Do you have your Thanksgiving menus ready? Still undecided about dessert? I might have just the answer you’ve been looking for in the form of cake, of course! Seriously, is’t cake always the answer? Caramel apple dream cake is everything you’re imagining it is and even more! Three layers of tender, apple spice cake filled with the most luscious caramel cream cheese frosting is one for the books! And one that definitely deserves a spot on your Thanksgiving table!
So you guys have been requesting layer cakes and it was time to deliver! I’ve been on quite the caramel kick lately, and what better time to roll out a decadent caramel apple layer cake than Thanksgiving. The caramel cream cheese frosting alone is reason enough to drop everything and make this immediately! Like one of those situations where I had to tell myself to save some for the cake…
The cake itself is easy to prepare and you can either bake an 8 or 9″ cake, depending on what pans you have on hand. I’ve included bake times for both in the directions. If you want to make the cake ahead of time, simply wrap the cooled cake layers in plastic wrap and freeze them until ready to frost. This is my preferred method, as I find it much easier to work with cakes when they’re cold.
The next step important factor to this cake is the caramel sauce. We’re making the real stuff and don’t be scared of it! It’s incredibly smooth and it’s one of those things that once you make it, you’ll feel like you can take on anything! If you’re short on time, you can use a store bought caramel sauce. I promise I won’t tell anyone!
Then it’s time to make the frosting! If you’re a fan of cream cheese frosting, get ready! The addition of caramel sauce takes it to a whole new level, cutting the sweetness and adding an incredible depth of flavor. A pinch of salt helps to balance everything out and a little vanilla just kind of floats in the background beautifully.
A view from the top is nice, but let’s get down to business! Once you cut into this cake, you know you’ve made a very good decision. Everything works really well together and I love how the caramel just kind of melts into the cake.
I think it’s safe to say everyone will be saving room for dessert! I want to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you all have a great day filled with family, friends, good food and cake!
- 3 cups cake flour
- 1 and 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. allspice
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- 2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
- 12 ounces unsalted butter, room temperature
- 2 and 3/4 cups granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp. molasses
- 6 eggs
- 2 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup creme fraiche or sour cream
- 2 granny smith apples, peeled and shredded
- 1 and 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup heavy cream
- pinch of salt
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (1 ounce)
- 16 ounces (1 pound) unsalted butter, cool
- 8 ounces cream cheese, cold
- 8 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup cold caramel sauce
- Ateco tip #825 for piping
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 (8" or 9") cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper.
- In a medium size bow, whisk together cake flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 7 minutes.
- Add molasses, followed by eggs, scarping down the bowl as needed.
- Add the vanilla and the creme fraiche.
- Mix in the dry ingredients just until combined. Don't over mix it!
- Stir in the shredded apple.
- Divide batter evenly among 3 pans (each pan holds approximately 23 ounces of batter). Bake 8" cakes for 33-36 minutes. Bake the 9" cakes for 35-38 minutes. Rotate pans halfway through.
- Remove cakes from the oven and set on a wire rack to cool. When cool, run a knife around the edges to loosen them and then invert cakes and peel off parchment paper.
- In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and mix with your hand (it will feel like wet sand).
- Set saucepan over medium heat and cook until sugar dissolves.
- Increase the heat to high and cook without stirring, occasionally brushing down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush.
- Cook until the sugar turns a golden, amber color. This will take about 8-9 minutes and keep a close eye on it as once it starts to get color, it goes very quickly.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat and carefully stir in the heavy cream. Please be aware that mixture will bubble up when cream is added so be cautious!
- Whisk in salt and butter until smooth.
- Transfer caramel sauce to a jar and once it has cooled to room temperature, store in the refrigerator.
- In the bowl of am electric mixer, cream butter on medium speed for about 2 minutes.
- Add cream cheese and continue to mix on medium speed.
- Start adding powdered sugar a little at a time so you don't have a sugar shower. You will need to scrape down the bowl a few times to make sure everything is incorporated.
- Add salt followed by vanilla extract.
- When frosting is smooth, add cold caramel sauce and mix until combined.
- Place first cake layer on cake cardboard or cake stand.
- Using an offset spatula, spread 1 cup of the caramel frosting evenly over the top.
- Top with second cake layer and once again using an offset spatula, spread 1 cup of caramel frosting evenly over the top.
- Top with third cake layer.
- Frost cake with remaining buttercream. Refrigerate cake and bring to room temperature before serving.
- If you are doing the rosettes: Give the cake a thin crumb coat. Next, fit a piping bag with pastry tip (I used Ateco #825).
- Pipe rosettes around the cake starting at the bottom.
- As you move up to pipe the second row, start in between the bottom ones so they are not directly on top of one another.
- Repeat the process with a third row.
- For the top of the cake:
- Warm caramel sauce so it is pourable (about 10 seconds in the microwave), but not hot! Pour a few Tablespoons in the middle of the cake and let it flow out, leaving a 1" border (this means don't go to the edge). You can help it along with an offset spatula.
- Refrigerate cake a few minutes so the caramel can set up.
- Last, pipe one ring of rosettes around the top edge of the cake. This should cover where the caramel ends.