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Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Icing Recipe

Soft and tender Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Icing is full of warm cinnamon and chunks of apples. This homemade cake just makes you want to curl up with a warm blanket and a cup of hot apple cider in front of a fire.

Top down view of a round layered cake on a glass platter over a red napkin on a wooden board. Antique cake servers and forks sit beside the cake.

Caramel Apple Cake is an easy fall dessert to make. This fresh apple cake is made from scratch and features a video showing both an apple spice layered cake, a 9×13 cake, and two recipes for caramel icing and frosting. Whew!

I can totally get obsessed with an ingredient. The lack of sunlight affects people and their mood. For me, it makes me want to hunker down in my warm kitchen and bake, bake, and bake! It’s my happy place!

This is exactly what I did when this Apple Spice Cake recipe popped into my brain.

I made this easy Apple Spice Cake twice. The first time around I couldn’t decide on what pan I wanted to bake it in. I made the mistake of giving John an opinion. I know what his opinion is. Layer cake because there’s more frosting!

Top-down photo of a slice of apple cake next to the cut round cake on a red napkin sitting on a wooden board. A second slice sits in the background.

When I made the Apple Spice Cake layer version, I made a caramel frosting to keep my honey happy (with lots of frosting). I have to be honest though. With all those chunks of apples, it’s a little harder to get a beautiful slice.

With my easy apple cake 9×13 pan version, I actually tweaked the recipe by adding buttermilk and applesauce to make it moister. In the earlier version, I used yogurt and no applesauce.

I also used an old-fashioned caramel icing that was perfect with this cake. You know, the one that sets up with a slight crunch to it? It would be amazing over these Double Chocolate Caramel Brownies too!

What’s the difference between icing and frosting?

Most resources state that “icing is generally thinner, glossier and sugary, while frosting is a thick and fluffy mixture used to coat the outside of a cake. Then there are glaze, fillings, dessert toppings…Imperial sugar has a great article for inquiring minds.

For the frosting recipe, I made the caramel icing recipe and once it’s cooled, whipped powdered sugar into it until it was fluffy. You can make this frosting ahead of time, cover it and store it in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use it.

As you may have noticed, the caramel frosting is lighter in color than the caramel icing due to the additional powdered sugar in the frosting.

Ingredients for this Apple Spice Cake recipe:

  • Cake flour – this flour creates a tender crumb.
  • Sugar – white granulated
  • Brown sugar – I use dark because I like more of the molasses flavor. You can use light if that’s what you prefer.
  • Baking powder – serves as the leavening agent (what makes the cake rise).
  • Spices – ground cinnamon and nutmeg
  • Butter – I used unsalted. If you use salted omit the salt from the recipe.
  • Salt
  • Eggs – large eggs
  • Buttermilk – full-fat
  • Applesauce – I use unsweetened. You can use sweetened if that’s what you have.
  • Vanilla Extract – I use pure vanilla but imitation is fine for baking.
  • Powdered Sugar – same as confectioners sugar and used in both the Caramel Icing and the Caramel frosting.

Tips for the perfect Fresh Apple Cake recipe:

  • Cake pans – you can use a 9×13 cake pan or two round cake pans. If using round cake pans, 8″ will have slightly taller layers but 9″ will work too.
  • Remove your eggs and butter so they’re at room temperature when you use them. They’ll blend easier. Don’t worry if your butter doesn’t totally whip into your liquid ingredients. It will blend when you combine the wet and dry together.
    • You can also melt the butter and let it cool before using it as well.
  • Vanilla extract – you can use imitation in baking and you will not detect a notable difference. I use pure vanilla. BHG has a good tutorial on the differences and when to use each.
  • Sift cake flour before measuring it. Sifting aerates and increases the volume so if you measured and then sifted you would be using more than what this apple cake recipe needs.
    • To make your own cake flour, measure out 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 tablespoons of the flour and replace it with 2 tablespoons of corn starch. Sift as directed.
Top angled view of a 9x13 cake frosted with caramel icing sitting on a wooden board. Two serving plates with forks and a blue napkin sits behind it.

Tips for Caramel Icing and Frosting:

  • Sift your powdered sugar – it will blend into your frosting so much easier.
  • The Caramel Icing is a boiled recipe – this is a quick recipe that requires continuous stirring. Remove it from the heat to stir in the powdered sugar. Using a mixer isn’t necessary.
  • Make your caramel icing as soon as the cake is removed from the oven. By the time the cake is cooled enough to ice it, the icing will be cool enough to use, about 15 to 20 minutes. You can also lightly warm the icing if it cools too much to spread.
  • Caramel frosting can be made ahead of time, covered and refrigerated until you’re ready to make.
  • Frosting or Icing is suitable for either cake shape. If your icing gets thick it can be warmed slightly and then poured over the round cake or onto the 9×13 sized cake.

How to store leftover easy Apple Spice Cake

Keep the leftover apple spice cake covered in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days.

You can also freeze individual slices by wrapping each piece in parchment paper like you would a present, and then putting it into a freezer-safe baggy. Thaw for thirty seconds or so in the microwave if not frosted. If it is frosted, let it thaw either in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

If you are making this cake ahead of time, you can freeze it unfrosted and then frost it the day before or the day that you’re serving it.

A few items you may need to make this easy apple spice cake.

  • Cake pan with lid – I really like this cake pan. The lid allows me to store or take what I make so much easier too!
  • Round cake pans – I use this brand. The great thing about using round cake pans is “more frosting” according to John.
  • Angled Icing Spatulas – These angled icing spatulas work great when frosting cookies, cakes, or adding filling to recipes.

So, which pan are you getting out to make this fresh apple spice cake? Are you going with the caramel icing or the frosting? Please share in the comments below! I always love hearing what you have to say.

A slice of cake with a bite taken out of it showing chunks of apples inside and frosted with a caramel icing. It sits on a white plate next to a fork over a blue napkin.

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2 photo collage of caramel cake. A slice cake appears on the top over a red napkin and a whole cake on the bottom.

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A slice of cake with a bite taken out of it sitting on a white plate with a fork over a blue napkin. The slice shows chunks of apples inside and frosted with a caramel icing over the top.
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5 from 14 votes

Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Icing Recipe

Soft and tender Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Icing is full of warm cinnamon and chunks of apples. This homemade cake just makes you want to curl up with a warm blanket and a cup of hot apple cider in front of a fire.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Servings 15 people
Author Julie Menghini

Ingredients

Cake Ingredients

  • 3 cups cake flour sifted and then measured
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1.5 tsp cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter room temperature
  • 1 cup buttermilk room temperature
  • 3 cups diced apples
  • 1/2 cup applesauce unsweetened
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 eggs room temperature

Caramel Icing Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar firmly packed
  • 1/4 cup milk any variety
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups powdered sugar sifted

Caramel Frosting = Caramel Icing ingredients plus

  • cups powdered sugar sifted

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease and flour two 8 or 9 inch round pans or one 9×13-inch pan.
  • Sift the cake flour and then measure out 3 cups into a large mixing bowl.
  • Add the white sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt to the sifted flour and whisk together to combine.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer combine brown sugar, butter, applesauce, and buttermilk. Beat for 2 minutes.
  • Add the eggs and vanilla and beat 2 more minutes.
  • With the electric mixer on low, gradually add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Continue mixing until the batter is smooth.
  • Fold the apples into the batter.
  • Pour the cake batter into the prepared pans. Bake 25 to 30 minutes for round pans or 30 to 40 minutes in a 9×13 pan or until cake tests done.
  • Allow round pans to cool at least 15 minutes. Run a knife around the perimeter of the pans and turn onto a cooling rack. Cool completely.

Caramel Icing

  • In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter. Add brown sugar and bring to a boil. Boil for exactly 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the milk and bring back to boiling. As soon as it has reached the boiling state, remove it from the heat. Add the powdered sugar and vanilla. Spread icing on cooled cake.

Caramel Frosting

  • Prepare the Caramel Icing as instructed above and allow it to cool. Add the icing to the bowl of an electric mixer and add 1¼ cups powdered sugar or enough to get a spreading consistency. Add additional milk if frosting becomes too thick. Frost the cooled cake or store covered in the refrigerator until needed.
  • The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Video

Notes

Caramel Icing adapted from 1978 Kitchen Klatter Cookbook.
Cake tips:
  • Cake pans – you can use a 9×13 cake pan or two round cake pans. If using round cake pans, 8″ will have slightly taller layers but 9″ will work too.
  • Remove your eggs and butter so they’re at room temperature when you use them. They’ll blend easier. Don’t worry if your butter doesn’t totally whip into your liquid ingredients. It will blend when you combine the wet and dry together.
  • Sift cake flour before measuring it. Sifting aerates and increases the volume so if you measured and then sifted you would be using more than what this apple cake recipe needs.
Icing tips: 
  • Sift your powdered sugar – it will blend so much easier.
  • For Frosting – I put it into my electric stand mixer if I’m making it into frosting after allowing it to cool.
  • Make your caramel icing as soon as the cake is removed from the oven. By the time the cake is cooled enough to ice it, the icing will be cool enough to use, about 15 to 20 minutes. You can also lightly warm the icing if it cools too much to spread.
  • Caramel frosting can be made ahead of time, covered and refrigerated until you’re ready to make.

Nutrition

Calories: 480kcal | Carbohydrates: 82g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Cholesterol: 71mg | Sodium: 174mg | Potassium: 190mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 62g | Vitamin A: 516IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 87mg | Iron: 1mg
This recipe was calculated using the exact brands and measurements I used to make this recipe. If you are following a strict diet please note changing anything will cause the nutritional info to change. My calculations are intended as a guide only.
Tried this recipe? That’s awesome!Mention @hostessatheart or tag #hostessatheart!

I hope you enjoyed this Apple Spice Cake recipe with the variations, tips, and icing options.

What is your favorite cake or is there a cake you’re dreaming of that I can feature on Hostess At Heart? Leave me a comment!

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Recipe Rating




Amy

Saturday 20th of November 2021

Can this be made in advance and frozen?

Julie Menghini

Monday 22nd of November 2021

Hi Amy! This cake freezes great! I generally don't freeze a frosted cake because love how fresh frosting tastes but you can. You can either freeze it in portions or the entire cake.

Laurie

Wednesday 7th of October 2020

This looks amazing! Can you use apple pie filling as a substitute?

Julie Menghini

Thursday 8th of October 2020

I've never done it Laurie but think it would be delicious. If you do this, I would eliminate the applesauce. Otherwise it might be to wet. Let me know how it goes!

Estelle Champlain

Monday 17th of August 2020

This is my family's new favorite apple cake. The texture and tase are just right, and the caramel icing brought me back to the old potlucks I enjoyed as a kid in Colorado in the early 80s! Thank you for sharing this fantastic recipe :)

Julie Menghini

Tuesday 18th of August 2020

Thank you, Estelle! So glad you stopped by and I loved your comment. Food can definitely spark those memories.

Thomas P

Thursday 28th of November 2019

Really a good recipe. Nice thing about frosting, is the ability to tailor the amount used your own preference.

Julie Menghini

Thursday 28th of November 2019

Thank you, Thomas! I totally agree with you on the frosting!

Deb Clark

Wednesday 27th of November 2019

This cake is over-the-top delicious! I love all of your hints and tricks too - you're my baking go-to guru! Loving your recipes!

Julie Menghini

Thursday 28th of November 2019

Thank you so much, Deb!