October 17, 2016 • RECIPE

Harvest Caramel Apple Chocolate Cake [RECIPE]

Want to work a new recipe into your repertoire before the holiday season? Here’s one that’s sure to wow your guests: This totally indulgent three layer apple coffee chocolate cake is iced with peanut butter cream cheese frosting, drizzled with dark chocolate and bourbon salted caramel, and topped with peanuts, flaky sea salt, and caramel apples.

It’s by Draper James Ambassador Katie Jacobs, who just whipped it up for a fall harvest picnic and she says it “stole the show.” (Read more about the picnic here and find the cake recipe below.)


Images by Amy Cherry. Recipe courtesy of Katie Jacobs.

Harvest Caramel Apple Chocolate Cake by Katie Jacobs

Ingredients for the Cake
2¼ cups all-purpose flour
2¼ cups granulated sugar
1½ cups unsweetened cocoa powder
2¼ teaspoons baking soda
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 eggs, room temperature
1½ cup apple sauce
¾ cup canola oil
1½ tablespoons vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 tablespoons hot strong brewed coffee

Ingredients for the Salted Caramel
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
1 cup honey
½ cup bourbon
½ cup apple cider
½ cup butter
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon kosher salt
flakey salt for sprinkling
3 small apples
twigs or wooden sticks for apple handles

Ingredients for the Peanut Butter Caramel Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
½ cup creamy peanut butter
⅓ cup salted caramel (recipe above)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup salted peanuts, for garnish

Ingredients for the Chocolate Drizzle
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
½ cup heavy cream

Directions for the Cake
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 3 8-inch round cake pans, lining each with parchment paper. In a medium-size bowl whisk together flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice, and salt until just combined. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together eggs, apple sauce, canola oil, and vanilla until smooth. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with the mixer on low until there are no longer any clumps of flour. Add the hot coffee and mix until just combined. Pour the batter among the 3 cake pans and bake 20 to 25 minutes, until cakes are set and when a toothpick is inserted into the center, it comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Directions for the Salted Caramel
To make the salted caramel, place sugar, honey, bourbon, and apple cider in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Let boil without stirring, for 9 minutes or until light golden in color. Add the heavy cream, butter and vanilla, slowly stirring into pan. Boil and stir frequently for 10-15 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 210°F. Remove the sauce from heat and add the salt. Using a heat-proof measuring cup scoop out 1 cup of caramel sauce and allow it to cool. Cover the remaining sauce and store at room temperature until ready to pour over cake.

Directions for the Frosting
Add the butter, cream cheese, and powdered sugar to the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat together until the butter is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the peanut butter, ⅓ cup of the cooled caramel sauce, and vanilla. Beat, scraping down the sides as needed, another 2 minutes or until there are no streaks.

To Assemble the Cake
Spread with frosting between the layers and over the top and side of the cake. Place the cake in refrigerator to set.

Directions for the Chocolate Coating
In a microwave-safe bowl add the chocolate and cream. Microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring between each until melted. Allow the sauce to cool 3-5 minutes, and then pour the sauce onto the middle of the cake and spread to just the sides, allowing the sauce to drip down the sides of the cake. Place the cake in the fridge at least 1½ hours, preferably overnight, making sure the chocolate is set and the frosting firm.

To Add the Salted Caramel to the Cake
Place the pot of caramel back over a medium-high heat and bring it to a boil. Boil for 15-20 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads between 220-230°F. Remove the sauce from the stove and let is cool 15-20 minutes, stirring every so often. Make sure the caramel does not become too stiff. If it stiffens too much, you will not be able to dip the apples. While the sauce cools, push the twigs or wooden sticks into the top of the apples. Line a baking sheet with wax paper.

When the caramel has cooled enough to touch, pour about half the caramel over the cake and allow it to fall down the sides of the cake. Working quickly, dip the apples into the remaining caramel and place the in the center of cake. Sprinkle the cake with flakey salt and peanuts. Refrigerate cake until firm, at least 30 minutes. Once the caramel is firm, store the cake in the fridge until ready to serve. Allow the cake to sit 15 minutes at room temp before serving.