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Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting – vanilla cake made with maple syrup, apple butter, and spiced apple cider. Each fluffy, sweet layer of cake is frosted with a rich, fudgy, chocolate frosting. A sweet and creamy layer of icing is then added with notes of caramel mixed throughout. Sooo much to love here! Every layer has the best apple flavor and just the right amount of chocolate and caramel. Kind of like a caramel apple cake!

Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting | halfbakedharvest.com

I just love an “old fashioned” style dessert. They’re the ones our grandmas would make. Something about an old-school recipe feels a little more special.

And while this cake isn’t probably the most old fashioned one out there, it has some elements to it that make it “old fashioned”.

Regardless, I love it, and it’s the perfect fall apple cake to celebrate the season!

Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting | halfbakedharvest.com

Here are the details, start with the cake

Start with the apple butter cake. I used my favorite butter cake recipe, but replaced the brown sugar with maple, added apple butter, and replaced the buttermilk with my favorite spiced apple cider. Thanks to the apple butter and apple cider there is so much apple flavor shining through.

Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting | halfbakedharvest.com

Start by beating together the wet ingredients: butter, sugar, vanilla, apple butter, and eggs. Then, add the dry: flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Lastly, beat in the apple cider. Then bake away.

While I love my original butter cake recipe, I actually love this cake more. The flavor is so warming, rich, and sweet, but not too sweet. The notes of cinnamon and apple are so nice.

Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting | halfbakedharvest.com

The chocolate frosting

While the cake is cooling, you can start making the chocolate fudge frosting. Now, this really IS old school. It’s simply just melted chocolate chips and sour cream. I also added espresso powder, which really highlights the chocolate.

For having just three ingredients, this is the most magical frosting. Very creamy, rich, and fudgy. And I love that it’s not too sweet.

Spread the frosting over one layer of the cake. Add the top layer, then chill the cake while you make the brown sugar caramel icing.

Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting | halfbakedharvest.com

The brown sugar icing

Butter, brown sugar, and milk, are boiled down into a “caramel” before being whipped with powdered sugar.

When melted down, the brown sugar adds hints of warm molasses and really deepens the flavor to create an icing that’s perfectly rich and caramel-like. And when you add a touch of vanilla – so good. I highly recommend using more icing than you think your cake needs.

Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting | halfbakedharvest.com

Be sure to pour over the icing while it’s still warm, once it cools it will stiffen up.

This last step is optional but so good, the caramel brulée candy. Simply melt granulated sugar on the stove until it turns deep caramel in color, then spread the caramel out over a piece of parchment paper.

Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting | halfbakedharvest.com

Let sit for a few minutes and let the caramel harden. It can then be easily smashed into small shards for sprinkling over the cake.

This cake is delicious. Each bite is filled with sweet spiced apple, chocolate, and caramel. The best kind of autumn cake!

Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting | halfbakedharvest.com

Looking for other fall sweets? Here are a few ideas: 

Chocolate Chunk Chai Banana Bread

Vanilla Chai Pumpkin Cupcakes

Chai Spiced Maple Sugar Cookies with Browned Butter Frosting

Cinnamon Sugar Swirled Apple Butter Brea

Apple Cinnamon Rolls with Brown Butter Maple Icing

Lastly, if you make this Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings: 10
Calories Per Serving: 1286 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Ingredients

Chocolate Frosting

Brown Sugar Caramel Icing

Instructions

  • 1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Butter 2 (8-inch) round cake pans and line with parchment paper. 
    2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla and apple butter, beating until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until combined. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Stream in the apple cider, beating until just combined. Pour the batter among the 2 cake pans.
    3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the center is just set. Let cool 5-10 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert the cake onto a plate, flip it back over onto a serving plate. Let cool.
    4. To make the chocolate frosting. Microwave the chocolate chips and a pinch of salt, stirring every 45 seconds, until melted. Stir in the sour cream and espresso, a dollop at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Swirl the frosting onto the top of the cake. Place the second cake layer on top. Run a knife around the side of the cake to clean up any frosting. Chill while you make the brown sugar frosting.
    5. To make the brown sugar icing. Melt together the butter, brown sugar, and cream in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Add a pinch of salt. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the powdered sugar vanilla. Beat until well combined. The icing should be glossy and pourable.
    6. Pour the icing over the cake, spreading around the sides of the cake too. The frosting will set quickly on the cake. If desired top with caramel pieces and/or sea salt. Slice, eat, and enjoy!!

Notes

Caramel Brulée: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium pot, cook 3/4 cup sugar over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a heat-proof spatula until the sugar has melted and turns a golden caramel, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and carefully pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet. Spread in a thin, even layer and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Let sit 5 minutes. Once hardened, crush the caramel into small pieces/shards with the back of a spoon.
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Old Fashioned Caramel Apple Butter Cake with Chocolate Frosting | halfbakedharvest.com

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Comments

  1. The cake was absolutely delicious but it was a little crumbly on top and when I poured the icing the whole side just slowly fell into a clump. I just cut that part off and turned to the pretty side and it was still delicious but the cake just wasn’t strong enough to hold that heavy icing.

    1. Hi Anna,
      Happy Wednesday! I really appreciate you making this recipe and sharing your review, so glad it was a winner! 🤩 So sorry to hear about the side that fell!

  2. This cake turned out fabulous! I wanted to try this for my sons birthday but was a bit nervous based on the 50/50 reviews but it was excellent. I used a 1/2 c apple butter and the 1/2 tsp baking soda. Definitely not too much liquid. Also not dense. I’m in the NE and didn’t make any other adjustments except that I made a apple cinnamon spice buttercream for the middle layer. Everyone loved this and my husband said it was the best cake I’ve made so far.

    1. Hey Melissas,
      Happy Wednesday!!👻 I truly appreciate you giving this recipe a try and sharing your feedback, I love to hear that it was enjoyed:) Thanks for sharing what worked well for you and happy birthday to your son! xx

  3. 5 stars
    Followed recipe as is, and it totally worked out. I like the idea of apple butter in the middle as an option instead of chocolate (Susanne from Seattle below made that suggestion – but I did not read further so maybe the suggestion originally came from Tieghan.) – because I have a few family members who avoid chocolate after dinner. I might try that next time, because I will be making this again for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Thanks for this great recipe, Tieghan!

    1. Hey Becky,
      Awesome!! Thanks so much for making this recipe and sharing your feedback, I am thrilled to hear that it was enjoyed! xx

  4. 4 stars
    The cake turned out perfect and I made the recipe just as the recipe was written. The frosting is the most amazing thing that you have ever made. Personally I don’t think the chocolate added much to the cake. Next time I will just put the frosting in the middle. The frosting recipe makes a lot of frosting and there was plenty left over to put into the middle of the cake.

    1. Hey Kim,
      Happy Monday!! I am delighted to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks so much for giving it a try!🍁 xxT

  5. 5 stars
    I am so glad that I didn’t let the negative reviews scare me away from this recipe! The cake is marvelous. I did make some changes after reading reviews that I think helped with taste/texture:

    1. Subbed applesauce for apple butter b/c apple butter is so darn pricey
    2. Used 1/2 cup (rather than 2/3) applesauce
    3. Used 1 tsp (rather than 1/2) of baking soda
    4. Baked for 40 minutes. The cake wasn’t nearly ready at 30 minutes
    5. Replaced chocolate filling with leftover applesauce b/c I wanted a big apple flavor
    6. Let the brown sugar frosting cool/harden before frosting

    That might seem like a lot of changes but they are all very minor. The cake was so moist and delicious with nice, big apple flavor. The frosting compliments the whole thing perfectly.

    We can always count on HBH recipes to be a hit. I’m so grateful to Tieghan for sharing her excellent recipes with us. Thank you from this hungry, big eatin’, food lovin’ family of 4!!

    1. Hi Kathy,
      Happy Sunday!!🎃 I truly appreciate you making this recipe and sharing your feedback, I am so glad to hear it was enjoyed! Thanks so much for your kind message and giving great tips for others to use! 🤍 Tieghan

  6. 5 stars
    I made this cake yesterday for my husband’s birthday. I followed the suggestion of decreasing the apple butter to 1/2 cup, and increased the baking soda to 3/4 tsp. It came out GREAT! I live in Seattle, so pretty much at sea level. The cake was delicious and moist but not wet, and that frosting was amazing. I skipped the brulee and also skipped the chocolate frosting. I just didn’t think chocolate would go well with the rest of the flavors, but I could be totally wrong about that. I wanted more apple, so I used the rest of the apple butter in between the layers instead. It gave it that extra tart flavor I wanted. My whole family loved it! Thanks, Tieghan!

    1. Hey Susanne,
      Fantastic!! So glad to hear that you enjoyed this recipe, thanks so much for trying it out! Thanks for sharing what worked well for you!🎃 Have a great weekend! xx

    1. Hi Kim,
      It will be cooled slightly from the mixing bowl, it should be thick and pourable, but not too cool. I hope this helps! xTieghan

  7. 2 stars
    I wish I had read the comments before trying this cake. I had similar issues as others. The 1.5 cups of apple cider seemed excessive but I trusted Half-Bake Harvest’s recipes in the past. The cake is very dense, heavy, and cracked on top (something I’ve not seen before) and reminded me of tres leches cake. The biggest problem I had was the caramel frosting. Despite the cake being cold when assembled, the heat of the frosting made it impossible to frost the sides of the cake. The frosting slide down the sides and started to melt the chocolate frosting in the middle. I tossed the whole thing in the fridge to cool down and was able to get the sides to work but the chocolate was swirled in. The top had already set so it wasn’t the prettiest. I’m an avid hobby baker and made it look ok, but for those inexperienced, this could have been a huge disaster. The cake recipe definitely needs to be tweaked. I didn’t love the chocolate apple combo and wish I had put homemade apple compote in between the layers. Two stars because despite the caramel frosting needing to be cooler, it was very tasty. I was able to salvage the cake it but this recipe is for more advanced bakers and shouldn’t be used as it is currently written.

    1. Hi Karri,
      Thanks so much for giving this cake a try and sharing your feedback! Like I mentioned to some other readers, I really do know where the issues are happening. I re-read the recipe several times and all of the instructions are correct. So sorry for the trouble! xT

      1. I wonder if the moisture issues have to do with altitude? I live in Denver, spend a lot of time in Summit County, and always have to add more wet ingredients to baked goods. Maybe apple products are acting different than like traditional water/oil/buttermilk, and maybe folks at lower altitude are having more trouble?

        I’m gonna make this cake today, because it sounds delicious!!! But maybe I’ll test my theory and leave the proportions as recommended rather than doing what I usually do and adding extra moisture.

        Regardless, thanks Tieghan for offering so much deliciousness into the world!

        1. Could be! I think reducing the apple butter to 1/2 cup should help those with the moisture issue. Let me know how the cake turns out, I hope you love it:)

    2. My mom had a similar issue! It had cracked and then basically fell apart so my dad had to hold it together while she basically made a foil belt wrapped around it to hold it together. She’s been baking since she was 8 and had said she’s never seen that happen before. It was still delicious though and we still ate it all haha

  8. 5 stars
    Read the recipe and through the reviews –> some of the reviews are a little tough, and I’d like to gently remind that Tieghan is human, this is her place of work, and to lead with empathy when providing feedback. There are constructive ways to approach critiquing.

    For the cake: I took the suggestions of adding baking soda and reducing the apple butter (store bought); in addition, I also reduced the amount of cider (store bought). The cakes did not rise much when baked; however, they were moist without being too wet.

    Chocolate frosting: Sour cream can taste different across brands, and because of it’s tanginess I opted to make a chocolate buttercream frosting instead from another recipe.

    General review: With the suggested substitutions (thank you for providing!) and making a couple of my own, this cake when assembled was DELIGHTFUL. I served it at a dinner party last weekend, and it was well received + it’s also great alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Excited to use the leftover frosting + icing for some cupcakes!

    1. Hey Alida,
      Thanks so much for your kind message and giving this cake a try! I appreciate you sharing your feedback and the things that worked well for you, I am sure this will be helpful for other readers who want to give this cake a try! Thanks again for giving it a go!🎃 xTieghan

  9. I read the comments but I was still determined to make this cake- I did have to continue adding 5 min to bake time. One layer was ready after 35 minutes and the other was good after 40 minutes. I used an extra 1/2 tsp of baking soda and only 1/2 cup of apple butter as suggested. I think one big difference is I made my own apple butter and let it cook down to a very thick consistency and I think that made all the difference.

    1. Hey Amanda,
      Amazing!! I love to hear that this recipe was a hit, thanks so much for trying it out! Thanks for sharing your feedback and what worked well for you! xT🍂

  10. 5 stars
    Made this today, followed directions exactly ( even made the apple butter earlier in the week ) it turned out perfect. I couldn’t resist a piece ! Had a friend over she loved it. The apple pairs perfect with the icing ! It’s thick and warm ! Perfect fall flavours!

    1. Hi Katie,
      Perfect!! I am so glad this cake worked well for you, thanks so much for making it and sharing your review:) Happy Monday! 🎃

  11. 5 stars
    I almost didn’t try this recipe because of the issues people were having with the consistency of the cake in many of the comments. I tried the suggestion to add a 1/2 tsp baking soda and cut the apple butter in half and it came out perfect. It was delicious!

    1. Hey Wendy,
      Fantastic! Thanks so much for giving this cake a try and sharing what worked well for you:) So glad to hear it was enjoyed! xTieghan

  12. 4 stars
    Teighan,
    The flavors were so good! Sadly mine turned out poorly, with too much moisture. I am wondering if the 1 1/2 cups of apple cider was suppose to be boiled down to 1/2 cup like in your baked donut recipe. I think less liquid would help the end result, but I am no expert.

    1. Hey Olivia,
      Thanks so much for trying this recipe and sharing your feedback! Sorry about the liquid, I would reduce the apple butter to 1/2 cup. I hope this helps for next time! xx

  13. 4 stars
    Made this cake for my thanksgiving dinner this weekend (Canada) and it was a huge hit! Was fun to make/came together beautifully and everyone loved it. The only reason I didn’t give 5 stars is because it was very sweet for my taste but that can always be adjusted. Look forward to trying more recipes !

    1. Hey Chantelle,
      Happy Monday!🎃 I am thrilled to hear that this recipe was tasty for you, thanks a bunch for making it! xx

  14. Unfortunately should have read the comments first, this cake did not turn out for me either. Too much liquid. Even thought it looked like too much liquid so added another 1/2 cup of flour. Should have added another whole cup and maybe it would have worked.
    Back to the drawing board folks.

    1. Hi Jean,
      Thanks so much for making this cake and sharing your review, so sorry to hear it was not enjoyed! I think reducing the apple butter to 1/2 cup would have helped! Have a great Sunday! xx