Caramel Apple Pecan Layer Cake

Caramel Apple Pecan Cake has layers of moist apple spice cake sprinkled with pecans, caramel frosting, cinnamon apples and caramel sauce drizzled over top! It’s the perfect way to kick off apple season and an easy dessert idea for Thanksgiving!

Caramel Apple Pecan Layer Cake

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?Caramel Apple Pecan Layer Cake recipe

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 homemade 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. 🙂

How to Make the Layers for this Caramel Cake

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.

Best Caramel Apple Pecan Cake
Best Caramel Apple Pecan Cake recipe

How to Make Homemade Caramel Sauce for this Cake

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 homemade caramel 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.

How to Assemble Your Caramel Apple Cake

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.

Homemade Caramel Apple Pecan Layer Cake
Perfect Caramel Apple Pecan Cake recipe

How to Make the Brown Sugar Apple Topping

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 with caramel frosting
Best Caramel Apple Pecan Layer Cake with caramel sauce


Read transcript

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Recipe

Caramel Apple Pecan Layer Cake

  • Author: Life, Love and Sugar
  • Prep Time: 1 hour
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 35 minutes, plus cooling
  • Yield: 12-14 Slices 1x
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Oven
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Caramel Apple Pecan Cake has layers of moist apple spice cake sprinkled with pecans, caramel frosting, cinnamon apples and caramel sauce drizzled over top!


Scale

Ingredients

CAKE LAYERS

  • 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
  • 23 tbsp (30-45ml) milk

CINNAMON APPLES

  • 12 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


Instructions

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 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.


Keywords: caramel cake recipe, apple cake recipe, apple dessert idea, caramel dessert, thanksgiving dessert idea

Enjoy!

Caramel Apple Pecan Layer Cake - layers of spiced cake with pecans, caramel frosting and cinnamon apples all drizzled with caramel sauce!

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Recipe rating

53 Comments
  1. Mary

    Lindsay, the cake looks scrumptious! One question… the frosting between the layers looks whiter & fluffier than the caramel on top. Are they different?

  2. Zoe Burger

    Equal parts brown sugar, butter and whiskey, I used 1/4 cup, and a little heavy cream. Melt butter and sugar in a small sauce pan until nice and bubbly, add half the whiskey and cook down until it gets thick. Remove from heat, add the rest of the whiskey and then drizzle in some cream until you get the creaminess you want. Sauce is fairly thin and light in color but drips well if you go slow. Whiskey is prominent so use something you like.

  3. Zoe Burger

    Made this for a Halloween Book Club party. I used walnuts instead of pecans but other than that followed the cake recipe exactly and it was wonderful. Lots of compliments!! I used a cinnamon SMBC, vanilla apple compote and a buttered whiskey cream sauce to finish it.

    1. Lindsay

      That should be fine, but keep in mind that the consistency of the caramel sauce might be different so you might need to make adjustments to the frosting.

  4. Sarah

    This cake is exactly what I hoped it would be. The apple butter in the cake and apple topping really make this cake. I took it into the office, and it was gone before lunch. Delicious!

  5. Sumitra

    Hi! Really excited to try this recipe! QUESTION: Can this be made with GF flour or do you think it would significantly alter the taste/texture?

  6. Lieske

    I have a question about the frosting. So the frosting is powdered sugar, milk and caramel sauce, so no extra butter? Is it possible to reduce the powdered sugar, since the caramel sauce is already rather sweet or is this necessary for the consistency and the light colour? Hope to hear from you soon, I want to make it tomorrow. Thank you!!

    1. Lindsay

      The powdered sugar is necessary for the right consistency. You can try reducing it a little and then adding more if needed to get the right consistency.

  7. Amanda

    Oh wow, it’s so pretty! I’ve been searching for some comfort cake in the crazy cold Spring and this is definitely ticking all my boxes 🙂 xo

    1. Lindsay

      That’d probably be best if it’s going to sit for a while, especially with the apples on top. If you make the rest of the cake and only add the apples later, it would probably be fine at room temperature.

  8. Charlotte Moore

    Sooo, you live north of Atlanta? So do we! We are bout an hour from Blue Ridge and about 30 minutes from Ellijay. I guess those are the apple places you have visited. You ever heard of Canton,GA or Ball Ground?

    This looks delicious!

  9. Alisa Ewert

    Today I was going to try something new for my daughter she has a birthday today. And I think This dish is perfect: a)

  10. Princess

    Hello Lindsey, I made this cake yesterday for my family, but I found making the frosting a challenge….I followed your recipe as printed, but I just couldn’t get that frosting to thicken up…I became frustrated, and made a buttercream base; which I added some caramel to the buttercream. To my surprise my family loved the cake…

    I have printed your post on frosting consistency I will have to continue working on my skills with frosting. I will keep this recipe in my cake box .

    Thank you for sharing your creations.

  11. Pana

    Hello Lindsey, cake looking amazing!!! Thanks for recipe. I have one question i’ve made caramel frosting but it’s became very soft how can i make it thicker? And also when i’m tasting i can feel powder sugar. It should be like this?

  12. Danielle

    I’m a little l late to the game but I’m finally getting around to making this recipe! I have a caramel sauce already made, my own, how much goes into the frosting?

  13. Lynn

    This cake looks amazing and I can hardly wait to make it. I was wondering though if I could use 3 large eggs instead of 6 large egg whites? Or would this mess up the cake too much? It’s just that I don’t really have a use for 6 egg yolks by themselves. Thanks.

    1. Lindsay

      I understand the egg dilemma but I definitely recommend using the egg whites. It doesn’t usually turn out with the full eggs.

  14. Laura

    oh and it looks like I’ll have to make my own apple butter. Is the apple butter used in this recipe sweetened?

  15. Stacy

    I cannot wait to try this for Thanksgiving !! I’m seriously missing some Blue Ridge & Mercier Orchards. We are about 3 1/2 hours South & boy would I give anything for some of those apples & apple butter right now! This may just have to be my fix — of course, it won’t be the same, but I’ll deal ????

  16. Debbie

    I love everything there is to love in this cake!! Such a beauty and so perfect for this time of year. I am making this for a huge family gathering Sunday. Thank you for such a beautiful recipe. Yum!!!!

    1. Lindsay

      Hmmm, applesauce might work. It’s got more liquid than apple butter so if you try it and it’s not quite right, you could use a little less milk to offset the liquid. The other option would be to cook down the applesauce a bit so that there’s less liquid. If none of that sounds like a good option to you, you could leave the apple butter out and use additional milk in it’s place. The cake would have less apple flavor, but you could add some additional cooked cinnamon apples between the cake layers instead.

  17. E

    Hi Lindsay, your cakes look so wonderful!
    I would like to ask 2 questions:
    1. is there a rule of thumb for ‘downsizing’ the cakes recipes (for both the layers and frosting) on your website ? for eg instead of 3 layers of 9 or 8 inch cakes, I would like to have 2 layers or 3 layers of 6 inch. I know it probably wouldn’t look as impressive but there is only so much cake one can eat.

    2. How well will this cake and other buttercream cakes keep on countertop (21’C average temp)?
    i would like to bake a cake for colleagues in the office, but there isn’t a fridge there. I don’t want it to be a slimy mess by mid day. ( for whatever reason, colleagues only want to eat cake at 11am, so it will be out of the fridge for a good 5-6 hours)

    Thanks so much ! Can’t wait to give it a try.

    1. Lindsay

      Thank you!

      1. It’s hard to say exactly. Two vs three layers makes a difference in the thickness of layers and can vary baking times. Also, if you are making 6 inch cakes, you might not use all the batter. If you are using less batter, you have thinner cakes, and that changes the baking time. So it’s hard for me to tell you exactly what to do for smaller cakes. I generally start around 18-20 minutes baking time for most things, but with cakes that small, if the layers are thinner you might need less. You’d be best to test it.

      2. That also depends a little bit. This cake is better off refrigerated because of the apples. It could probably sit out for several hours and be ok, but if storing overnight or something I’d refrigerate it.

      I hope that helps!

  18. Ed M

    I can’t wait to make this. It looks WONDERFUL!

    I think I would be tempted to make one batch of the cinnamon apples with the apples diced very small and put them between the layers. 

    1. Lindsay

      Apples between the layers would probably be very good. Just keep in mind that their moisture could cause the cakes to slip around a bit so maybe try to tuck them into the frosting, if you can. 🙂

  19. Jean | DelightfulRepast.com

    Lindsay, that’s a beauty! I’d make that just to look at even if it didn’t taste good, which I know it does! 

  20. Mir

    That caramel frosting is just CALLING to me. Seriously. I can taste it from here!
    Sounds like you live in a great area with ideal apple season conditions! I can’t wait for all the fresh apples!

  21. BJ

    The ingredients list milk but the directions state to mix apple butter with water.  Does the recipe use milk or water?

  22. Linda

    It’s almost apple picking time in Maine, and your cake is going to the top of the list for things to make.  I can’t wait!

  23. heather (delicious not gorgeous)

    oh, i completely get you about your atlanta but not thing! i usually say i’m from san francisco, and only get more specific (i grew up an hour south of the city) if someone mentions they’re from the area (:

    this cake sounds like the perfect way to bring in fall, and i love that there’s apple butter in the cake and cinnamon apples in the filling for maximum apple flavor!

  24. Karen @ The Food Charlatan

    What a gorgeous fall cake Lindsay! How fun that you guys live close mountains and other cool stuff to do. That’s kind of how Sacramento is too. The city itself is ok, but the fact that it’s so close to TONS of fun things to do (coast, mountains, etc.) is what’s so great about it. I can’t wait til apple season this fall! You are getting me excited!

  25. Kathy

    Hi Lindsay, Looks AAAAA-mazing, as usual! :o) I’d love to try this for a special fall ocassion. Thanks for the great recipe, instructions, and photos!

  26. Kelly | Maverick Baking

    This looks insaaaaaane, I’ll have to try this soon! This cake has made me forget all about Summer in a second, bring on Autumn flavours!

Lindsay
About Lindsay

I'm a wife and mom to twin boys, a baby girl and a sweet black lab with a serious sweets addiction! Bring on the sugar!

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“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12