Caramel Apple Layer Cake with Apple Cider Frosting

We celebrated my twin sisters’ turning 18 with this spectacular cake. When you are cooking for two (or a family of 8, for that matter) it’s hard to please every individual palate. One sister loves peanut butter, another won’t go near it. And so it goes. This cake was a compromise, a safe middle ground that I figured no family member could complain about. And luckily, they all loved it! It is perfectly spiced, moist, and delicious.

White whole wheat flour could be substituted for the pastry, but I don’t suggest using regular whole wheat. It would be too heavy. You’d be better off replacing it with more all-purpose. This is one of those rare recipes where I wouldn’t change a thing. Except, oops, I did! I increased the frosting! This makes a very tall cake and you can’t skimp on what is arguable the best part of the dessert. Make sure your cake is completely cooled before frosting it. Otherwise you’ll end up with a runny crumbly mess, like I did. After a few hours in the fridge I was able to patch it up, but save yourself the stress and be patient. That’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned from baking… a tasty and presentable finished product is worth the wait!

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1½ tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups light brown sugar
¾ cup canola oil
¾ cup unsweetened applesauce
¾ cup caramel sauce (homemade or jarred)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3 eggs
1½ cups buttermilk

Apple Cider Frosting:
7 1/2-8 cups confectioners’ sugar (to desired consistency)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup apple cider or apple juice
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour two (9×2 inch) round cake pans and set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat pastry flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In a second large bowl, beat sugar and oil together with an electric mixer until well combined, about 30 seconds. Add applesauce, caramel and vanilla, beat for 30 seconds, then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the buttermilk, and continuing to beat until well combined.

3. Pour batter into prepared cake pans and bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of each cake comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes. Set aside to let cool for 10 minutes, then gently loosen cakes and turn out onto a cooking rack; set aside to let cool completely.

4. For the frosting, put sugar, butter, cider, cinnamon and salt into a large bowl and beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Arrange one cake on a large plate and spread about 1 cup of the frosting evenly over the top. Arrange second cake on top then frost top and sides of entire cake with remaining frosting. Set aside at room temperature or in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour to allow frosting to set before serving.

Makes a tall 2-layer, 9-inch round cake.

(Adapted from Whole Foods Market)

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62 Responses to Caramel Apple Layer Cake with Apple Cider Frosting

  1. Doreen October 24, 2011 at 10:50 pm #

    OH MY!!!

  2. brigitta October 26, 2011 at 4:57 pm #

    Do you think you could freeze this cake? Sounds AMAZING!! Cant wait to make it 🙂

  3. Jessie October 27, 2011 at 10:01 am #

    brigitta- You could definitely freeze leftovers after serving and let them come to room temperature when you want to enjoy them again. I wouldn’t freeze a frosted cake before serving, but you could freeze the layers, let thaw, and then make the frosting right before assembling. Hope that helps!

  4. Cookie baker Lynn October 30, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    This sounds wonderful! I’m making it for my daughter’s birthday this week. Thanks for posting the recipe!

  5. PrayerPoseMom November 2, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

    Wow! I have an apple-crazy family… I HAVE to try this… Thank you for posting!

  6. llayne November 6, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    I live in an area with no access to the pastry flour. Can I use plain flour?

  7. Jessie November 6, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    llayne- If you can’t find whole wheat pastry flour, I would use all-purpose (not regular whole wheat). Regular whole wheat flour would be too dense for this cake. Since it is a sugary dessert, the whole wheat isn’t making it much healthier anyway!

  8. Lara November 8, 2011 at 8:59 pm #

    So would you use 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour total if you were replacing all-purpose for the whole wheat pastry flour?

  9. Jessie November 9, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Lara- Yes I would just use the total same amount (so 3 3/4 cups!). Let me know how it turns out!

  10. Tamsen Burk Reid November 10, 2011 at 9:05 pm #

    I just made your cake using whole wheat flour (before I read all the comments). Anyway, it turned out with the texture of a muffin. The cake still tastes great, but if anyone does use the wwf, it would be great as little muffins!

  11. Jessica November 15, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    I had a hard time with the frosting. It kept separating. Any ideas?

  12. Jessie November 16, 2011 at 11:31 am #

    Jessica- I’ve never had trouble with frosting separating so I’m not sure what caused it. I only know that room temperature butter is essential in achieving the right consistency. Sorry you had difficulty- hope it still tasted great!

  13. bmmeaders November 29, 2011 at 3:29 am #

    Would it be possible to use this recipe to make a 9×13 cake instead of the layer cake? I need to make a sheet cake for a school function and this looks so tasty.

  14. Jessie November 29, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    bmmeaders- I think this would fit in a 9×13 pan- I’m just not sure how long it would take to cook, so you would have to watch the oven closely! Good luck!

  15. Rachel December 14, 2011 at 3:19 am #

    Just found this on Pinterest . . . it looks SO delicious! I wish I had all the ingredients on hand to make it RIGHT NOW! Thanks for the recipe–I can’t wait to try it out 🙂

  16. Sally HP December 17, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    just curious if this would convert okay to cupcakes? I would love to take some to a holiday party, but cupcakes are so much easier to serve.

  17. Jessie December 18, 2011 at 2:49 am #

    Sally HP- I’m guessing it would work fine, but since I’ve never tried it I’m not sure how many cupcakes it would make or how long they’d take to bake. I’d reduce the cooking time (probably by half for a start) and be sure to check the oven frequently so they’re not overcooked. Good luck!

  18. Jennifer King February 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    I just found this on Pinterest, and your recipe is drool-worthy! I wish my SO wasn’t allergic to cinnamon — otherwise I’d be baking this cake this weekend. 😀

  19. lisak87 May 19, 2012 at 8:58 pm #

    Generally any cake that will make 2 9-inch rounds will also make an 11×13 sheet or 24 cupcakes 🙂

    Also, maybe try cake flour instead of wwf instead of more all-purpose? Might make it lighter at least. I’m sooo making this in the fall 🙂

  20. Rachel@I Heart Crafty Things June 13, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    I just made this to take to a church function tonight and it is HEAVENLY! I couldn’t find the pastry flour so I just used all purpose. I haven’t even had a whole slice yet, just skimmed off the top of one before frosting to taste it but OH MY GOODNESS, it is delicious!! We had left over frosting and my kids used it as apple dip. Hahaha! Thanks for the great recipe!!

  21. Sheila July 8, 2012 at 2:14 am #

    I wonder if you could add some chopped apple in here as well?

  22. LizK July 13, 2012 at 3:44 am #

    Looks amazing!

  23. michelle mizzi July 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm #

    This looks so amazing have to make it

  24. Hobby Baker August 23, 2012 at 3:52 pm #

    Just dropped this cake off at the Cummington Fair, judging begins at noon. Bakes up beautifully, a deep, rich brown cake. The frosting is delicious, I added a 1/2 t. of vanilla. I discovered that my applesauce wasn’t good while I was knuckle deep in batter…what to do? All I had was a yellow squash, which I shredded and used instead. A fabulous substitution and a visible golden yellow in the cake. Had to now change the name…I entered it in the light layer cake category as a Caramel Whole Wheat Golden Harvest Cake w/Apple Cider Frosting. Taller than all the other entries, with its classic smooth frosting,
    I expect to ribbon for sure. Stay tuned….

    • brigitta August 24, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

      I am also entering this cake into a contest on September 15th. I sure do hope yours won, as I hope mine will win too! Please let us know how it all worked out. 🙂

    • Brigitta September 17, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

      Update: I made 4 batches of this cake for the contest! (Yes, I’m insane. ;)) The cake actually won second place for best decorated category. A teacher at an international culinary school said that out of the 50 cakes, she liked the flavors in this cake the best. (yay!) 🙂

    • Jessie September 17, 2012 at 10:10 pm #

      that’s awesome- congrats! i agree that it tastes wonderful!

  25. brigitta August 24, 2012 at 6:09 pm #

    This cake looks soooo good!! I can’t wait to make it! :o9

  26. Kara Friedrich August 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm #

    Any suggestions on making this cake at a higher altitude?? I live at 5,000 ft. and I’d LOVE to make this – but most cakes fall. I’d appreciate any advice!

  27. Debbie Collett September 3, 2012 at 3:28 pm #

    i used regular whole-wheat flour and added the remainder of the caramel sauce to the icing…about 1/4 -1/2 cup….. to the icing….Delicious!!!!

  28. Debbie Collett September 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    I used whole wheat flour and added the remainder of the 14oz. jar of caramel to the icing……delicious

  29. erin rae October 2, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    I’m planning on making 2 9×13 pans of this cake and then stacking-would 1 batch of frosting cover it all or should i do 1.5? thanks!

    • Jessie October 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

      are you doubling the cake recipe? I’d go with at least 1 1/2 times the frosting recipe to be safe. (you could always make more if necessary.) you’ll need quite a bit to generously frost the sides and in-between the layers.

    • erin rae October 3, 2012 at 3:21 am #

      yes im doubling the cake recipe! then carving out the shape of africa! thanks for your help 🙂

  30. JLL October 4, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    Delicious! I came across this on pinterest and it sounded like it would satisfy my craving for an apple dessert without being overly gooey. It was perfect! I subbed unbleached cake flour for the pastry dough and came out with a beautiful texture. Also, your caramel sauce recipe (I think it was posted with an apple crumble?) was super easy and I chose to use the little bit left as a decorative drizzle since I made cupcakes (made 30 btw). Thank you for a great recipe!

  31. Emily Pitts October 8, 2012 at 2:16 am #

    Just made this, it was delicious. I added a teaspoon of chipotle chili powder, gave the cake a slightly spicy, like cinnamon bears, taste. The frosting was the perfect amount. Very much a hit! Thank you for sharing!

  32. Becky Hooks October 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm #

    I made this cake the other week and LOVED it! I also had a problem with the icing seperating from the cake, but hopefully letting it set in the refrigerator instead of on the counter will fix that. And maybe its the fall weather, but I’d really like to try chunks of apple in the cake. Will I need to make any changes to the batter if I add fresh apples? Thanks for the recipe!

  33. Carol | a cup of mascarpone October 12, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    I am definitely trying this lovely cake! It looks and sounds sensational!

  34. Patsy Bell October 17, 2012 at 10:30 pm #

    I made Caramel Apple Layer Cake with Apple Cider Frosting. First, I made the apple sauce, then the caramel, then the cake. All made from recipes on Pinterest. This is best apple season cake ever. Thank you for sharing.

  35. Ursh November 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    I made this cake for my son’s 11th birthday this past weekend. It turned out beautifully – tall and rich and moist (and it’s holding up well a few days later!). The only minor adjustment I made was to use spiced apple cider for the frosting, to amp up the spicyness. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  36. Unknown January 9, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    has anyone made this as cupcakes yet ? ive came across this and looks wonderful to make, but fancy making it into cupcakes,

  37. becky August 18, 2013 at 7:32 pm #

    I made this cake today. It was amazing. Reminds me of carrot cake a little bit. I used a different frosting I stumble on from my grandmother for caramel frosting. It was perfect with it.

  38. Maggie September 19, 2013 at 6:46 pm #

    If I tried to make a sheet cake out of this recipe (with two layers) what would I need to adjust ingredient-wise or time wise? I wanted to make this for large group of birthday people so a sheet cake seems easier.

    • Maggie September 19, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

      Never mind! I looked through the comments and found my answers 🙂

  39. Rachel October 3, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

    If I’m making this a day ahead of when I’m planning on serving it, would you recommend icing it the day I’m serving it, or can I do the whole thing and refrigerate it? I thought that might dry it out but I’m new to the cake-making world so any input would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks

    • Jessie Davis October 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      I’d make the cake layers ahead of time and freeze them (wrap them several times in plastic wrap after they’ve cooled completely). Then when you want to frost the cake thaw them slightly before frosting. They’ll actually be easier to frost this way- less crumbs will end up in the frosting. Just make sure to allow enough time for the cake to completely thaw before serving! Good luck!

  40. Kathy October 22, 2013 at 12:20 am #

    This looks so yummy, I’m going to make it for my son’s birthday in just a couple of weeks, I am going to add some apple chunks to the cake. I’m sure it will be a big hit with the family.

  41. Norma January 6, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

    This cake was delicious. I used all purpose flour and used caramel ice cream topping it turned out great.

  42. Elizabeth January 27, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    We made this cake for my birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas! Wonderful recipe! Thanks for sharing!

  43. Brittany October 10, 2014 at 7:03 pm #

    Please help…. I want to make this but only have 8x2inch cake pans…
    What should I do?

    • Jessie Davis October 11, 2014 at 8:52 am #

      Your layers will be slightly thicker but 8-inch pans will work fine!

  44. Kathryn Mead March 9, 2015 at 7:18 pm #

    Made the cake as directed. For the icing, apple cider is not available this time of year, in our small town. Instead I used 1/3 cup frozen apple juice w/ 1t. Apple cider vinegar. It has a wonderful flavor!
    Thanx for the great recipes.

  45. Marla September 8, 2015 at 12:01 am #

    This cake looks absolutely delicious . I baked the layers using your recipe for homemade caramel from the apple crumble recipe (brown sugar, butter, cream)
    The caramel sauce tastes great, but no matter how much I stirred and reheated it, it stayed gritty from the sugar. Any suggestions to get the caramel sauce really smooth?

  46. Cynthia October 8, 2015 at 11:45 am #

    I only have 9×1 1/2 ” pans. Will that work? Or do I need the full 9×2″ pans?

    • Jessie Davis October 8, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

      That should work fine.


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