How do you like THEM apples?

That’s what I said to myself as I finished scattering toasted walnuts atop this cake, one that can only be described as GORGEOUS—wouldn’t you agree?

I’ve said many times that I don’t have the Martha Stewart gene. Make a centerpiece out of acorns and autumn leaves? No way. Hand-lettered invitations? If I want people to come over for pizza and beer, I’ll email. Decorating petits-fours would be my idea of purgatory; anything that requires a pastry bag, I’m outta here. Even icing a layer cake makes me feel like a cat with its fur petted backwards.

In short, I’m more into taste than looks. I’d rather eat that cookie than admire it.

But every now and then, just by sheer chance, I produce a truly beautiful baked good. This caramel apple cake is a perfect example.

It didn’t start out to be pretty; indeed, it started out pretty plain. I wanted to make an apple cake where the apples didn’t disappear, texture-wise. So, how about apple chunks baked into cinnamon-scented cake? Sounds delicious; looks… well, like beige apple chunks floating, raft-like, in a tan sea. BLAHHHHH. Even I could see this cake wasn’t going to make it, looks-wise.

So what goes with apples? Caramel, of course. Let’s drizzle caramel sauce all over the top and see what happens. Tastes good; looks like brown-spattered apple chunks floating… etc. So caramel was a plus taste-wise, but totally not a beauty enhancer. Ah, nuts… NUTS! Even better, toasted nuts, with their heightened flavor and subtle golden sheen. A win-win. Beauty and the feast.

So if you’re one of those slap-happy bakers (slap it together, be happy when it comes out of the oven in one piece), but do occasionally need to make a photo-worthy dessert—something to impress your urban(e) sister-in-law—here it is, Caramel-Apple Walnut Cake.

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First, we'll beat together sugar, butter, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and vanilla (yes, it's hidden under the sugar).

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Beat till smooth, then add 2 eggs, and beat again till smooth.

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Add the flour alternately with the sour cream or yogurt, beating gently to make a stiff batter. Spoon the batter into a greased 9” round cake pan. Yes, it's supposed to be stiff; that way the apples won't sink.

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Spread the batter to the edges of the pan.

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Next come the apples. Here, I'm using our apple peeler/corer/slicer to simply peel 2 large apples, without coring/slicing.

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Use a plain apple corer to core the peeled apples.

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Then cut each apple into 8 wedges, and toss with sugar and vanilla. Or get to this point with whatever tools you prefer: a vegetable peeler, paring knife, apple corer/wedger...

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Place the apples atop the cake batter, pushing them in gently.

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Bake in a preheated 350°F oven till the cake tests done. The apples will be “al dente”—not totally mushy, not totally crisp. Just nice.

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Turn the cake out onto a cooling rack.

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Place another rack over the cake's bottom...

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...and flip over so the cake is upright.

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I happen to love our block caramel. It's like gold in the cupboard, ready to melt for a drizzle atop brownies or bars or cookies or cake, easy to combine with cream to make sauce... it's shelf-stable, and stays soft (like modeling clay) and fresh indefinitely. So, combine caramel with cream, and heat in the microwave till the cream starts to bubble.

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Stir...

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...and keep stirring till you've made a smooth, pourable sauce.

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Drizzle the sauce over the warm cake, making sure to pour extra into the crevices around the apples.

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Sprinkle toasted salted walnuts on top.

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Pretty as a picture! Wait—this IS a picture...

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Cut open to reveal apple chunks and oozing caramel. This doesn't need any ice cream, though whipped cream would be a (pretty) bonus.

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Caramel-Apple Walnut Cake.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Baci Grill, Cromwell, CT: Caramel Apple Torte, 1 slice, $2.50

Cocoa Bar, Brooklyn, NY: Apple Cider Caramel Cake, 1 slice, $5.50

Bake at home: Caramel Apple Walnut Cake, 1 slice (1/8 of cake), 83¢.

Filed Under: Recipes
PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!