Caramel Apple Pecan Layer Cake
This Caramel Apple Pecan Layer Cake has layers of moist apple spice cake sprinkled with pecans, caramel frosting, cinnamon apples, and more caramel drizzled over top! It is full of the flavors of fall and is the perfect way to kick off apple season!
So although I say that the hubs and I live in Atlanta, GA, the truth is we live a little north of the city. It’s an area most people haven’t heard of though, so Atlanta just makes more sense to say. But being a bit further north, we are a stone’s through away from the Georgia mountains. Within about an hour, we can get to some fun hiking and waterfalls, a few wineries and in the fall – lots of apple picking farms! There are tons of them around where you can go and pick your own apples – they even serve apple cider to sip on. 🙂 We are officially entering apple season with some places beginning to allow apple picking starting this week. Can you believe it’s that time of year already?
So to kick it off, I’m sharing this cake with so many of my fall favorites in it. Apples, spices, pecans and caramel. There are few things I love more than caramel and I use my favorite caramel sauce over and over in recipes. I even recently added a video to show you just what each step of the process looks like, if you want to go check that out.
There are a few steps to making this cake, so let’s get started. 🙂
First of all, the cake layers. The cake starts with the traditional creaming method – and you want to be sure to not skimp on the creaming. It adds air to the batter than helps give the cake layers their fluffiness. I used a mix of apple butter, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice to give the layers their flavor and it’s perfection! The apple butter adds great apple flavor and the spices give it extra love! The sour cream adds moisture that can’t be replaced – it’s the best. And there are some chopped pecans mixed in at the end that add a little crunch. Of course if you aren’t a pecan fan, you can leave them out.
While the cakes are baking, you could make the caramel sauce. I’ve got the instructions included below, but it’s the same as this recipe so if you’d like to check out the video to make sure you’re doing it right, that’s the place to go. 🙂 The biggest thing to remember is to have your butter and heavy cream at room temperature – or even warmer. If they are too cool, it can cause the caramel to seize.
When the caramel sauce is made, set aside about 3/4 cup for putting over the top of the cake at the end. The remaining caramel will be used to make the caramel frosting. An important thing to remember when making the caramel frosting is that the temperature of your caramel sauce matters. If you make the frosting while the caramel is still warm, it’ll be a little softer and firm up as the frosting cools (so don’t make it too stiff when warm, or it’ll really be firm when it’s cooled). If you wait until it’s cooled, the frosting will be thicker to start. I usually just make the frosting when it’s warm since the caramel incorporates nicely, then let it cool. If it ends up a bit thick, you can always add a little more water or milk to thin it out.
Once the cake layers and caramel frosting are ready, it’s time to layer them together. You want to be sure to remove the cake domes. There’s nothing worse than stacking a beautiful, tall cake and then having it split down the middle because of a dome in the center.
I like to use my offset spatula for adding the frosting so that I have good control and then spread from the center out to the edges so I can push the frosting just up to the edge of the cake. I made a video of the process of putting the cake together, so be sure to check that out below for some extra guidance.
Once everything is stacked, it’s time to make the apples. I stacked my cake the night before and made the apples right before serving the cake so they were fresh and the caramel on top was freshly added (which is why the background of the video changes a bit).
The apples are cooked right on the stove and should only take about 15 minutes to cook. They are mixed with some butter, brown sugar and spices and are super tasty!
Pile those apples right on top of the cake, then use a spoon to drizzle the caramel down the sides. I used my offset spatula to finish spreading and adding caramel around the top edge of the cake, then finished it off with a little more caramel drizzle and some chopped pecans.
Imagine a big bite of moist apple spice cake with pecans, caramel frosting, warm cinnamon apples and more caramel sauce. Is your mouth watering yet? It totally should be because this cake is SO GOOD! I hope you love it as much as we did!
Caramel Apple Pecan Layer Cake
Yield: 12-14 slices
3/4 cup (168g) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
3/4 cup (173g) sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 large egg whites, room temperature
2 1/2 cups (325g) all purpose flour
4 tsp (15g) baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
pinch of allspice
½ tsp salt
3/4 cup (180ml) apple butter
1/4 cup (60ml) milk
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
Caramel Sauce and Frosting
1 1/2 cups (310g) sugar
9 tbsp (126g) salted butter, cubed, room temperature
3/4 cup (180ml) heavy whipping cream, room temperature
4 cups (460g) powdered sugar
2-3 tbsp (30-45ml) milk
1-2 apples, chopped
2 tbsp light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
pinch ground nutmeg
sprinkle of lemon juice
1 tbsp (14g) butter
Chopped pecans, optional, for top of cake
To make the cake layers:
1. Prepare three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 350°F (176°C) .
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light in color and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes. Do not skimp on the creaming time.
3. Add sour cream and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
4. Add egg whites in two batches, mixing until well combined after each. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated.
5. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl, then combine the apple butter and milk in a small measuring cup.
6. Add half of the dry ingredients to the batter and mix until well combined. Add the apple butter mixture and mix until well combined. Add remaining dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to be sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Stir in the pecans.
7. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pans and bake for about 22-24 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.
8. Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool for about 3-5 minutes, then remove to cooling racks to cool completely.
WHILE CAKES BAKE AND COOL, MAKE THE CARAMEL SAUCE (VIDEO) AND FROSTING:
9. Pour sugar into an even layer in a large saucepan.
10. Heat on medium-high heat, whisking the sugar until melted. The sugar will clump up first, but will eventually completely melt. This will take about 10 minutes.
11. Once the sugar has melted, stop whisking and allow to cook until the sugar has turned to a little darker amber color. You may notice a nutty aroma. The change in color will happen quickly, so don’t let it go too long or get too dark or it’ll burn. Remove caramel from the heat.
12. Add butter and whisk until combined. The mixture will bubble up, but keep whisking until all the butter has melted and combined.
13. Slowly pour the heavy cream into the caramel and whisk until incorporated.
14. Cool at least 10-15 minutes before using. See notes in above post about frosting and caramel consistency.
15. Set aside about 3/4 cup of caramel sauce for using on top of the cake later. Transfer remaining caramel sauce (about 1 1/4 cups) to a mixing bowl.
16. Slowly add powdered sugar and milk and mix until smooth. You can add more or less milk to get the right consistency for the icing.
To put the cake together:
17. When the cakes are cool, remove the domes of the cakes with a large serrated knife so they are flat.
18. Place the first layer of cake on cake stand. Top with 1/2 of the caramel frosting and spread into an even layer.
19. Add second layer of cake and add remaining caramel frosting. Spread frosting into an even layer.
20. Top cake with the remaining cake layer.
21. To make the cinnamon apples, add everything to a large pan, toss together, and cook over medium heat until apples are tender.
22. Pile apples onto the top of the cake.
23. Use a spoon to drizzle the remaining caramel sauce down the sides of the cake. If the caramel sauce has cooled too much, warm it up in the microwave a bit.
24. Use the end of an offset spatula to spread additional caramel around the top edge of the cake, then drizzle a little more caramel sauce over the apples.
25. Finish off the cake with a sprinkle of chopped pecans.
26. Cake is best served when apples are fresh, but can be refrigerated until ready to serve if needed.
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