Well, if you’re gonna take a whole month to post, you’d better come back with something as fabulous as this Caramel Apple Cake! September is always a super busy time — getting the kids back to school, soccer, PTA, scouts, lots of football to watch, etc. In the meantime, Ashley’s no help at all this fall, she just started law school at Brooklyn Law! (How cool is she? But busy, very busy.) Anyway this cake was worth the wait, promise! The recipe is slightly adapted from Baked Explorations, which we trust fully. The cake was so moist and dense, it could have been enjoyed with no frosting at all (not something I say often). And wow, the Caramel Buttercream! It reminds me of my absolute favorite frosting– super fluffy and creamy, but not sickly sweet. If you don’t care for nuts, the peanuts on the outside of the cake are optional, but the added crunch is just to die for, in my humble opinion. You can make cake this as simple or as complicated as you’d like. I halved the recipe, it’s supposed to be three layers (I did post the original recipe with 3 layer proportions), so it is definitely a dessert to share. I actually served my whole family and still had almost half the cake left to give away! I also cheated and used Trader Joe’s salted caramel (this stuff is even better than sweetened condensed milk by the spoonful). If you have a free afternoon and baking is your pleasure, take all the time you need to make the caramel from scratch.
CARAMEL APPLE CAKE
Recipe adapted from Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito
For The Apple Cake
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch cubes, at room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
4 cups unsweetened applesauce
Preheat the oven to 325-degrees. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans, line the bottoms with parchment paper, and butter the parchment. Dust the parchment with flour and knock out the excess flour.
Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, allspice, and cloves together into a large bowl. Set aside.
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until creamy, about 4 minutes. Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and beat until combined.
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 bowl, then mix on low speed for a few more seconds.
Divide the batter among the prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through the baking time, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the pans to a wire rack and cool for 20 minutes. Turn the cakes out onto the rack, remove the parchment, and let cool completely.
For The Caramel Sauce
Yield: about 2 cups
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter, softened, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 ½ cups heavy cream
In a medium saucepan with high sides, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/2 cup water. Stir the mixture gently so you don’t slosh any of it up the sides of the pan. Turn the heat to medium-high and continue stirring until the sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high, stop stirring, and allow the mixture to boil. Once it begins to turn a rich caramel color (if you don’t want to eyeball it, take the caramel to 300 degrees F on a candy thermometer), remove it from the heat, add the butter and cream, and stir until combined.
You can save the caramel sauce, tightly covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Let it come to room temperature before using it on cakes, ice creams, or quick breads.
If you want a warm topping, heat the caramel sauce in short bursts in the microwave or in the top of a double boiler.
For The Caramel Buttercream
1½ cups sugar
1⁄3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1⁄3 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, soft but cool, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1⁄3 cup plus 2 tablespoons Classic Caramel Sauce (see recipe above), at room temperature
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 mixture comes to a boil and has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes.Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on high speed until cool. 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.Add 1⁄3 cup of the caramel and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, put the bowl in the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.
Place one of the cake layers on the cake base and level off the top. Put a thin layer of caramel sauce on the layers and then spread caramel buttercream on top. Next, add another layer of cake and level and frost as you did with the first layer. Trim the top of the last layer and then place it on top of the cake bottom side up. Spread a very thin layer of frosting over the entire cake (crumb coat) and place the cake on the fridge for 30 minutes. Remove the cake fro the fridge and use the remaining frosting to ice the top and sides. Use the remaining caramel to drizzle over the top. Add chopped peanuts, if desired.