This is the BEST caramel apple gooey butter cake! It’s like a french apple cake and a caramel cheesecake had the most delicious baby. Is that a weird thing to say? Oh, well you get it. The cinnamon apple cake layer on the bottom is moist and tender and the caramel cheesecake top is creamy and indulgent with a crackly top. It’s a show stopper of a dessert that will impress, but is actually quite simple to make.
What is Gooey Butter Cake?
If you’ve never had a St Louis Gooey Butter Cake, you’re in for one delicious treat. As the name suggests, it originated in St. Louis, MO in the 1930s. It’s a delicious dessert mashup of dense yellow cake and creamy cheesecake that’s best served warm or room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar, and is out of this world delicious.
My caramel apple version is a twist on the classic that’s perfect for the start of the fall baking season. I love fall baking, but I’m not quite ready to bake all things pumpkin when it’s still 90 degrees out. This is the perfect answer for that. It has all the cozy fall flavors you want, but isn’t too overboard for September. However, this cake is so good I’d be happy to eat a slice any day of the year.
How to Make Caramel Apple Gooey Butter Cake
While this cake looks and tastes like it took a lot of time and skill to make, it’s actually SO easy! You don’t even need a stand mixer. Just grab your hand mixer and a rubber spatula, whip up the apple cake layer in one bowl and the caramel cream cheese layer in another, pour into a springform pan, bake, chill, and enjoy! To ensure your gooey butter cake turns out just perfect, here’s my top tips!
Caramel Apple Cake
- Weigh your ingredients. I always suggest weighing your ingredients when baking. It’s the only way to make SURE your recipe turns out exactly the way the recipe author intends. However, it’s especially important with this recipe because not only do you want to make sure you have the correct amount of flour and sugar, but also the apples! Apples vary so much in size that I can’t just list that I used 5 apples. It’s the weight of the apples that’s important.
- Macerate the apples. When baking with fruit, I like to macerate it first. This basically means we’re going to extract all of the excess liquid from the fruit before baking. It will intensify the flavor of the fruit and also ensure you don’t end up with a soggy cake. Simply toss the sliced apples with sugar and lemon juice and pop them into the fridge for about an hour, then strain off the juices.
- Use a variety of apples. For this cake I used both granny smith and honey crisp apples. They are both great choices for baking and one brings the tartness while the other is more sweet.
- Use high quality butter. Another tip I bring up in almost every recipe. My favorite butter is Kerry Gold, and I always grab the salted. Choosing a high quality butter with a higher fat content will bring so much flavor to your bakes. And don’t be afraid of salt!
Caramel Cream Cheese
- Grab the Philly. Philadelphia cream cheese is the best. I always grab it especially for baked recipes, where the flavor is really going to come through.
- Salted Caramel Sauce. I tested this recipe with both homemade salted caramel sauce and a store bought version. Either will work as long as the caramel is a pourable consistency. You can find my recipe for homemade salted caramel sauce here.
- Room temperature ingredients. Baking with room temp ingredients isn’t anything new. But its ESPECIALLY important with cream cheese based desserts. The only way you’re going to end up with a dessert that’s perfectly smooth with ZERO lumps of cream cheese is by letting it come to room temperature first. I let mine sit on the counter for at least 2 hours.
How to tell when a gooey butter cake is done.
Typically when baking a cake, you’d insert a toothpick and make sure it’s coming out mostly clean with a few moist crumbs attached. Since this cake it topped with a gooey cream cheese layer, that method won’t work. Instead, you want to bake it until the edges are a golden brown and the entire top of the cake has a crackly golden skin. The middle will still be very wobbly, but it will set up as the cake chills.
Chilling and serving the apple gooey butter cake.
Chilling this cake is essential for the cream cheese layer to set. It’s so hard not to dig right in, but trust me it’s worth the wait. Chill it in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving.
When ready to serve, let the cake set out on the counter for about 30 minutes to come to room temperature. You could also pop it in the microwave for 10-12 seconds and serve it warm! Then dust the top with powdered sugar and slice into 8 pieces. For clean cuts, make sure to wipe off your knife in between!
Tools & Equipment
- Stand or Hand Mixer. I used my hand mixer for both the cake layer and the caramel cream cheese layer. But feel free to use your stand mixer if you prefer.
- Springform pan. I like to bake this cake in a 9″ springform pan. It makes it super easy to remove the cake from the pan for serving. If you don’t have a springform, you could also bake this cake in a parchment lined 9″ round or square baking pan. Just be sure to leave an overhang of parchment so that you can easily lift the cake out once it has chilled.
- Rubber Spatula. Is it weird to be obsessed with a kitchen tool? Regardless, I love me a rubber spatula. I like the standard sized ones for doing a final mix on cake batters and cookie doughs, and the mini ones for stirring caramel, spreading batter into pans, and melting chocolates.
A ooey gooey dessert mashup of cinnamon apple cake and caramel cheesecake that’s rich and indulgent and SO delicious!
For the Cinnamon Apple Cake Layer
- 1 lb Thinly Sliced Apples, (about 2 medium sized honey crisps and 3 small granny smiths)
- 10 TBSP Salted Butter, divided
- 1/8 tsp Allspice
- 1/8 tsp Ground Cloves
- 1 tsp Cinnamon
- 2 TBSP Light Brown Sugar
- 1/2 C + 2 TBSP (130 g) Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Salt
- 1 1/3 C (150 g) All Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Baking Powder
- 2 Lg Eggs, at room temperature
- 1 tsp Pure Vanilla Extract
For the Caramel Cream Cheese Layer
- 8 oz (1 Block) Full Fat Cream Cheese, at room temperature
- 1 Lg Egg, at room temperature
- 3 C (350 g) Powdered Sugar + more for dusting
- 1/3 C Salted Caramel Sauce (*homemade or store bought is fine. My salted caramel recipe can be found here.)
- Core your apples and slice them to 1/8″ thick slices. Once sliced, you should have 1 lb of apples. Place them into a bowl with 2 TBSP of sugar and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Cover and place in the fridge for 1 hour. After an hour, remove from the fridge and drain off the excess liquid.
- Preheat the oven to 350 and line a 9″ springform pan with parchment paper and spray with non stick spray.
- In a large skillet, melt 2 TBSP of the butter. Add the brown sugar, allspice, ground cloves, and cinnamon. Whisk until butter is melted and sugar is dissolved.
- Add the apples and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until tender. Let cool for 10 minutes.
- Melt the remaining 8 TBSP of butter and add it to a large mixing bowl with the granulated sugar. Use a hand whisk to combine.
- Add the eggs and vanilla and whisk until the eggs are fully incorporated.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and fold until just combined with a few streaks of flour remaining.
- Add in the slightly cooled apples and fold until combined and no flour streaks remain.
- Pour the cake batter into the prepared pan, spread into an even layer, and prepare the cream cheese layer.
- In a medium mixing bowl use a hand mixer to whip the cream cheese until smooth. Add the egg and mix to combine. Be sure to scrape down the bottom and sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add the powdered sugar 1/2 at a time, mixing for 2 minutes after each addition or until smooth.
- Add the salted caramel sauce and mix to combine.
- Pour the caramel cream cheese mixture onto the apple cake batter and use a small offset spatula to spread it into an even layer.
- Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. It will still be wobbly in the center, but as long as the edges are golden and the top has a crackly skin, it’s done.
- Let cool on the counter for 10-15 minutes, then place in the fridge to chill for at least 2 hours to allow the cream cheese layer to set.
- When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar and slice into 8 pieces.
- Keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Keywords: gooey butter cake, gooey butter cake recipe, caramel apple gooey butter cake, gooey cake
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