The caramel apple cake of your dreams. A soft, warmly-spiced apple cake rippled with sticky dulce de leche caramel sauce, topped with caramel whipped cream.
This caramel apple cake is such a treat. It’s fancy enough to serve at a holiday event but is super simple to make.
How to Make the Apple Cake
My recipe couldn’t be easier. It uses the “muffin method” of mixing. No creaming needed, no stand mixer required. All you need is one bowl for mixing the dry ingredients and one bowl for wet ingredients. Then you gently combine the two and the batter is done.
- Measure and sift your cake flour. The easiest way I find to do this is to place a large bowl on my scale with a fine-mesh sieve on top of it, then turn on the scale (tare it so it doesn’t register the weight of the bowl/sieve). Scoop flour from the bag into the sieve until you get the required amount, then shake the sieve gently side to side to sift the flour. When using cake flour, sifting is non-negotiable to aerate the flour and remove any clumps. If you skip it, you’ll have a denser cake.
- Whisk in remaining dry ingredients. Spices, leavening, you’ve got this.
- In a second bowl, whisk together oil, sour cream, milk and egg.
- Use a large spatula to gently fold the oil mixture into the flour mixture. A large spatula means fewer strokes are needed to combine the batter, meaning less gluten is formed (read: more tender cake).
- Use the 80% rule. Stop mixing the batter when there are still floury streaks (it should be about 80% combined) and add the apple pieces. When you stir them in, you’ll finish incorporating any remaining dry patches without over-mixing the cake.
- Bake and test. My favourite way to test a cake is using an instant thermometer. The cake crumb is set but still moist when the centre reaches 190ºF.
How to Make the Caramel Sauce
To make the caramel ripple, all you need is a can of sweetened condensed milk. Take the label off and simmer it for 2-3 hours. Wait until the can is cool, then open it up and you have dulce de leche, a milky caramel sauce. (See details and safety notes in recipe below!)
I recommend making the caramel sauce the day before. I have it simmering away while I’m doing other tasks, like making dinner. Have you ever made your own dulce de leche like this? So easy. If you simmer it for 3 hours, you’ll get a darker caramel. I stopped shortly after two and mine was golden.
Notes on the Ingredients
Cake Flour (or Cake & Pastry flour, as often found in Canada). Cake flour is lower in toughening, gluten-forming proteins than all-purpose flour, which results in cakes with a finer texture and softer crumb. The secondary bleaching process used (different from all-purpose) allows the flour to absorb more liquid and therefore rise higher, making for a taller, fluffier cake.
Whole milk and sour cream: a combination of dairy added the perfect balance of fluffiness and richness. The sour cream adds a beautiful depth of flavour and creates a soft, moist crumb.
Both baking soda and baking powder: baking powder and egg whites are the key leaveners in this recipe. The baking soda is added primarily to tone down the tang of the sour cream for a perfectly subtle dairy cream flavour. The acid in the sour cream is neutralized by the alkaline baking soda (and this reaction creates rise) but there isn’t enough acid in the recipe to make that the only leavening.
As always, keep in mind that room-temperature eggs, milk and sour cream bake more evenly in the oven and have a better rise. See my article here on how to quickly bring ingredients to room temperature.
How to Assemble the Caramel Ripple Apple Cake
To get the luscious caramel ripple inside the cake, you first need to poke the cooled cake all over with a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon. Wiggle it gently back and forth to make a bit more space inside for the caramel. Then, you fill a pastry bag with the caramel and pipe it into the holes, overfilling them so the caramel expands a bit into the cake. It is the same method you’d use to fill donuts.
Caramel Ripple Apple Cake
- 8 oz cake flour I used Robin Hood Cake & Pastry Flour
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ½ cup oil I use avocado oil
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 1 ½ cups peeled and finely diced apple
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk I used Eagle brand
- ½ cup + 1 tbsp heavy whipping cream divided use
- Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line a 6-cup (8-1/2 x 4-1/2" or 9 x 5") loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2" overhang.
- In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together oil, sour cream, milk and egg.
- Add oil mixture to dry ingredients and gently incorporate using a rubber spatula until about 80% combined. Fold in chopped apple to finish combining. (You don't want to over-stir or the cake will be tougher).
- Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake for 60-70 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 190ºF (or golden brown and tops spring back when lightly touched). Transfer to wire rack to cool.
- Remove label from can of sweetened condensed milk and place in a medium saucepan. Fill with water to cover the can by 2". Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low and maintain simmer for 2-3 hours, checking every 30 minutes to ensure the can is still submerged (adding more water as necessary).
- Remove from the hot water using canning tongs (or regular tongs, but be very careful not to drop it and splash hot water on yourself). Do not open the can until cool. Because it’s under pressure, hot caramel may shoot out of the can if you pull the tab or puncture with a can opener while it’s still hot.
- Poke holes about 3/4" apart all over the cooled cake using a chopstick or the handle of a wooden spoon. Wiggle it gently back and forth to make a bit more space inside for the caramel.
- Whisk 1/2 cup caramel with 1 tbsp whipping cream. Use a piping bag and round tip to fill the holes in the cake (or spoon it over top and use the chopstick again to push it in, but it won't be as rippled inside).
- Whip remaining cream with 3 tbsp cooled caramel. Spread over cake just before serving.
Last Updated on October 25, 2022 by Jennifer Pallian BSc, RD