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Moist Apple Cake Recipe with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

This moist apple cake recipe is a wonderful celebration of Fall. The cake is delicious on its own, but a real standout with a drizzle of silky bourbon caramel sauce.

So grab a cup of coffee and get baking. You won’t be disappointed.

piece of apple cake with caramel sauce and ice cream

I make this fresh apple cake recipe every year with a combination of seasonal apples or my faves, Gala apples. It’s a wonderful holiday or potluck dessert.

The moist cake is loaded with fresh apples which is why it stays so moist. Many recipes call for 3 apples. This one has 5.

The bourbon caramel sauce is delicious and addictive. Just a drizzle goes a long way. It does have a good kick of bourbon even though the recipe only calls for one tablespoon, so cut it back a bit if you want a more subtle taste. You can, of course, omit the sauce altogether, but I don’t suggest that. It’s so worth the extra step. And you can make it well ahead.

The recipe is an adaptation and blend of three other recipes. I cut way back on the sugar which gets compensated with the sweetness of the apples and, of course, the caramel sauce.

piece of apple cake with caramel sauce and ice cream in bowl

Tailor To Your Taste

  • Apples: I like to use a variety of apples. Gala, Granny Smith apples, Cortland, Empire, Pink Lady, Braeburn, Northern Spy or Fuji are all good choices.  Delicious or Honey Crisp are ok too, but they won’t hold their shape as well (so just use one perhaps). I dice the apples, but if you don’t like little chunks in your cake, you can grate them instead.
  • Nutrition: You can reduce the calories by using half applesauce and half oil instead of just oil. And add nutrients by not peeling the apples.
  • Add-ins: Feel free to add a half cup of raisins, walnuts or pecans (chopped).
  • Pan options: Bake the cake in a 9 x 13 inch (33 x 23 cm) Pyrex dish or a 10 cup/2.4 liters Bundt pan. Here’s a great article on pan size conversions if you need.
  • Toppings options: I use one of two different toppings. Both are included in the recipe card. If I’m feeling lazy, I use a simple sugar-cinnamon topping. If I’m feeling more ambitious, I make a crumble topping. Don’t worry, it just takes a few more minutes.
  • Serving options: Serve with ice cream or whipped cream (but don’t forget a drizzle of the easy caramel sauce). By the way, you can always leave out the bourbon in the sauce.

Shortcuts

  • Skip the bourbon caramel sauce if you must 🙁 or buy a good quality caramel sauce and add a couple of teaspoons of bourbon.
  • Don’t bother peeling the apples.
  • Choose the easier cinnamon-sugar topping.

How to make fresh apple cake with bourbon caramel sauce

5 apples different varieties
Peel, core and dice apples (or leave peels on)
Beat eggs and sugar until fluffy. Then beat in the oil and vanilla.
Place all purpose flour, cinnamon, baking powder and a teaspoon salt in sieve and sift/shake into the wet batter.
chopped apples in batter
Mix wet and dry ingredients together. Incorporate the apples.
batter in cake pan topped with crumble topping
Pour the batter into a greased and floured pan. Add your choice of topping. (Pictured is the crumble topping.)
baked apple cake in glass pan
Bake until tester comes out clean, about 35-45 minutes.
bourbon caramel sauce in pot
Make the bourbon caramel sauce (or make it up to 2 weeks ahead).
piece of apple cake and bourbon caramel sauce on plate p

Make ahead

  • The apple cake can be made ahead and warmed in the oven for 5 minutes.
  • It can be stored on the counter for a day or two in an airtight container. Or in the fridge for 4-5 days.
  • Or freeze it, well wrapped in plastic then foil for 6-12 months.
  • The bourbon caramel sauce can be made ahead and stored in the fridge for a week or in the freezer for 3 months.

Other great Fall desserts to try

piece of apple cake with caramel sauce and ice cream
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4.77 from 13 votes

Moist Apple Cake Recipe with Bourbon Caramel Sauce

This moist apple cake recipe is a wonderful celebration of Fall. The cake is delicious on its own, but a real standout with a drizzle of silky bourbon caramel sauce
Prep Time35 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time1 hr 15 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 12
Author: Cheryl

Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cups (250 grams) white sugar
  • 1 cup (237 ml) vegetable oil (or 1/2 cup/118 ml oil + 1/2 cup/118 ml applesauce)
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups (250 grams) all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 5 small-medium apples, peeled, cored and diced 1/2 inch/1.27cm (about 4 cups/472 grams chopped) Note 1
  • 1/2 cup Optional: raisins (72 g), walnuts and/or pecans (57 g)

Topping (Note 2)

  • 4 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoons cinnamon

Caramel-Bourbon Sauce

  • 1 cup (200) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (59 ml) water
  • 1/2 cup (118 ml) half and half cream (or heavy cream)
  • 1 tablespoon Bourbon (optional, but good; use less if you like)
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter (if using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt)

Instructions

  • PREHEAT OVEN TO 350F/177C. Spray a 9 x 13 inch/22.8 x 33 cm pyrex dish (or Bundt pan) with oil and lightly flour it. To flour, add a tablespoon of flour to sprayed pan, shake to cover evenly, discard remaining flour.
  • MAKE WET BATTER: Beat eggs and sugar with immersion blender or handheld mixer for 2 minutes in a large bowl until fluffy. Blend in oil and vanilla.
  • ADD DRY INGREDIENTS TO WET: Put flour mixture of flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a mesh strainer sitting over bowl containing wet batter. Sift/shake dry ingredients through the strainer into the mixture in the bowl below. Blend well with a mixing spoon. Don't over mix. Fold chunks of apple into cake batter. Mix in nuts or raisins if using.
  • MAKE TOPPING: In small cup, mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle on top of the cake batter. Note 2 to make crumble topping instead.
  • BAKE: Pour batter into prepared pan scraping sides of bowl with rubber spatula. Bake apple cake for 35-45 minutes. Check after 35 minutes. If toothpick or tester comes out clean, it's done. If toothpick has batter sticking to it, bake longer until toothpick comes out clean. If using a bundt pan, bake the cake 45-50 minutes or until toothpick/tester comes out clean.
  • MAKE BOURBON CARAMEL SAUCE: Place sugar and water in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Swirl pan occasionally (don't stir) for 12-15 minutes until a medium to deep amber color appears. Careful that it doesn't burn. Remove from heat. Slowly add the cream while stirring (it will bubble up then settle down). Place back on the burner, add bourbon and butter (and pinch of salt if using unsalted butter). Stir for another minute until silky smooth.
  • SERVE: Serve warm cake or at room temperature with scoop of vanilla ice cream or whipping cream. Bourbon caramel sauce can be drizzled over the cake before serving or passed on the side.

Notes

  1. Type of apples to use: A variety of Gala, Granny Smith apples, Cortland, Empire, Northern Spy, Pink Lady, Braeburn or Fuji are great options.  One Delicious or Honey Crisp apple is fine, but won’t hold their shape as well.
  2. To make a crumble topping instead:  Combine 4 tablespoons softened butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour,1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 cup chopped pecans (if desired) with your fingers until a crumbly texture is formed. Sprinkle over batter.
  3. Make Ahead
    • The apple cake can be made ahead and warmed in the oven at 350F/176.7C for 5 minutes.
    • It can be stored on the counter for a day or two in an airtight container. Or in the fridge for 4-5 days.
    • Or freeze it, well wrapped in plastic then foil for 6-12 months.
    • The bourbon caramel sauce can be made ahead and stored in the fridge in an airtight container for a week or in the freezer for 3 months. 
Nutrition values are estimates. You will likely have leftover caramel sauce so the calories and fat per serving will be less than what the nutrition calculator is showing. Unless you drown your apple cake in caramel sauce 🙂

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Moist Apple Cake Recipe with Bourbon Caramel Sauce
Amount Per Serving
Calories 471 Calories from Fat 198
% Daily Value*
Fat 22g34%
Saturated Fat 17g106%
Cholesterol 61mg20%
Sodium 295mg13%
Potassium 137mg4%
Carbohydrates 67g22%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 47g52%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 185IU4%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Calcium 126mg13%
Iron 2mg11%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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