Salted Caramel Apple Cake Recipe

caramel apple cake recipe by sugar and sparrow

Whoever thought of putting caramel and apples together was a flavor genius. I just love the sweet and salty complexity a good homemade caramel adds to apples (and apple-flavored things!), so as soon as I perfected this apple spice cake recipe, I knew I had to pair it with salted caramel buttercream and turn it into an caramel apple masterpiece! It’s become such a Fall classic in our household that I make it every year as soon as the leaves start changing colors.

First, let’s talk about this apple spice cake, because it’s the foundation of all this flavor. It’s made with unsweetened applesauce to give it a rich apple flavor and make it ultra-moist. Combining the apple flavor with the cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg not only gives this cake the perfect spice, it also makes your kitchen smell amazing as it’s baking! There’s nothing more cozy than the aroma of this cake in the oven, especially on a picturesque Fall day.

apple spice cake recipe by sugar and sparrow

Next, let’s talk about all this salted caramel tastiness. It all starts with this homemade salted caramel recipe. It’s such a versatile consistency of caramel that you’ll be using it to dip the apple cake topper, drip the sides of the cake, and whip it up into salted caramel buttercream for filling! It’s one of my favorite Fall staples. I like to use the time that the cakes are baking in the oven to make the caramel, because it needs to cool completely to room temperature before using it in buttercream, dipping apples, etc. The cool thing is, it’s a super easy recipe that only involves four ingredients and about 20 minutes of your time.

best salted caramel for dripping cakes

Once your homemade caramel is cooled to room temperature, you’ll be ready to make the salted caramel buttercream. I like to fill and crumb coat the cake with salted caramel buttercream and then mask the cake (aka frost the final buttercream layer) with vanilla buttercream, just so I can use even more salted caramel for garnish. You can totally skip the vanilla buttercream mask by making a double batch of the salted caramel buttercream for filling and frosting the cake, it all just depends on how much you love caramel. It pairs so well with this cake that you can totally get creative with the final presentation and mix things up a bit!

salted caramel apple cake by sugar and sparrow

salted caramel recipe for apples by sugar and sparrow

For my final cake presentation, I garnished the bottom edges with chopped almonds, then dripped the cake with salted caramel before placing a caramel apple on top. The goal here was to make it look like the caramel apple was dripping down the sides of the cake. Here’s a quick video to show you the process:  

The dripping caramel apple design is an easy and intentional way to represent the cake flavors, but you can feel free to decorate however you want! The flavors of this cake are so autumnal and beautiful that you could do something even more simple and let the flavors speak for themselves. However you decorate, I hope this recipe becomes as much of a Fall tradition for you as it has for me! 

caramel apple cake recipe by sugar and sparrow
4.94 from 16 votes

Salted Caramel Apple Cake

An ultra-moist apple spice cake paired with salted caramel buttercream filling, then topped with vanilla buttercream, dripping salted caramel, and chopped almonds. A Fall classic!

Prep Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes


Apple Spice Cake

  • 3 1/2 Cups (460g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups (339g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (162g) packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups (300g) granulated white sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups (840ml) unsweetened applesauce

Homemade Salted Caramel

  • 1 1/2 cup (300g) granulated white sugar
  • 9 Tbsp (128g) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into cubes
  • 3/4 cup (180ml) heavy whipping cream, room temperature
  • 1 3/4 tsp kosher salt

Salted Caramel Buttercream Filling

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 4 cups (480g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) homemade salted caramel recipe above
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Vanilla Buttercream Topping

  • 1 cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups (420g) powdered sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp whole milk or heavy whipping cream, room temperature
  • pinch of salt, or to taste

Additional Ingredients

  • 1 medium apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds


Make The Apple Spice Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare three 8-inch or four 6-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with cooking spray and fitting the bottoms with a wax or parchment paper circle. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients and set them aside. 

  2. Cream the butter on high until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the brown and white sugars and continue to beat on high for 3 more minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle once in between. Add the eggs one at a time, then turn the mixer to medium for one full minute.

  3. Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. When it just begins to come together after the last flour addition, turn off the mixer and give it a few stirs by hand to make sure everything is incorporated. The batter will be thick. 

  4. Divide the batter between your prepared cake pans (fill to no more than 2/3 full) and smooth the tops, then bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely before filling and frosting.

Make The Homemade Salted Caramel

  1. Have everything pre-measured and ready to go (you’ll be constantly stirring). Place the sugar in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon, until it melts into an amber-colored liquid and no sugar clumps remain, 6-8 minutes. 

  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Carefully add the butter (it will bubble up when you do) and use a whisk to combine it with the sugar mixture until the butter is fully melted and incorporated, 1-2 minutes. 

  3. Add the heavy whipping cream in a steady stream while whisking. As soon as the cream is incorporated, let the caramel boil for a full minute before removing it from the heat and stirring in the salt. 

  4. Let the caramel cool completely to room temperature before using it in a buttercream recipe, dipping a caramel apple, or dripping the cake. It will thicken as it cools. 

Make The Salted Caramel Buttercream

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip the butter on high until it’s fluffy and light (almost white in color), 5-6 minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle a few times in between. Turn the mixer to low and add the powdered sugar a few cups at a time, scraping down the bowl and paddle after each interval. Add the vanilla. 

  2. With the mixer still on low, add the salted caramel. Add a pinch of salt, increase the speed to medium, and mix for 2 full minutes.

Make The Vanilla Buttercream

  1. With a hand mixer or paddle attachment on your stand mixer, cream the butter on medium-high until it’s creamy and light (almost white) in color. About 7 minutes. 

  2. Add the sifted powdered sugar, one cup at a time, scraping down after each addition and making sure each cup is fully incorporated before adding the next one. Add vanilla, milk, and salt and mix on medium-low for another two minutes until fully incorporated.


  1. Fill and crumb coat the Apple Spice Cake layers with Salted Caramel Buttercream, then place in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes before frosting a final layer with Vanilla Buttercream. Garnish the bottom edge of the cake with chopped almonds, then place the cake back into the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to chill before moving on to the next steps. 

  2. While the cake is chilling, pour the remaining Homemade Salted Caramel into a small bowl. Insert a popsicle or cookie stick into the apple and dip it into the caramel, coating it thoroughly. Let the excess caramel drip off of the apple and then set it onto a sheet of wax paper, then place it into the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes to set. 

  3. To create the caramel drip effect, first do a test drip on the chilled cake with room temperature salted caramel. If it's too thick, microwave it in 15 second bursts to bring it to perfect drip consistency without heating it too much. Drip the sides of the cake with salted caramel and partially fill in the top before topping with the caramel apple. Garnish with more chopped almonds on top of the cake and apple. 

Recipe Notes

Make Ahead Notes: The cake layers can be made ahead and stored, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to two days. Alternatively, you can store the wrapped cake layers in the freezer for up to 2 months before thawing and frosting.

The Homemade Salted Caramel can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you're ready to use it, reheat it in the microwave in 15 second intervals until it reaches room temperature. 

Both of the buttercream recipes can be made ahead and stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you're ready to use them, bring them back to room temperature and re-whip each in your stand mixer to bring back to smooth buttercream consistency. 

What are some of your favorite Fall flavors? Besides caramel apple, I love a good Chai Latte and am hoping to incorporate those tasty flavors into a cake and/or cupcakes SOON! In the meantime, if you make this caramel apple cake, I’d love to know how you like it. Tag me on Instagram or let me know in the comments below!


  1. I made this tonight, because it’s stunning!!! But my 3 six inch pans runneth over and made a big mess! I measured with a baking scale, what happened?

    • Oh no, Erin! It sounds like the cake pans were too full. Did you fill them over 2/3 full? I hope you were able to torte the tops off and salvage the cake layers. This recipe does make a little more batter than you need, so be sure to fill the pans 2/3 full (or less) to ensure that they don’t overflow next time.

    • Hi Nikki! If you want a tall 8 inch cake (3 or more layers), I would double the recipe. If it’s just going to be two layers the above recipe should work just fine!

  2. 5 stars
    Hello! I’m just wondering how much of the caramel you actually add to the buttercream mixture?

  3. Chad E Peterson

    5 stars
    I followed the recipe exactly and turned out great. Very moist and flavorful, I actually got it to look very professional. I left the caramel apple off the top though, it’s a nice decoration but not needed for what I wanted it for. The caramel was a little thick once it cooled and I had to warm it up to get the drip effect. Definitely one of the better cakes I made. Thank you for the great recipe.

    • Yay, Chad!! That makes me so happy to hear that you loved the recipe and were able to decorate it so beautifully! Thanks so much for your feedback, it really makes my day 🙂

      • 5 stars
        I did this great recipe again and everything was perfect except the caramel was a little thick to do a good drip, even while it was still warm. I’ve never done caramel this way and without a thermometer. I must be at too high of a temperature, or maybe browning the sugar too long at the beginning? My wife is begging for me to do a red velvet any suggestions?

        • So happy you loved the recipe the second time around! Not sure why the caramel ended up too thick. That’s happened to me once before and I ended up whisking about a tsp of water into the caramel to thin it out and it worked like a charm. I’ve never done a red velvet cake before but I hear it’s just a chocolate cake recipe with red food coloring added. I do have a chocolate cake recipe here that you could try adding a few drops of red food color gel to: but in the future I’ll definitely add red velvet cake to my test list.

          • No! No! No! …a red velvet cake is NOT a chocolate cake with red food coloring. It should not taste like a chocolate cake. Ive been making old fashion Red Velvet cakes for 50 years.

          • Feel free to share your recipe here! I’ve never made a red velvet cake before so I truly don’t know what it entails.

    • 5 stars
      Not that anyone cares but I calculated 16,035 total calories for this cake. Totally worth it!!!

  4. 5 stars
    Made this cake a few weeks back and it tasted soooooo good!
    I’m wanting to make a couple of 10 inch cakes with this recipe using professional baking tins at 4inches high. I was just wondering if you could advise on converting ingredients and bake time?

    • Hi Alannah! I’m so happy you love this cake recipe! I’ve never baked these cakes with that deep of a pan before, but I would advise to double the recipe and from what I’ve read on the internet in regards to baking a 4 inch deep cake, they say to bake it at a lower oven temp (300 degrees). As far as the time it will take for these layers to bake, I would check them at 70-80 minutes and see how much more time you need. Since the oven temp needs to be lower they’re gonna take awhile. Let me know how it goes!

      • Alannah

        Thank you so much Whitney! I will do, here’s hoping all goes well! 🙂
        One more question sorry, do you think doubling the recipe will do two 10inch pans to give a relatively tall 4 layer cake? And do you recommend filling the batter half way or 2/3 🙂

  5. Hi! I was wondering how you store any leftover cake? Can it sit at room temperature or does it need to be in the refridgerator? Thanks!

    • Hi Michal! Leftover cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temp for up to two days, or you can wrap it up in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for about five days.

      • Hi I’m wanting to make this into 3 8 inch cake layers, any suggestions? I think doubling the recipe would be too much. How many cups of batter does this recipe make?

        • Hi Olivia! Fortunately, although this specifies to use 6-inch cake pans (because that’s my preference) this cake will make exactly enough for three 8 inch pans as-is. It makes extra batter if you use 6-inch pans. Hope you love it!

  6. Lynn Giddens

    I have some apples I need to use up. Can I substitute fresh apples for the applesauce? If so how many?

    • Hi Lynn! I’ve never made this recipe with fresh apples before but I bet you could find a from-scratch applesauce recipe and use that in this cake recipe! Just make sure it’s unsweetened when you make it fresh (aka don’t add sugar) and you should be good.

  7. Could I substitute the all purpose flour for cake flour? Would I use the same amount?

    • Hi Olivia! You can certainly substitute cake flour in this recipe and use the same amount (in cups, not grams). I think all purpose flour weighs more than cake flour, so be sure to go with the Cups measurement.

    • Hi Naila! You totally can make and decorate this cake ahead of time and store it in the fridge the day before serving. Just make sure you bring it back to room temp before serving it by taking it out of the fridge 1-2 hours beforehand.

  8. 5 stars
    Precise & easy to follow instructions. Our cake came out perfectly. Thank you very much

  9. Bernita Roussin

    I simply do not have the interest in baking, nor the time to devote, as I am busy raising goats. I would , however, love to know how much it would cost me, to have this cake made and shipped, to seabrook island South Carolina in mid December? There is a wonderful couple whom I love, that would enjoy, and deserves to have a surprise, they are not expecting from me. She is always giving me small gifts of wonderful soaps and lotions from goats milk to silk from expensive specialty places, along with expensive chocolates, I have gained 15 pounds and told her to stop, but she doesn’t. This cake would blow her mind and her husband is going to sit and grin because she can’t tell him NO. Hehehe.

    • Hi, Bernita! Thanks so much for your kind words about my cake! Unfortunately, I don’t sell my cakes or ship them so I won’t be able to send you this cake. Perhaps you can try a local baker and see if they can replicate the design and flavors?

  10. Laura Hinton

    5 stars
    I made this for Thanksgiving and wow! Everyone wants me to make it at Christmas too! Even my husband, who doesn’t usually like sweets had two pieces and said I nailed it. It was a big hit with my family. Mine didn’t look as pretty though because I think I overheated the caramel when I tried to make the drippings and it all ran together. One thing though. I am going to re type the recipe because I want each section to have the ingredients and instructions together, not on separate pages. This is a five star cake!

    • I am SO happy to hear that, Laura!! Sounds like it was a mega hit with your family! Can’t wait for you to make it again for Christmas 🙂

    • Hi Jenna! You can certainly give it a try, but since I’ve never tried it myself I am not sure the exact sugar amount to use or how it will turn out. Let me know if you do try it and if so, how much sugar you ended up using!

    • That’s a great question! The only way to use real apples would be to make DIY unsweetened applesauce from them, then use them in the cake recipe. The finely pureed applesauce is what gives this cake both moisture and great texture.

  11. Sara Kenyon

    Can this cake be stacked? As for a wedding cake design. Thank You

  12. 5 stars
    I love this cake I made it and it turned out exactly like this.

  13. Hey, I wanted to make this cake tomorrow for my dad’s birthday on saturday. Just wondering how 1,5 cups of white sugar are almost 500g? I guess it’s a mistake, hopefully you can tell me the right amount. Also I only have one high 6-inch pan, so I wanted to cut it in layers after baking. Should I reduce temperature to about 300 degrees? Thanks so much. 🙂

    • Hi Franzi! Wow, good catch. That was totally a typo. I just measured it out with my kitchen scale and it’s 300g. I just double checked all of the other gram measurements in this recipe to be sure that they’re correct and all should be good now! As for baking this in a tall pan, I’ve never tried it myself, so I can’t say for sure how long the baking time will be on this particular recipe. From what I’ve read on Google the oven should be reduced to 325ºF and the cake should bake for longer (in this case maybe check it at 65 min?) but just keep an eye on it and let me know how it goes.

  14. Did you need any support for the apple on top? Just wondering if I need to put something in there to keep it from collapsing any.

    • Hi Joellen! I didn’t put any support underneath, but you could always stick a boba straw or dowel in the center of the cake to hold up the weight of the apple if you’re worried about it! Can’t hurt.

  15. Hi Whitney

    I am a novice Baker!
    How much of the applesauce should I use for this recipe in grams please?

    Thank you 🙂

    • Hi Ronnie! I usually measure the applesauce in ml since it’s so liquidy. That would make the measurement 840ml. I looked up the gram measurement for applesauce and it appears to be 250g per cup, so the gram measurement would be 875g. Hope that helps!

  16. 5 stars
    I just baked this cake with intentions to sell by the slice but once I posted it someone wanted to buy it… RIGHT NOW!!! Thanks for the recipe ❤️

  17. 5 stars
    I’m probably in the minority but I don’t like salted caramel. Would this work without the salt?

  18. Hey!
    My oven is very small so I need to bake every layer separately. Can I put the batter aside for a bit or will it lose its volume like with biscuit?
    I also want to make a 10-inch cake. How many layers would you recommend to make to make the cake look as tall as your 6-inch one and is doubling the recipe enough batter?
    Thank you so much!

    • Hi Leyla! The batter can be left at room temp during one round of baking, but after that it might start to lose its volume. I’d recommend making the recipe as-is to make your first two layers, then making another batch for the final two (four layers should make the cake nice and tall). I’m not entirely sure how long the baking time will be for a 10 inch cake though, so be sure to check it at about 45 minutes and see if it needs more time from there.

  19. 4 stars
    I baked this cake last week and the caramel just didn’t set. It kept on dribbling down the cake continuously and wouldn’t stop even after being in the fridge overnight. Any idea why this would have happened?

    • Hi there! Sounds like the caramel sauce somehow had too much liquid in it. Did you substitute anything in the recipe? It should set semi-firm in the refrigerator.

      • No I didn’t… It looked fine and was a good consistently but it just didn’t set….

  20. 5 stars
    I just made this cake for Thanksgiving (Canadian), and it was a hit. Rather than decorate it with drizzled caramel, I iced an apple orchard scene on the buttercream. I wish I had made more of the delicious salted caramel buttercream to ice the cake with (beyond the crumbcoat). It perfectly offset the “spiciness” of the spiced apple cake. If you’re looking for a cake that celebrates fall flavors, I highly recommend it.

  21. Rachel Butler

    5 stars
    I was a little confused because it said 4 x 6in or 3 X 8 in at the beginning but the later on it mentions 3x 6 in. Either way I only had 3 6in pans so starting from the beginning I tried to make 3/4s of the cake recipe. Obviously some measurements were difficult. Here’s what I ended up using:
    2 2/3 cups flour, 1.5 tsp baking soda, 3/4 tsp baking powder, 1tsp kosher salt, 1.5tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp each allspice & nutmeg, 1cup butter, 3/4 cup packed brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 2eggs and 640ml of apple sauce (the size of my apple sauce jar). I baked it in 3x 6in pans and it turned out perfectly. I made the regular amounts of everything else. And changed the bits to pecans. The cake was a massive hit with my 11 year old, apple loving daughter.

    • So happy this recipe was a hit, Rachel! And thank you for catching that typo – I have since corrected it. So happy the recipe worked out with your measurements as 3/4 of the recipe and thank you for posting them here for others who would like to make three 6-inch layers!

  22. If I wanted to do a 3-layer cake with 4 inch pans, would I halve the recipe?

    • Hi Lindsay! Yes, you’ll want to halve this recipe for a cake of that size. You will most likely have batter left over, so be sure to fill the pans no more than 2/3 full so they don’t overflow. Enjoy!

  23. I have made both cupcakes and the salted caramel cake with apple from your recipe. Both were awesome! Thank you for the recipe. Is it possible to pipe the caramel buttercream on top of the caramel drip? Would I just let it set up in the fridge and then pipe? Will it melt off when it comes to room temp? Thanks!

    • Yay, Kelly! I’m so happy to hear that those recipes have been hits! And yes, you can absolutely pipe the caramel buttercream on top of the caramel drip. After you drip the cake, put it in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to let the drip firm up, then proceed with piping the buttercream on top. It won’t melt at room temperature. Hope that helps!

  24. Hi, I recently found your wonderful cake and can’t wait to give it a try however I don’t have a stand mixer, is there an alternative method – basic whisking, electric hand-whisk that would still be effective please? What would you recommend?

    • Hi Amy! My recipes should still work with an electric hand mixer and that’s what I would recommend over basic whisking. Enjoy!

  25. Thanks for a great step by step recipe. Looks amazing and tastes great. One recipe afforded me 2 cakes. A 6” and 3” for a friend. I would like to upload my photo but not seeing how to do that.

  26. Hello Witney,

    Can I decorate the cake with fondant characters over the cream ( like animals figure fondant )?

  27. Hi Whitney! I was wondering if I had accidentally made an extra batch of your basic vanilla buttercream if it could be repurposed into this salted caramel one? I noticed the salted caramel buttercream doesn’t have the milk added and has extra powdered sugar, but I’m hoping it would still work.

    • Hi Jordanne! You could certainly add some salted caramel to the vanilla buttercream and repurpose it. If the consistency ends up too runny, you can always add a little extra powdered sugar and balance the flavor with salt. Enjoy!

    • Hi Tina! Yes, it should be. The layers will be a little shorter, but this recipe makes three tall 6″ layers (they end up being about 2 inches high), so the 7 inch tins might give you something like 1.5″ layers.

    • Hi Sadie! I’ve never tried that as a drip before, so that part would be an experiment, but you should be able to use store bought caramel in the buttercream recipe. As long as you love the taste of it it should work!

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