Well hello there. It's officially apple season and I am loving it. To me, baking with apples is so quintessentially fall. Pairing apples with cinnamon and caramel - now that's when the magic happens. My caramel apple coffee cake is perfect for those chilly fall mornings with a fresh cup of hot coffee, or for an after dinner treat (also with coffee, because, well, coffee). The cake is rustic and beautiful and while it's perfect for a snack cake, it also makes for an impressive sweet treat for the holidays. This caramel apple coffee cake consists of a sour cream cake batter topped with cinnamon sugar tossed apples and a sweet and crunchy pecan streusel topping and drizzled with salted caramel. The cake is simple to make and absolutely delicious.
I found this recipe in a stack of old recipes passed down from my great grandmother. It definitely required quite a bit of tweaking but it's so awesome to be able to rework one of my great grandmother's recipes. I learned a lot of my baking from her just by watching her as a child, long before I showed any interest in baking at all. It always fascinated me that she would make pies without recipes and measuring and they came out the same, perfect every time. I can only assume that came from years and years of baking practice.
So, on to making this caramel apple coffee cake.
The key to making the cake batter light and tender is room temperature ingredients and also making sure to adequately beat together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. I know we see the "beat until light and fluffy" terminology often, but it really is an important step, and one that is absolutely necessary for helping create the texture of your cake. I used sour cream in this recipe for flavor and for added moisture. Note that the batter will be quite thick. Spoon it into a 9" springform pan and use an offset spatula to make sure it's evenly distributed in the pan.
About the apples
My preferred baking apple is Granny Smith, particularly when I'm using streusels, frostings, etc. that will be adding extra sweetness. For this recipe, I like the contrast of the tart apples to the sweet streusel and caramel toppings. But you can definitely use your favorite baking apple. Honeycrisp and Braeburns are also awesome to bake with. The apples are peeled and sliced, and tossed with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar. Slice your apples to about ¼" thick. You don't want them too thick otherwise they won't cook all the way through. The apples are then layered flat on top of the cake batter. I leave a really small space in the center without apples so that I can check if the cake is done without the apples skewing the result.
I use a food processor to make my streusel, as I do my tart and pie doughs, just because I find it to be easier and faster than doing it by hand. Pulse together the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add in the butter chunks and pulse until small clumps start to form and the mixture no longer looks powdery. Mix in your pecans last so that they retain their crunchiness and don't end up pulverized. Scatter the streusel evenly over the apples. The streusel can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator.
The caramel apple coffee cake takes quite a while to bake, about 60 minutes or so. However, it's important to check on the cake starting at about 40-45 minutes because baking times can vary depending on the juiciness of the apples. The cake is done when a tester comes out with few crumbs.
How to make the salted caramel sauce
While the cake is baking, or even a few days in advance, make the salted caramel sauce. I start this caramel sauce with a wet mix - a mixture of sugar and water. After the the water and sugar is mixed, set down that whisk, and leave it be. Let the mixture boil until it turns a rich amber color. Then immediately remove from the heat to stop the cooking process. Be careful when adding the butter and the cream, as they cause the mixture to sputter and steam. So watch those fingers. Let the cake cool until just warm or room temperature before drizzling with caramel sauce. And because it's always okay to be extra with caramel, go ahead and drizzle a bit more on each slice before serving.
This caramel apple coffee cake is a total winner and an absolute comforting fall bake. If you try my caramel apple coffee cake, let me know! Leave a comment in the comment area below and be sure to snap a photo and tag it #littlevintagebaking on Instagram so I can see your creation!
For another fall inspired recipe, try these pumpkin cream cheese muffins!
Caramel Apple Coffee Cake
Apple Coffee Cake:
- ½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup sour cream, full fat, room temperature
- 2 cups apples, peeled and sliced (about 2-3 medium apples)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into cubes
- ⅔ cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup pecans, chopped and toasted
- ¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Salted Caramel Sauce:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature,
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
Make the salted caramel.
- In a medium sized saucepan, combine the sugar and the water. Whisk just until combined.
- Place the saucepan over medium heat. Let the sugar mixture cook, without stirring, until the sugar mixture turns a rich amber color. Take the mixture off the heat to stop the cooking process.
- Add the butter to the saucepan and whisk to combine. Be very careful as the mixture is incredibly hot and will bubble up and steam when the butter is added.
- Whisk in the heavy cream, followed by the vanilla and the salt until smooth.
- Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a glass jar to cool completely.
Make the streusel.
- In the bowl of a food processor, place the flour, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon. Pulse to mix.
- Add the butter cubes and pulse until mixture begins to stick together and form small clumps.
- Remove the bowl from the food processor and remove the center blade. Stir in the pecans. If not using right away, store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Make the apple coffee cake.
- Heat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9" springform pan. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk to combine.
- Place the butter and the sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Beat on medium speed, stopping to scrape the bowl every so often, until the mixture is light, fluffy and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping the bowl after each addition. Add the vanilla extract.
- Add the flour mixture to the batter in three batches, alternating with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour.
- Remove the bowl from the mixer, and scrape down the the bowl and give it a stir to ensure the flour is fully incorporated.
- Spoon the batter into the prepared spring form pan and smooth with an offset spatula.
- Place the peeled and sliced apples into a medium sized bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon, and stir to coat the apples.
- Layer the apples, slightly overlapping, onto the cake batter.
- Sprinkle the streusel topping on top of the apples.
- Bake the cake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with few moist crumbs.
- Cool the cake in the pan on a wire cooling rack for 15 minutes before removing from the pan. When the cake has cooled a bit, but is still warm, drizzle the cake with caramel sauce, cut into wedges and serve.