Caramel Apple Cake

Fall is the season of pumpkins, pies, and big eating. I'm always a fan of new recipes, and since everyone knows I love to cook, I'm frequently having recipes sent my way. I love this, because I could spend hours researching and still may be stumble on some of the recipes that come my way. Plus, we all have our own preferences, so chances are I would not have researched apple cake recipes. I may have never even seen this! Fresh recipes keep me constantly learning.

So, my boss shared a photo of this with me. I doubt at the time that she realized that I would pounce on the opportunity, but with it being fall and caramel apples showing up at random places, I decided this was a great new recipe to test out. I wanted it moist, and realized that since it would be getting an evaporated milk and caramel sauce makeover after baking, my first Rum Cake recipe would be the perfect mix. Without the rum, of course.

The cake batter starts out pretty basic. I creamed the butter, sugar, then in a separate bowl mixed together the flour, tapioca, baking powder, and salt. I used cornstarch in the original rum cake recipe, however did not have any on hand for this cake. Tapioca has served me well in many instances where I needed a thickener, and that's typically what cornstarch is for. So, I swapped them out.

I then added it gradually to the butter mixture, resulting in a sand-like mixture in the bowl. It's ok! You didn't mess anything up! It's just a unique recipe. After the dry ingredients were fully blended in, I added the pudding mix and a small amount of canola oil.

 The recipe that my boss showed me called for a can of apples. Ha! Canned fruit can be a better choice in some circumstances, as the fruit is already soft after marinating in water/fruit juice, but I always prefer fresh. I want to naturally sweet flavor of the apple, not the extra sugary syrup many canned fruits have.

The last step of the batter was to mix eggs, milk, and vanilla together in a bowl, then gradually add it to the mixing bowl. The result was a lovely, creamy batter. I laid some apple slices in the bottom of bot cake pans, then spread half of the batter in each.

I let the cake bake for right around half an hour, then set it aside to cool down.

Now a can of condensed milk is the easiest option to soak the cake, but as I tend to do, I went the more challenging route. I simmered milk and sugar together on very low heat for about 45 minutes, stirring the mixture frequently. After mixing in a dash of ginger, nutmeg, and vanilla extract, I let it cool slightly. I poked holes all over the finished cake and poured the milk over it so it would soak it up.

Though I've made caramel before, I wanted to make a thinner sauce this time. My last caramel turned out wonderfully thick and chewy, but this texture may have been too tough for biting into a piece of cake. I found a recipe that fit my needs. And as fate would have it, I had been wanting to make a caramel with heavy cream. My last caramel was made with evaporated milk, and I was curious about the other method.

Making caramel is very basic, but since you are dealing with a molten hot sugar mixture, you have to be careful. I heated the water and sugar to a light boil and let it cook for just over 5 minutes.

Once the mixture turned a light golden brown, it was ready.

I finished the caramel by mixing in the heavy cream, resulting in a creamier version of the sugar syrup--a beautiful caramel. I mixed in some vanilla extract, nutmeg, and a small amount of salt, and let the mixture simmer for about 2-3 more minutes. Nutmeg is not just great for desserts, but is a flavor reminiscent of fall. And the salt was to give it a small amount of that salted caramel taste.

After letting the caramel cool slightly, I poured it over the top of the cake and put it in the fridge.

Oh my! This was a popular cake. It was good that I made 2 cakes - one came with me to work and the other got devoured by my family. This cake is the epitome of fall, and reminded me of a tres leches cake but with an apple twist. I could certainly see this style of cake working well with strawberries or blueberries and a whipped cream topping. Notes for next time: The tapioca ended up working out great, but after soaking overnight. At first, it just hadn't soaked up enough and was a bit chewy. The advantage to tapioca is that it does not affect flavor as severely as cornstarch, so I would use it again, but would grind it up first. Thanks, apples, for a great result.

Caramel Apple Cake


For the cake:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup tapioca
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 3.4-ounce package of instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 can condensed milk

For the caramel topping:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt


Heat oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour to two 9 inch cake rounds. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, tapioca, baking powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugar and beat until it is light and fluffy. Pour in the flour mixture and add 3 tablespoons of canola oil. Mix for a few minutes until ingredients are combined; the mixture will be dry and have a sandy consistency. Add the pudding mix and mix until combined. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract. Add the egg and milk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined. Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans and bake for 30-35 minutes. After the cake has cooled, poke lots of holes all over the top using a fork or toothpick. Slowly pour the condensed milk over the cake. 

For the caramel, add the sugar and water to a small saucepan and heat to boil. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the sugar syrup is a light brown color. Stir in heavy cream, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla, and simmer for another 2-3 minutes, until the mixture is fully combined and consistent in color throughout. Cool slightly, then pour on top of the cake. Store refrigerated.

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