Apple Toffee Crunch Cake – fresh apple cake with crunchy pecans, cinnamon buttercream and a toffee sauce drip. A new layer cake recipe by our contributor, Tessa Huff.
I’ve resisted all-things apple, pumpkin, and spice for too long, but now it is definitely time to dive into fall baking head on! I’m kicking off my favorite season with this Apple Toffee Crunch Cake, and I can’t wait to share it with you all. So bundle up in your boots, scarves, and favorite flannels, and let’s get to it!
This cake is everything you could ever want from an autumn apple cake. It is moist and flavorful with a bit of crunch and touch of spice. It plays off our favorite fall flavors, a variety of textures, and even showcases a spectacular toffee drip! Trust me, your apple-picking haul is destined for this recipe.
The cake itself is packed full of apples – each piece melting into the crumb to keep it extra moist. I like to use a variety of baking apples, some sweet and some tart, to keep the flavor balanced. All the apple bits and pecan pieces make this cake slightly denser than your typical sponge cake, but the butter keeps it rich and tender. The cake tends to get bit crumbly when sliced, but trust me, it’s worth it (I considered revising the recipe a bit, but the flavors were just so much stronger in this version that I decided to stick with it!).
The subtle spice in the frosting is heavenly. A little bit of cinnamon can go a long way, but feel free to adjust to your personal taste. The silkiness of the buttercream pairs beautifully with the pecan crunch. As opposed to caramel sauce that starts with cooked sugar before being mixed with cream and a touch of butter, this toffee sauce uses brown sugar and much more butter to keep it sweet, smooth, and all-around amazing. Mix a bit of extra sauce with any remaining buttercream and dress it up with frilly piped details. Be sure to serve at room temperature for maximum flavor and superior texture since everything seems to firm up a bit once chilled.
Apple Toffee Crunch Cake
Apple Toffee Crunch Cake – fresh apple cake with crunchy pecans, cinnamon buttercream and a toffee sauce drip.
- Yield: One 8" Round Cake (4 layers)
- Category: ✽ ✽ ✽ ✽ ✽
For the Apple Cake:
- 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 4 large eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 3 cups apples (peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes or smaller)
- ½ cup chopped pecans
For the Pecan Crunch:
- ½ cup quick cooking oats
- ¼ cup chopped pecans
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
- 2 tablespoons honey
- pinch salt
For the Cinnamon Buttercream:
- 6 large egg whites
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 cups unsalted butter, softened
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ¾ teaspoon cinnamon, or to taste
For the Toffee Sauce:
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon dark corn syrup (light corn syrup will work)
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 teaspoons scotch or bourbon (optional)
- large pinch salt
For the Assembly:
- Chopped pecans or leftover pecan crunch
- Toffee buttercream (recipe to follow)
Make the Apple Cake:
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottoms of two 8-inch pans. Line the bottoms with parchment, then grease and flour the parchment and sides of the pans. Set aside.
- Remove 1/3 cup flour and set aside.
- Sift together the remaining flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
- Using an electric mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Add the sugar. With the mixer on medium speed, cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract.
- With the mixer on medium-low, mix in the eggs, one at a time. Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- Working in alternating batches, mix in half of the dry ingredients followed by the milk. Add in the second half of the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Toss the diced apples with the reserved flour. Fold in the apples and pecans until evenly distributed.
- Divided the batter between the two pans. Bake for 32 to 35 minutes until golden on top and a thin knife inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 15 to 20 minutes before removing the cakes from their pans.
Make the Pecan Crunch:
- Raise the oven temperature to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or silicone baking mat and set aside.
- Combine all of the ingredients together in a medium bowl. Stir together with a wooden spoon.
- Spread the mixture out on the prepared pan. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring halfway, until the crumbles are golden brown. Let cool and break into small pieces before use.
Make the Cinnamon Buttercream:
- Place egg whites and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer. Whisk briefly by hand until combined.
- Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Place the mixer bowl on top of the saucepan to create a double-boiler.
- Whisking constantly, heat the egg mixture until it registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Once hot, carefully return the mixer bowl to the stand mixer.
- Using the whisk attachment, whip the egg white mixture on high speed for 8 to 10 minutes until the bowl is no longer warm to the touch and the meringue is fluffy, glossy and holds a stiff peak.
- Stop the mixer and swap out the whisk attachment for the paddle.
- With the mixer on low, add in the vanilla, cinnamon, and butter, a couple tablespoons at a time.
- Once all of the butter has been added, turn the mixer up to medium-high and mix until silky smooth. NOTE: If the mixture looks curdled, just keep mixing until it is smooth (this could take up to about 5 minutes). If it appears soupy, place the mixer bowl in the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes, then mix until smooth.
Make the Toffee Sauce:
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, stir in the brown sugar and corn syrup. Turn the heat up to high. While stirring with a wooden spoon, bring the mixture up a boil and cook for about 5 minutes or until the sugar dissolves.
- Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the cream. Reduce the heat to low. Place the sauce pan back on the stove and whisk, slowly but constantly. Simmer for about 8 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and add in the remaining ingredients. Place in a heat-safe container and allow to cool and thicken.
Assemble the Cake:
- After the cakes have completely cooled, carefully slice them in half horizontally with a long serrated knife. Place one of the bottom layers on a cake board or cake pedestal. Spread on about 1 cup of the buttercream then sprinkle with ½ cup of the crumble. Top with the next layer of cake and repeat. Frost the stacked cake with the cinnamon buttercream and set in the refrigerator to chill for 15 to 20 minutes.
- After the toffee has cooled but still liquidy, carefully drip the sauce around the edges of the chilled cake. Pour into the center and use an offset spatula to smooth out. The toffee sauce is a bit thicker than regular caramel, so be careful not to pull and mix with the buttercream when spreading across the top.
- With any remaining buttercream, mix in a couple tablespoons of the leftover toffee sauce, or to taste, to create a toffee buttercream. Pipe on top of the cake using an open star tip and sprinkle with chopped pecans or leftover crunch.
- You may re-heat the toffee sauce as needed gently in the microwave to make it easier to pour if it has already set.
- Be sure to break the pecan crumbles into small pieces or the cake will be difficult to cut.
- Store in refrigerator. Best served at room temperature.
- Once assembled and chilled, the toffee sauce will lose its sheen.
- If you prefer, keep the cake as a two-layer cake. Alternatively, bake the batter in three 8-inch pans. Adjust bake time accordingly.
OTHER APPLE RECIPES YOU MIGHT LIKE:
Apple Pie Cake
Apple & Goat Cheese Cake
Apple Butter Cupcakes
Apple Crumb Cake
Baked Apple Donuts
Apple Pie Cupcakes
I made this today, only with a cinnamon cream cheese frosting per my hubby’s request. The cake was super moist and handled very well with being split into 4 layers after a couple hours in the freezer. It did take closer to 45 mins for my layers to bake but that’s probably my oven. I also used steel cut oats for the pecan crunch by mistake and it came out so good i made an extra batch to sprinkle in my morning yogurt! Toffee sauce was also perfection, I added a splash of fireball whiskey to stick with the cinnamon theme. Excellent creative recipe and will definitely use each of these components again.
Frances Vivienne says
Are you measuring temperatures in centigrade or Fahrenheit? Thank you!!
Carrie Sellman says
All measurements are Fahrenheit. 🙂
Just wanted to comment for any New Zealander’s wanting to make this. 🙂 A very lovely cake. But do put aside longer for cook time (I used slightly smaller tins and they took nearly 2 hours to cook in my F&P oven). All temperatures are in Fahrenheit but easy to change by googling. I used Treacle instead of corn syrup as I couldn’t find it anywhere locally. The toffee was AMAZING! Make sure for the crunch, that you spread it very thinly or it goes too biscuit-like (and chewy) except for the edges. I made two batches as the first failed when I stirred it half way through (which made it too thick and chewy). 2nd batch I spread thin and left without touching and the edges burnt but the majority was far more usable than the first attempt with stirring. For the buttercream, it was far too much butter for what we’re used to in this country (all our guests left most of the buttercream due to it being too buttery). Next time I’ll cut the butter by half in the buttercream. Instead of jumbo eggs (hard to find here), I used an extra size 7 egg. The whisking/ whipping took 10 times longer than stated for the buttercream, probably around 30 mins all up before I got a stiff peak and then stopped the curdle. It’s well worth trying this recipe, it was really delicious and the cake on it’s own would be amazing just with the toffee or dusted icing (confectioners) sugar. Thanks for sharing this recipe, I’ll try it again.
Naina Pandya says
Hi, thanks for such a wonderful recipe, just wondering on the toffee sauce shelf life and best way to store it.
Thanks in advance
Having a disaster with my toffee sauce. Three tries and I still can’t get it right. The first time, despite stirring constantly, the butter sugar mixture burned, imparting a bit so nice taste to my toffee. Binned. Second lot I was afraid of the burning so I turned it down a bit, sugar didn’t dissolve or it recrystallised so the final product was all grainy. Third lot, thought I was getting there, but the result was a weird grainy, oily chewy toffee. Do you have any temperature measurements for what temp the toffee should be reaching at each stage. I measure the temp of everything usually when baking and I think that I am getting things too hot. Electric stove tops don’t help. Help!
Hi! I was wondering if you had any recommendations on making these into cupcakes or smaller cakes?
I made this for Thanksgiving and it was wonderful!! https://twitter.com/Cat_Musgrove/status/933418297076396033
This cake was very time consuming but got rave reviews! Made it for a Christmas party and everyone loved it. Will make again and again!!!
Valerie Soderberg says
Do I really need that much buttercream. 3 cups of butter and 2 cups of sugar. Wow must be 1000 calories per slice
Wow this cake is looking so super delicious, thank you for sharing your blog
piyush Arora says
Thank you for recipe , this is what was i looking for.
Rajesh Shaw says
We have included to our menu. and responses from our customers are very positive, thanks for sharing
This mouthwatering cake deserves 5 stars, very beautiful and amazing recipe for this cake. This cake is not only good in taste but also in presentation too. I am a baker and always looking for the recipes which will make my family happy and this is the among that cake.
I made this cake for my nephew’s wedding rehearsal dinner and it was a big hit!
I am passing on this recipe to two family members who asked for it.
I want to know in which mode we need to bake the cake ??? convection or Micro + convection.
Beautiful cake! I made two of these cakes last night, and everything was *almost* perfect. The toffee sauce was a bit of a disaster the first two attempts.
Toffee sauce, attempt 1: followed the recipe exactly. Sauce started to burn before the 5 minutes at the beginning was up. My husband came to the kitchen and asked what was burning. Tossed this one out.
Toffee sauce, attempt 2: followed the recipe ingredients exactly, but instead of cooking on high, cooked on medium heat for about 3.5 min, then turned up to high and watched the sauce closely, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon.As soon as the sauce appeared slightly darker than “light brown,” I removed the pan from the stove and added 1/3 cup cream as instructed, then whisked on low for 8 min. The result: once the toffee seemed like it was mildly cooler, it started to thicken significantly. Like, it wasn’t even pourable (per the recipe specifications), but it was still too hot for the cake. I tested the toffee on the cake when it seemed borderline pasty/spreadable, and it was still too hot for the buttercream (it was melting the buttercream and sliding around on top). Eventually I gave up and decided to spread a mangled mass of thick toffee on the cake. This looked kind of ugly, but was still somewhat presentable. The toffee was thick because of how I had to spread it across the top (to keep it from slipping off). I immediately refrigerated this, and it stayed in the refrigerator overnight. The toffee never became hard, but was somewhat soft and slightly chewier.
Toffee sauce, attempt 3: I used the same cook times as attempt 2, but added 2/3 cup of cream. This looked kind of liquidy at the end of the cooking process, but I figured it might thicken. Since it was already getting late at this point, I tried to speed up the cooling process by sticking the toffee in the refrigerator, stirring/checking every few minutes. Once the toffee appeared to have cooled enough, I started pouring it on the cake. It poured easily but was not runny. It slowly dripped down the sides to create a nice picturesque drizzle. This, in fact, looked much like the toffee sauce in the recipe photos.
Conclusion: the recipe for the toffee sauce should use 2/3 cup of cream to achieve the proper results, and modified cook times.
Lastly: it took longer for my cakes to cook than the recipe specified. All total, about 40 – 45 min (I checked every 3-5 min as appropriate).
HI, How many cupcakes would this cake make??
Quick question. I totally spaced out on adding the 1/2 cup flour to the apples before mixing them into the batter. Any idea as to what will happen when I bake it? Wondering if I should throw it out and start again.
Julia says says
that’s good! don’t worry! Putting the apples in flour before adding them to the batter prevents them from dropping to the bottom. It’s a handy trick to have in your back pocket for desserts like bundt cakes and thicken type desserts. I haven’t tried this trick in cakes, but I assume that it won’t affect the outcome. Kudos and keep baking!
Linda Mitchell says
It also took my cakes 40+ minutes to cook. The toffee sauce was a disaster. It became thick and un-pourable but was still too hot to put on the cake. I only tried it once due to time restrictions. Had to run to store on Thanksgiving morning to buy jar of caramel sauce. My advice would be to buy a jar if you’re planning on making this cake because without that sauce, the buttercream doesnt have enough flavor. If your toffee fails, you’ll have a backup.
OMG this cake is amazing. Made it for Rosh Hashanah dinner and everyone raved about it. I don’t like nuts in cakes so I didn’t include them. I also left out the crumble in between the layers. I did have to make the toffee twice as the first time I boiled it for 5 minutes rather then when the sugar dissolved, so it burnt. I made it perfectly the second time, paying attention to when the sugar dissolved and not the clock. I also did what someone else did, even though I made a mental note not to, and decorated on top of the toffee before giving it enough time to cool. Thus my pretty piped flowers slowly slid down the side of the cake. Live and learn and I won’t do that again…
I made this wonderful cake this weekend and the cake was truly amazing. However the frosting tasted like butter. I double checked the recipe and I followed it exactly. I would Love to try it again. Not sure what I did wrong.
What can be used instead of corn syrup? We don’t have that in the UK