This Caramel Apple Cake is moist, tender, bursting with apple flavor, and made special thanks to a generous drizzle of homemade caramel sauce that’s baked right in.
Last week, I was debating which dessert to make for dinner at a friend’s, and though I’m smitten with this recipe for Fresh Apple Cake, it just didn’t feel right.
I craved something more decadent (like Flourless Chocolate Torte) but not so rich that guests couldn’t finish their entire piece.
My dream dinner party dessert would:
- Feel special and different, yet comforting and homey.
- Could be served warm with vanilla ice cream (because aren’t all of the best desserts served warm with vanilla ice cream?)
- And (most importantly), I wanted it to taste like fall.
This gooey caramel apple cake checks all the boxes!
Why I Love This Easy Apple Cake
This caramel apple cake is unbelievably soft and tender, outrageously gooey (like these Caramel Apple Bars), and every bite is spiced with sweet memories of apple picking, leaf jumping, and biting into sticky caramel apples. It’s truly the very best of fall, baked into a single pan.
- Caramel Sauce. What makes this gooey caramel apple cake, well, gooey, is a generous pour of my homemade Apple Cider Caramel Sauce directly over the top of the batter before the cake bakes. The caramel flavor seeps into every forkful, and it makes the resulting texture of the cake a cross between a super moist sponge cake and a classic gooey butter cake. Heaven!
- Whole Wheat Flour. Made with whole wheat flour (like this Apple Bread), this cake is far from being dry and dense as you might expect. Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it too?
- Apples. I like to use a combo of Granny Smith and Honeycrisp to achieve a perfect balance of sweet and tart.
- Spices. A blend of cinnamon and nutmeg makes this caramel apple cake taste just like fall.
- Brown Sugar. Lightly sweetens the cake, while allowing the caramel to truly shine.
- Egg. Makes the cake rich, tender, and moist.
- Oil. Choose your favorite mild, neutral oil for this moist cake—canola, avocado, or coconut oil are all excellent options.
- Butter. Adds richness, flavor and amplifies the gooey factor.
- Pecans. To add a little texture, I folded toasted chopped pecans into the batter, then arranged a few whole pecans over the top. I love the way their toasty crunch contrasts with the smooth caramel and moist cake. (If you love pecans try this Pecan Pie Cobbler.)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and prepare an 8×8-inch baking pan with cooking spray and parchment paper.
- In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Set aside.
- In a separate large mixing bowl, beat the brown sugar, butter, coconut oil, egg, and milk until light and creamy. Fold in the apples and chopped pecans, then add the dry ingredients.
- Transfer to the prepared baking pan, drizzle with caramel, and sprinkle with whole pecans.
- Bake until golden at the edges and the sides begin to pull away from the pan.
- Remove, let cool, then cut into squares. To serve, drizzle with additional caramel and top with vanilla ice cream, if desired. ENJOY!
- To Store. Caramel apple cake may be stored at room temperature for 1 day or in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. If refrigerated, let the cake come up to room temperature before serving. You may also microwave individual slices for 15-30 seconds to serve warm.
- Baking Pan. Ideal for making this cake.
- Corer. While not essential, it comes in handy if you want to speed up the process.
Frequently Asked Questions
I have not attempted to make this cake gluten free, so it would be an experiment. However, swapping the whole wheat flour for a 1-to-1 gluten free flour should work.
No. I don’t recommend using storebought caramel sauce since it tends to be runnier than homemade and may impact the texture of the cake. For best results, swap the homemade caramel sauce for about 25 melted storebought caramels.
No. As it is written, this caramel apple cake is not vegan. You may experiment by swapping the egg for a flax egg, the milk for your favorite non-dairy milk, and the apple cider caramel sauce for this Vegan Caramel Sauce. However, it will be an experiment. If you attempt, let me know how it goes in the comments.
Gooey Caramel Apple Cake
- 2/3 cup homemade caramel sauce* try with my apple cider caramel sauce
- 1 cup white whole wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg freshly grated if possible
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 3/4 cup brown sugar light or dark
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter (4 tablespoons) melted and cooled
- 1/4 cup virgin coconut oil melted and cooled (or substitute canola oil or additional 1/4 cup melted unsalted butter)
- 1 large egg
- 1 tablespoon milk or cream
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped toasted pecans or walnuts or a mix of both
- 1/3 cup whole pecan halves untoasted
- 1 pound firm apples such as Granny Smith, peeled and cut into a small dice (about 2 large—I used 1 Granny Smith and 1 Honey Crisp. Perfect sweet/tart combo!)
- Vanilla ice cream optional for serving
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat an 8×8-inch light metal baking pan with cooking spray, then with line parchment paper so that some overhangs the sides. Lightly coat a second time, then set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the white whole wheat flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and allspice. Set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, beat the brown sugar, butter, coconut oil, egg, and milk on medium high speed until light and creamy, about 2 minutes total. Fold in the apples and 1/2 cup chopped pecans, reserving the whole pecans for the topping. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, then fold again until combined. Scrape the batter into the prepared baking dish.
- Drizzle the caramel over the batter, then sprinkle with the remaining whole pecans.
- Bake until deep golden at the edges and the sides begin to pull away from the pan, about 30 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then remove from the pan using the parchment paper “handles.”
- To serve, cut into squares, drizzle with additional caramel, and top with vanilla ice cream, if desired.
- TO STORE: Caramel apple cake may be stored at room temperature for 1 day or in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: If refrigerated, let the cake come up to room temperature before serving. You may also microwave individual slices for 15-30 seconds to serve warm.
- *If you are in a hurry, you can also substitute about 25 melted store bought caramels for the 2/3 cup apple cider caramel sauce. If you’d like additional caramel for drizzling over the top, melt a few extra. I would not recommend jarred caramel sauce, as the consistency may be too thin to set properly.
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This looks fantastic! Have you tried making it with all purpose gluten-free flour? If not, any thoughts on how it would turn out?
Hi Kacie! No, I’ve never tried the bars this way, I’m afraid. I do hear great things about Bob’s Red Mill 1:1 Baking Flour Mix, which is gluten free and can be used to replace all purpose flour (you can find it on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/1M01eQC). If you decide to experiment with GF flour, I’d love to hear how the bars turn out! I just can’t speak from experience.
Hi Colleen! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! Thank you for this kind review!