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Caramel Apple Crumb Cake

Caramel Apple Crumb Cake combines tender baked apples and rich caramel with a buttery brown sugar pecan crumb topping for an irresistible treat!

Two squares of Caramel Apple Crumb cake on plate with apples and teacups in background

Moist Apple Crumb Cake With Pecan Caramel Topping

When it comes to crumb cake, we all know that the crumbs are the star of the show. The cake is good, but the crumbs? It’s impossible to stop yourself from sneaking a pinch of them whenever you’re in the vicinity of a classic crumb cake. Well, this Caramel Apple Crumb Cake delivers in the crumb department, but the cake layer has apples baked into it too, making it equally irresistible! The apples are tender and sweet, and they contribute to the moistness of this coffee cake.

But let’s not move past the crumb topping too quickly, though—it has the usual butter, flour, and brown sugar, but to take it up a notch, this recipe adds caramel and pecans to the mix. The result is sticky, buttery, nutty, and crunchy. If you’re looking for a cake to serve at brunch or an afternoon coffee get-together, this Caramel Apple Crumb Cake recipe is sure to impress your guests, but it’s also easy enough to make anytime you want to treat yourself.

What You’ll Need

Apart from the pecans, caramels, and maybe the apple, you probably have most of these ingredients in your kitchen already!

For the topping:

  • Unsalted butter
  • Soft caramels or caramel bits
  • All-purpose flour
  • Light brown sugar – You can substitute dark brown sugar, but it has a more assertive molasses flavor and will change the taste of the topping a bit.
  • Pecans – Because the pecans will be chopped, save yourself some money and buy pecan pieces rather than whole pecans.
  • Salt

For the cake:

  • All-purpose flour
  • Ground cinnamon
  • Baking powder
  • Salt
  • Unsalted butter – The butter for the cake needs to be softened, so let it sit at room temperature for about half an hour before you start baking.
  • Granulated sugar
  • Light brown sugar
  • Egg – Let the egg come to room temperature.
  • Vanilla extract
  • Milk – The milk should also be left on the counter with the butter and egg to warm up a bit.
  • Apple – Learn more: The Best Apples for Baking
Overhead view of Caramel Apple Crumb Cake squares on brown parchment paper

How to Make Caramel Apple Crumb Cake

Because you’re not making homemade caramel for this recipe, it’s a lot easier than you might expect! Here’s what you’ll need to do.

To make the topping:

Melt the butter and caramels. Place the butter and caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at half-power in 30-second increments until both the butter and caramels are melted. Stir well, then set aside to cool.

Finish the crumb mixture. Whisk together the flour, brown sugar, salt, and pecans in another small bowl. Pour in the cooled caramel mixture and mix with a fork or your fingers until the crumbs form. Set aside while you make the cake.

To make the cake:

Prepare. Preheat your oven to 350°F and grease an 8-inch square baking pan with butter or non-stick spray. Alternatively, you can line the pan with parchment paper and grease the paper and any exposed parts of the inside of the pan.

Mix the dry ingredients. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt in a mixing bowl.

Beat the butter, sugar, egg, and vanilla. In another mixing bowl, use an electric mixer on medium speed to beat the butter and sugars until they’re light and fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

Combine wet and dry ingredients. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour mixture in three portions, alternating with two portions of milk. Mix until just combined, then fold in the apple.

Assemble. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and use a spatula to spread it evenly. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the batter.

Bake. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Tips for Success

Here are some tips to help you make a perfect Caramel Apple Crumb Cake!

  • Don’t overmix. This is always key when you’re making a cake or quick bread. You’re better off with a streak or two of flour in the batter than mixing so much that you end up with a cake that’s tough instead of tender.
  • About the apple. I usually use Gala or Fuji for this recipe, and you can choose to peel it or keep the peel on. Use a nice, firm apple that won’t turn to mush when baked!
  • Testing for doneness. You may have some caramel on the toothpick when you pull it out, and that’s okay! You just don’t want to pull it out and find batter or a lot of wet crumbs.
slices of Caramel Apple Crumb Cake on parchment paper

How to Store

Cover your Caramel Apple Crumb Cake with plastic wrap or transfer leftovers to an airtight container. It will keep at room temperature for 3 to 4 days.

Can This Recipe Be Frozen?

You can freeze an entire cake by wrapping it tightly, or freeze smaller portions wrapped individually or in an airtight container. They’ll keep in the freezer for up to 3 months; let the cake thaw at room temperature before serving.

Caramel Apple Crumb Cake

Yield 12 servings
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Total Time 1 hour

Sweet apples and rich caramel combine in this wonderfully delicious Caramel Apple Crumb Cake.

Overhead view of Caramel Apple Crumb Cake squares on brown parchment paper

Ingredients

For the topping:

  • 3 tablespoons (42g) unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces (85g) soft caramels or caramel bits
  • 3/4 cup (90g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup (67g) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30g) chopped pecans
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

For the cake:

  • 2 cups (240g) all-purpose flour
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup (100g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (50g) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup (177ml) milk
  • 1 medium apple, finely chopped*

Instructions

To make the topping:

  1. Place the butter and caramels in a microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave at half-power in 30-second increments until melted. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the flour, brown sugar, salt, and pecans in a small bowl. Add the cooled caramel mixture and mix with a fork or your fingers until crumbs form. Set aside.

To make the cake:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla, and mix until combined.
  4. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add the flour mixture in three portions, alternating with two portions of milk. Mix just until combined.
  5. Stir in the chopped apple.
  6. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan. Sprinkle the topping over the top of the batter.
  7. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cake has browned and a pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Notes

*Be sure to pick an apple that's good for baking. I usually use Gala or Fuji. You can choose to peel the apple or not. You can find more info about choosing apples for baking here.

Crumb topping slightly adapted from Caramel Crumb Coffee Cake.

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    13 Comments on “Caramel Apple Crumb Cake”

  1. This looks soooo yummy – I can’t wait to make it!

  2. Could this be made a day ahead before serving?

  3. What size baking tin did you use?

  4. Could you include nutritional content in your recipes?

  5. This looks divine!  Quick question.  Specifically, what caramels did you use?  Kraft or Werther’s or another brand?  Thank you!!!!

  6. Do you think this would double easily to make in a 9×13 pan? I’ve made a single recipe and *loved* it and want to make a larger version.

    Thank you!

    Cheryl

  7. I have homemade caramel sauce that I’d like to use up. Could I substitute this and if so, how much should I use? 1/2 cup? Thanks.

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