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Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Buttercream and Candied Pecans

Spiced Apple Cake with Caramel Buttercream and Candied Pecans on a Blue Cake Plate

This Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Buttercream is a perfect fall treat!  This layer cake is full of chunks of apple, cinnamon, and brown sugar to create a moist and delicious dessert!  Even better, it’s easy to make and you don’t even need a mixer.  Just combine with a spatula in a bowl!  Cover the cake with a homemade caramel buttercream and candied pecans for a perfect flavor pairing. 

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Ingredients For Apple Spice Cake

Ingredients for Caramel Buttercream

Ingredients for Candied Pecans

Equipment

Preheating Oven and Preparing the Cake Pans

Begin by preheating the oven to 375°F/190°C and place the rack in the center of the oven.

Prepare the cake pans by greasing the bottom and sides and then dusting with flour.  You can use butter, shortening, or baking spray to grease the pan.  Add a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan to ensure the cake comes out without sticking.  Set the pans aside.

Making the Apple Spice Cake

Begin by peeling and cutting the apples into ¼-inch cubes.  The apple pieces won’t shrink much during baking, so you don’t want the pieces to be too large. 

In a medium bowl, stir the apples with the brown and granulated sugar and let the mixture sit until the sugar dissolves. This should take about 15 minutes. 

Place all dry ingredients (i.e., flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in a large bowl and whisk to combine. 

Apple Spice Cake Batter

Add the apples and any released juices, the eggs, and oil to the large bowl.  Stir well until combined.  Fold in the roasted pecans.  Do not mix the cake batter with a stand or hand mixer.  That will cause the apple pieces to break apart in the batter.  

At this point, it will look like there are too many apples for the cake batter.  This recipe is supposed to be full of chunky apple pieces.  I promise there is enough batter to make this cake!

Apple Spice Cake Batter in 8-inch Cake Pans

Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake the Apple Spice Cake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.  If you think the toothpick hit an apple, insert it again in a different location to confirm the cake portion is cooked.

Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes and then turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely to room temperature.

Making the Candied Pecans

In a medium saucepan, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and water.  Stir to combine. 

Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook the sugar mixture until the mixture boils.  Do not stir the sugar mixture at this point.  Stirring can cause the sugar to crystalize. 

Pecans in boiling caramel

Once boiling, add the pecans and very quickly mix to cover them with sugar. Do NOT stir too much. The agitation will cause crystallization. 

Cover the saucepan and continue boiling for approximately 1 minute or until the mixture reaches the hard crack stage (i.e., 300°F/149°C). 

Candied Pecans on a silpat

Quickly transfer the pecans to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and use a fork to separate the pecans.  This process needs to happen VERY quickly because the sugar mixture will harden within a couple minutes.  Be careful during this process because the sugar is very hot and can burn you. 

Allow the candied pecans to cool until hard and no longer sticky. Reserve 12 of the best looking pecan halves and finely chop the remaining pecans into a powder.

Making Caramel Italian Meringue Buttercream

Caramel Buttercream

Start with approximately 6 cups (900g) of unflavored Italian Meringue Buttercream.  Add approximately 1 cup (320g) of room temperature caramel (or an amount to your taste) and stir to combine.  Keep in mind that the more caramel you add, the looser the buttercream will be.  If too much moisture is added, the buttercream can break and look curdled.  

Assembling the Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Buttercream

If you have any cake humps, use a serrated knife to level each cake.

Using an offset spatula, spread a small amount of buttercream in the middle of the cake board to act as glue and place one cake layer on top of the board.  Smooth a generous amount of caramel buttercream over the top and stack the second layer upside down so the cake has sharp corners and a flat top. 

Crumb coated Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Buttercream

Using a cake turntable (if you have one), frost the sides and top of the cake with a small amount of buttercream to trap the cake crumbs.  This is called a crumb coat.  It’s ok if this layer has a lot of crumbs in it.  That’s the purpose of a crumb coat.  Place the cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until the frosting has hardened or crusted. 

Using a cleaned offset spatula, frost the sides and top of the cake using more caramel buttercream.  Scrape the sides and top with the edge of your offset spatula to get a smooth finish.

Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Buttercream - bottom of cake is covered in candied pecan powder

Use the palm of your hand to gently press the candied pecan powder into the bottom portion of the cake before the buttercream has crusted.

Spiced Apple Cake with Caramel Buttercream and Candied Pecans on a Blue Cake Plate

Place the remaining caramel buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip and pipe 12 swirls on the top of the cake.  To keep the swirls evenly placed, I like to start by piping the swirls at 12, 3, 6, and 9 (if thinking of the top of the cake as the face of a clock).  2 swirls will then fit between each of the original swirls.  Finish by topping each swirl with a candied pecan. 

Serving and Storing the Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Buttercream

Spiced Apple Cake with Caramel Buttercream and Candied Pecans on a Blue Cake Plate

When cutting the cake, make sure to use a sharp knife.  Because the cake contains large apple chunks, a dull knife will pull the apple pieces out of the cake rather than cutting through them.  Use the swirls on the top of the cake as a guide for cutting the slices.  Each piece should get a swirl.   

Spiced Apple Cake with Caramel Buttercream and Candied Pecans on a Blue Cake Plate

For storage, because this cake contains large pieces of apple, it tends to go bad quickly at room temperature.  Instead, store the cake in an airtight container (e.g., a covered cake plate) in the fridge for up to 5 days.  Take the cake out about 30 minutes before serving to allow the buttercream to soften slightly. 

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Did you make this recipe?

I’d love to know how it turned out!  Please let me know by leaving your thoughts below.  Or snap a photo and share it on Pinterest or Instagram (@windycitybaker). 

Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Buttercream and Candied Pecans

Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Cooling and Assembly1 hr 30 mins
Total Time2 hrs 45 mins
Course: Dessert
Servings: 12 slices

Equipment

  • Digital scale (or dry measuring cups, liquid measuring cups, and measuring spoons)
  • Large and medium bowl
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board (optional)
  • Vegetable peeler (optional)
  • Two 8” round cake pans
  • Parchment paper (I like to use precut parchment paper circles)
  • Butter, vegetable shortening, or baking spray to grease the pan
  • Silicone spatula
  • Whisk
  • Wire rack
  • Medium saucepan
  • Candy Thermometer
  • Baking sheet
  • Turn table (optional)
  • Offset spatula
  • Piping bag
  • 1M Piping tip
  • Covered cake plate (optional)

Ingredients

Ingredients For Apple Spice Cake

  • 6 large firm apples (700g) – I used a combination of honey crisp and granny smith apples
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (220g) light brown sugar
  • 2 cups (290g) all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp (5.5g) ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp (4.5g) baking powder
  • tsp (10g) salt
  • 1 tsp (6g) baking soda
  • 2 large (112g) eggs, lightly beaten
  • cup (160mL) vegetable oil
  • 1 cup (120g) roughly chopped roasted pecans

Ingredients for Caramel Buttercream

  • 6 cups (900g) buttercream (i.e., a double recipe of my Italian Meringue Buttercream)
  • 1 cup (320g) caramel sauce – use store bought or my fantastic homemade version

Ingredients for Candied Pecans

  • ½ cup (60g) roasted pecan halves
  • ½ cup (110g) light brown sugar
  • ¼ tsp (1.5g) salt
  • ½ tsp (1.5g) ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp (30mL) water

Instructions

Preheating Oven and Preparing the Cake Pans

  • Begin by preheating the oven to 375°F/190°C and place the rack in the center of the oven.
  • Prepare the cake pans by greasing the bottom and sides and then dusting with flour. You can use butter, shortening, or baking spray to grease the pan. Add a piece of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan to ensure the cake comes out without sticking. Set the pans aside.

Making the Apple Spice Cake

  • Begin by peeling and cutting the apples into ¼-inch cubes. The apple pieces won't shrink much during baking, so you don’t want the pieces to be too large.
  • In a medium bowl, stir the apples with the brown and granulated sugar and let the mixture sit until the sugar dissolves. This should take about 15 minutes.
  • Place all dry ingredients (i.e., flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt) in a large bowl and whisk to combine.
  • Add the apples and any released juices, the eggs, and oil to the large bowl. Stir well until combined. Fold in the roasted pecans. Do not mix the cake batter with a stand or hand mixer. That will cause the apple pieces to break apart in the batter.
  • At this point, it will look like there are too many apples for the cake batter. This recipe is supposed to be full of chunky apple pieces. I promise there is enough batter to make this cake!
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake the Apple Spice Cake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. If you think the toothpick hit an apple, insert it again in a different location to confirm the cake portion is cooked.
  • Let the cakes cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes and then turn the cakes out onto the rack to cool completely to room temperature.

Making the Candied Pecans

  • In a medium saucepan, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and water. Stir to combine.
  • Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook the sugar mixture until the mixture boils. Do not stir the sugar mixture at this point. Stirring can cause the sugar to crystalize.
  • Once boiling, add the pecans and very quickly mix to cover them with sugar. Do NOT stir too much. The agitation will cause crystallization.
  • Cover the saucepan and continue boiling for approximately 1 minute or until the mixture reaches the hard crack stage (i.e., 300°F/149°C).
  • Quickly transfer the pecans to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and use a fork to separate the pecans. This process needs to happen VERY quickly because the sugar mixture will harden within a couple minutes. Be careful during this process because the sugar is very hot and can burn you.
  • Allow the candied pecans to cool until hard and no longer sticky. Reserve 12 of the best looking pecan halves and finely chop the remaining pecans into a powder.

Making Caramel Italian Meringue Buttercream

  • Start with approximately 6 cups (900g) of unflavored Italian Meringue Buttercream. Add approximately 1 cup (320g) of room temperature caramel (or an amount to your taste) and stir to combine. Keep in mind that the more caramel you add, the looser the buttercream will be. If too much moisture is added, the buttercream can break and look curdled.

Assembling the Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Buttercream

  • If you have any cake humps, use a serrated knife to level each cake.
  • Using an offset spatula, spread a small amount of buttercream in the middle of the cake board to act as glue and place one cake layer on top of the board. Smooth a generous amount of caramel buttercream over the top and stack the second layer upside down so the cake has sharp corners and a flat top.
  • Using a cake turntable (if you have one), frost the sides and top of the cake with a small amount of buttercream to trap the cake crumbs. This is called a crumb coat. It’s ok if this layer has a lot of crumbs in it. That’s the purpose of a crumb coat. Place the cake in the fridge for about 30 minutes or until the frosting has hardened or crusted.
  • Using a cleaned offset spatula, frost the sides and top of the cake using more caramel buttercream. Scrape the sides and top with the edge of your offset spatula to get a smooth finish.
  • Use the palm of your hand to gently press the candied pecan powder into the bottom portion of the cake before the buttercream has crusted.
  • Place the remaining caramel buttercream in a piping bag fitted with a 1M tip and pipe 12 swirls on the top of the cake. To keep the swirls evenly placed, I like to start by piping the swirls at 12, 3, 6, and 9 (if thinking of the top of the cake as the face of a clock). 2 swirls will then fit between each of the original swirls. Finish by topping each swirl with a candied pecan.

Serving and Storing the Apple Spice Cake with Caramel Buttercream

  • When cutting the cake, make sure to use a sharp knife. Because the cake contains large apple chunks, a dull knife will pull the apple pieces out of the cake rather than cutting through them. Use the swirls on the top of the cake as a guide for cutting the slices. Each piece should get a swirl.
  • For storage, because this cake contains large pieces of apple, it tends to go bad quickly at room temperature. Instead, store the cake in an airtight container (e.g., a covered cake plate) in the fridge for up to 5 days. Take the cake out about 30 minutes before serving to allow the buttercream to soften slightly.

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