks amazing!
    I am terrible with surprises too–everyone in my family jokes about how I tell them what I get them as soon as I buy it. I don’t like to wait for presents either!

  2. says

    Apple and caramel are the perfect combo. Since hubby, does not like frosting of filling, I can make this star as a plainer version but I bet it will be just as delicious.

  3. says

    I bet Mike’s boss loved this cake! I’m not much for surprises either although I do like to surprise others. I couldn’t come up with a delicious cake like this though!

  4. Fiona says

    Eid Mubarak Faith! I have a real weakness for caramel cakes, and I plan on making this for friends visiting next weekend. Delicious!

  5. says

    Your husband must have been thrilled to bring his boss home to dinner and that beautiful cake. It looks so delicious with that caramel sauce oozing out!

  6. says

    I have to say, I’m not great at surprises either. Unless they’re surprise slices of cake. If this should up at my door unexpectedly…it would be much appreciated. :P

  7. says

    It’s really hard to surprise me too. I always either catch on or ruin it from myself. I’m horrible.

    The cake looks amazing too. Caramel and apple is one of my favorite combinations!!!

  8. says

    Your cake looks absolutely scrumptious Faith! My family always asks for lists so I pretty much know what I’m getting – a surprise would be nice once in a while!

  9. says

    I’ve been craving caramel something fierce for weeks now, Faith. :-) I LOVE this cake you’ve made. I don’t usually like apple in desserts too much, but I love it when mixed with caramel. :-)

  10. says

    Wow! For someone who doesn’t like surprises, you sure took that “boss is coming over for dinner” surprise quote well. I would’ve probably tried to flee town.

    Your cake looks fantastic and I couldn’t agree with you more, apples and caramel, definitely a great combo there.

  11. says

    this cake would have made my day! wow! perfectly frosted, best combo. I wish I shared your talent for gifts, I am always at a loss when it comes to gift-giving, surprise or not!

  12. says

    i’ll bet everyone was majorly impressed–i know i am! great flavors, great ratio of cake-to-frosting, great presentation. bravo, faith!

  13. says

    I’m pretty bad with surprises too… I always want to know, but then if people do tell me, I kinda feel bad about it, haha. Looks like you put together a lovely dessert for your last minute guest! Apple and caramel is a great combo :)

  14. says

    You are certainly hands down a better spouse than I would have been if my husband dared spring his boss on my household with such short notice.
    Faith, hats off to not only your tolerance but definitely your speedy inspiration to make this wonderful cake.
    I would love a piece of this indulgence…brava…well done.

    Ciao for now,

  15. says


    This sounds and looks like a sensational cake for a party–last minute or no. I like to hear that you’re not a fan of surprises. I don’t like them either. I’m never sure how to react to them and always feel poorly prepared bordering on put-out and irritated.

  16. says

    I’ll bet you had fun taking that lost shot. It’s always fun when you have to “eat a little cake” for the sake of the photo. This dessert looks positively scrumptious and, for me, there’s no better combination than caramels with apple.

  17. Carrie says

    I’m not a huge fan of powdered sugar in frostings, so I normally make either a meringue buttercream or your cream cheese buttercream. Would this be good if I made the meringue buttercream and added vanilla bean and cinnamon?

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