This toffee apple cake is the cake to make this Thanksgiving. With a moist and crumbly interior, tangy cream cheese frosting, crowned by a delicious salted caramel glaze and toffee apples, it’s the perfect ending to your Thanksgiving meal. This post has been sponsored by Plugrá® Butter. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that make Beyond Sweet and Savory possible.
With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I am so excited to partner with Plugrá® Butter to share a showstopping, delicious, and fun dessert for Thanksgiving, toffee apple cake. Plugrá® Unsalted Butter Blocks are my go to butter since I discovered them a year ago. Plugrá® Butter is lower in moisture and higher in butterfat content, 82% compared to 80% of regular butter, resulting in flakier pie crusts and pastries, crispier cookies, super moist cakes.
You can find Plugrá® Butter in the dairy aisle at Vons. I like using the Vons mobile application for its convenience, ordering everything ahead of time, and picking up my grocery at curbside.
Spices: cinnamon and clove are classic fall flavors. You can also substitute with your favorite spices like nutmeg, pumpkin spice, and chai.
Butter: There’s nothing worse than a dry cake, so I love using Plugrá® Unsalted Butter to keep my cakes extra light, moist, and flavorful. Created by chefs who know that delicious dishes start with exceptional ingredients, Plugrá® is made for optimal performance in baking and cooking. Please do not use butter substitutes which container water and will not give the same tender crumbs as the fat from the butter.
Apple: Grated apples add moisture to the cake due to the juices they release during baking. You can use your favorite apple variety in this toffee apple cake. Some of my favorite baking apples are the classic Granny Smith, Jonagold, Honeycrisp, Crispin, and Pink Lady.
To make this toffee apple layer cake, I used three 8-inch cake pans. If you don’t own 8-inch cake pans, you can also bake the cake in two 9-inch or 10 inch cake pans. This works just as well, but you’ll have a shorter and wider cake versus tall and skinny. To make it easier to decorate later, divide the cake batter evenly among the pan. The easiest and most accurate way to do this is to use a kitchen scale. Place your cake pan on top and begin pouring batter into the pan and making sure all the pans have the same amount. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, use your measuring cups instead. Don’t forget to smooth the top with an offset spatula.
Tips for a moist cake
Everything that goes into making a cake affects its flavor and texture. Besides measuring the right ingredients and following instructions to the t, there are a few essential steps for getting a moist cake. Preheat your oven to ensure the proper temperature. Opening the oven door during baking creates great fluctuations in heat and causes your cake to collapse which is a big no no for a layered cake!
Over-mixing the batter will incorporate too much air resulting in the cake falling and becoming dense. Don’t overbake or the texture will be dry. Place the cake on the middle rack so the heat is distributed evenly between the top and bottom. Check for doneness 5-8 minutes before the required baking time because not all ovens act the same. The best method for testing a cake’s doneness is with a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake. When it comes out clean, the cake is done.
My go to cream cheese frosting
For this cake, I used my go to cream cheese frosting. It’s made with cream cheese, Plugrá® Unsalted Butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla bean to add a bit of flavor. Plugrá® Butter is extra cream and perfect for making frosting because it’s fresh, slow churned with real milk from American dairy farms, and free from artificial ingredients and added hormones. Beat the ingredients in the correct order to get the perfect consistency and texture. With only a handful of ingredients, you get a frosting that is smooth, creamy, lightly, and a perfect balance of sweet and tangy. This is hands down one of my favorite frosting recipes.
Tips for frosting a semi-naked cake
Cake decorating is not my forte so I’m going with the semi-naked cake look. If you’re skilled at cake decorating, go for your favorite style. The first thing is to level off the top of each cake layer so both sides are flat. Flat and even layers add stability to your finished cake. I like to use my serrated knife for this job.
For frosting, I used an offset spatula to spread about 1 cup of frosting for all the layers and the remaining frosting for the sides of the cake. Apply a thin layer of cream cheese frosting to the sides of the cake, starting at the bottom and working your way up to the top. Once the sides are covered, use your bench scraper and smooth the sides of the cake until they’re straight and you have some areas of cake peeking through.
How to make the salted caramel
Apples and caramel are a classic fall flavor combination so I used my go to salted caramel recipe to drizzle over this semi-naked cake. I always keep a jar of salted caramel in the fridge. It’s finger licking good with the perfect balance of sweet and salty. For this recipe, you need brown sugar, water, heavy cream, and salt. Light brown sugar and water are heated on the stove until completely melted and thickened, then heavy cream and salt are whisked in until smooth. Simply reheat it for 15-20 seconds in the microwave and it will be ready in less than a minute. Making the salted caramel ahead of time saves you quite a bit of time or you can use store bought dulce de leche.
How to make toffee apples
If you’d like to take the decorations a step further, make these toffee apples. They add a beautiful finishing touch to the cake. To make the sugar coating, simply melt the sugar with water until it completely dissolves and turns a beautiful golden color. Dip the apples in the melted sugar and let them dry over a wire rack until ready to use. To save time, you can make them 3 days ahead and leave them in the fridge. You can also decorate the cake with fresh apples or flowers if you're short on time.
This toffee apple cake is the perfect way to celebrate apple season and Thanksgiving. With three layers of moist and tender cake, warm notes of cinnamon and clove, balanced by a light cream cheese frosting and salty sweet caramel glaze, there’s really nothing not to love about this autumnal cake. Decorate it with toffee apples and you’ll have a delicious show stopping dessert that will impress your loved ones for years to come!
Toffee apple cake
- 3 8-inch cake pan
- 1 cup (2 sticks) Plugrá® Unsalted Butter, room temperature
- 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
- 4 medium eggs
- ½ cup full fat yogurt
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 tsps baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup coarsely grated apple
- 6 tbsps toffee pieces for the cake
- ¼ cup toffee pieces for garnish
Cream cheese frosting
- 1 cup (2 sticks) Plugrá® Unsalted Butter
- 16 ounces low fat cream cheese
- 3 cups powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
- ½ cup light brown sugar
- 2 tbsps water
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ¾ cup water
- ½ teaspoon white vinegar
- 6-8 small apples
Cream cheese frosting
- To make the cream cheese frosting, in a mixer with the paddle attachment, beat butter on medium-high speed until still, for about 3 minutes. Add cream cheese and beat until fluffy, scraping down sides of the bowl as needed.
- Reduce speed to low and add powdered sugar ½ cup at a time. Add vanilla and continue beating until smooth and well combined. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- To make the salted caramel, combine sugar and water and bring to a simmer over medium heat in a heavy saucepan. Once the sugar starts to melt, watch carefully as the sugar darkens, stirring gently to help it melt evenly. When the caramel becomes a dark amber color, remove the pan from heat and immediately but slowly pour the cream into the saucepan. The mixture will steam and bubble up so be careful not to burn yourself.
- When the bubbling subsides, gently whisk to completely blend the cream into the caramel. If you see lumps of hardened caramel, put the pan over low heat and stir until the caramel is melted. Once the caramel is completely smooth, stir in the salt. Set aside and let the salted caramel cool.
- For toffee apples, line a heatproof tray with foil and set a wire rack over the top of 1 tray.
- Place sugar in a deep non-stick saucepan over medium heat and cook, swirling the pan occasionally, for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown and sugar is completely dissolved. Stir in vinegar. Using metal tongs, dip apples into caramel, 1 at a time, until completely coated. Place on wire rack to cool.
- Butter 3 8-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter parchment and the sides of the pans. Dust with flour, tapping out excess.
- In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, clove, and salt.
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar until thick and pale. Add eggs, one a time, beating well after each addition. Add in yogurt.
- Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture in two separate additions. Beat in grated apples. Add toffee and fold to combine.
- Divide the batter evenly among prepared pans. You should get about 2 cups of batter per pan. Smooth the tops with an offset spatula. Tap the pans to remove any air bubbles from the batter.
- Place the pans in the middle rack in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
- Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool for 30 minutes. Turn out cakes onto rack and let them cool completely.
- With a serrated knife, trim tops of cake if they’re uneven.
- Place one cake with trimmed side up on a serving plate. Spread about 1 cup of cream cheese evenly over the top.
- Top with the second cake. Repeat with another 1 cup of cream cheese and the third cake layer. Spread about 1 cup of frosting over the third cake layer.
- With the rest of the frosting use a palette knife, ice the sides of the cake lightly to achieve a ‘naked’ effect. Use a bench scraper to smooth the sides of the cake. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 4 days.
- When ready to serve, drizzle the salted caramel and sprinkle toffee pieces over the cake, then top with toffee apples.