Salted Caramel Apple Cake
This cake. Oh. My. Gosh.
I have had the page doggy-eared in Baked Explorations ever since I bought the book, which was something like four or five years ago. One of the downfalls of having a huge stash of cookbooks is that a lot of really great recipes can fall between the cracks. This was one of those unfortunate incidents, and am I ever glad that I dragged that book back out a couple of weeks ago. My fall cake eating will never be the same again. This is a very good thing.
Even though I adore baking, I don’t make layer cakes all that often just due to the time factor. They’re usually a little fussy and time-consuming, so I put this off for awhile, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised at how NOT very fussy or time-consuming it was. It certainly helps that you use the same thing to both fill and frost the cake!
This cake is incredibly dense and moist, thanks to the abundance of applesauce that is used as the “wet” ingredient. The cake itself is wonderfully spiced, then filled and frosted with an old-fashioned style cooked buttercream that is spiked with my favorite salted caramel sauce. The frosting reminded me of the filling for one of my all-time favorite desserts – Ho-Ho Cake. Which is to say, it’s utterly fantastic. Since I believe that all caramel apples should be rolled in chopped peanuts, I sprinkled the top of the cake with peanuts. I love the extra salty kick it gave the cake.
Everyone who got to sample this cake was pretty much rendered speechless. My father-in-law already requested it for his birthday in February. My Chief Culinary Consultant said it’s one of the five best cakes I have made… EVER.
So basically, you have to make this cake. There’s no way around it!
Salted Caramel Apple Cake
A spiced apple cake frosted with a cooked salted caramel buttercream.
For the Cake:
4 cups (482 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1½ cups (340 grams) unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, at room temperature
2½ cups (496 grams) granulated sugar
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
Salted caramel sauce
1. Make the Cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with a round of parchment paper, grease the parchment, then flour the pans, tapping out any excess.
2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice and cloves.
3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and beat until combined.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture to the mixer bowl in three parts, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix on low for an additional 30 seconds to combine.
5. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, 45 to 55 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment, and allow to cool completely.
6. Make the Salted Caramel Buttercream: In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixtures comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.
7. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool, about 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter and vanilla; mix until thoroughly incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the frosting is light and fluffy. (It might seem like it won't get to the fluffy point, but stick with it, it'll get there!) Add the salted caramel sauce and continue mixing until combined and fluffy. (If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it reaches a fluffy consistency.)
8. Assemble the Cake: If any of the cake layers have domed on top, trim the top off to create flat surfaces. Place one cake layer on a serving platter. Spread 1¼ cups of the frosting on top. Add the next layer and top with 1¼ cups of the frosting. Add the third layer on top and spread a very thin layer of frosting over the sides and top of the cake. Refrigerate for 15 minutes, until firm. Frost the sides and top of the cake with the remaining frosting. Drizzle some additional salted caramel sauce on top and sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Return to the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes prior to serving.
The cake can be kept in an airtight cake saver (or wrapped tightly in plastic wrap) at room temperature for up to 3 days. If your kitchen is particularly warm or humid, store the cake in the refrigerator. Allow the cake to sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours before serving.