Caramel Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze (Feeds a Crowd!)

Caramel Apple Cake is a sweet, moist, fall sheet cake loaded with tender apples and topped with a gooey caramel glaze…perfect for feeding a crowd!

Caramel Apple Cake with text overlay.


 

If you enjoy caramel treats, you'll also love Caramel Croissant Bread Pudding, Caramel Coffee Creamer, and Caramel Apple Cheesecake Dip!

I have a quick question for y'all...do you prefer pumpkin desserts or apple desserts this time of year? I'd have to say that myself and my household are pretty evenly split. We love them both! I do feel like there are certain months -- namely, September through November -- that I'll bake with pumpkin. Apple, on the other hand, I deem to be acceptable year-round.

So lucky for me...and for you...and for ALL of us...this Caramel Apple Cake is perfect for these cool, crisp, "official" months of autumn! But it's equally delicious if you get a hankering for apple cake come June.

Slice of Caramel Apple Cake on plate.

Sweet, Moist, & Decadent

Like all true Texas sheet cakes, this Caramel Apple Cake is made in a big ol' sheet pan, resulting in a giant -- albeit thin -- cake.

Texas sheet cakes are also known for being pretty darn sweet, so that means the odds are good that a small slice of cake'll do you.

And I bet we can all do the math that a big cake cut into small slices equals a whole bunch of servings.

(As a small aside, no need to comment or e-mail me saying that this Caramel Apple Cake recipe is too sweet. It's a Texas sheet cake, world renowned for being sweet. Small slices are encouraged. Please plan accordingly -- ha.)

Aerial view of Caramel Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze.

My Lemon Texas Sheet Cake is so popular through the spring and summer that I decided it only made sense to branch into fall sheet cakes.

And as I always do for my sheet cake variations, I adapted today's Caramel Apple Cake from my beloved white Texas sheet cake recipe...except I reduced the amount of batter just a bit to allow for all of those yummy apple chunks without overflowing the pan.

Ingredients

Labeled ingredients to make apple caramel cake.

For the Caramel Apple Cake

  • Butter. You may use salted or unsalted butter...whatever you prefer or have on hand will work fine.
  • Water. Seems weird to stir water into melted butter, I know, but such is the way of a Texas sheet cake.
  • Flour. All-purpose.
  • Sugar. Granulated.
  • Cinnamon. The perfect complement to apples!
  • Sour cream. For richness and moisture.
  • Eggs. Tempered. Scroll down to the heading Tempering the Eggs for step-by-step directions if you're not sure how to do this. 🙂
  • Pure vanilla extract.
  • Baking soda + salt.
  • Apples. Peeled and diced. For the best texture and flavor, I recommend using Granny Smiths in this Caramel Apple Cake (or another tart, firm apple variety).
Caramel glaze in pot with whisk.

For the Caramel Glaze

The following ingredients combine for a sweet and decadent caramel glaze.

  • Butter.
  • Brown sugar.
  • Salt.
  • Half-and-half.
  • Powdered sugar.
  • Pure vanilla extract.
Caramel Apple Cake ready to serve as a fall sheet cake.

How to Make Caramel Apple Cake

(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)

If you've never made a Texas sheet cake, the method for combining the ingredients might seem odd...but I promise, it works. 😉

The key to avoiding lumps in the batter is quickly stirring in one ingredient at a time until smooth. I like to use a wooden spoon.

  1. With the rack set in the center position, preheat the oven and generously grease an 18- by 13- by 1-inch pan (commonly referred to a half sheet pan).
  2. In a large pot set set over medium heat, melt the butter.
  3. Add the water, increase the heat, and bring to a boil.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and briskly stir in the flour until smooth.
Melting butter for apple caramel cake recipe.
Whisking flour into pot.
  1. Stir in the sugar, the cinnamon, and finally the sour cream.
Stirring in additional ingredients to make apple cake with caramel glaze.
  1. Stir in the tempered eggs until fully incorporated, and then mix in the vanilla.
Batter for apple sheet cake recipe.
  1. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the top of the batter (make sure there are no lumps in the baking soda!) and stir them in until all ingredients are well combined.
Adding baking soda and salt.
  1. Fold in the diced apples.
  2. Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan and smooth the top.
Folding diced apples into batter for Caramel Apple Cake recipe.
Pouring batter into pan for apple sheet cake.
  1. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
  2. Set the cake pan on a wire rack to cool.
Caramel Apple Cake recipe fresh out of oven.

Making the Caramel Glaze

While the Caramel Apple Cake cools, you're going to make the glaze. 

  1. Set a medium pot over medium heat and add the butter, brown sugar, and salt.
Mixing ingredients in pot for apple cake caramel glaze.
  1. Stir over medium heat until smooth and melted, then bring to a boil, stirring frequently. 
  2. Remove the pot from the heat and carefully stir in the half-and half. 
Mixing glaze for Caramel Apple Cake.
  1. Return the pot to the heat and bring to another boil, stirring frequently.
  2. Remove the pot from the heat once more and stir in the sifted powdered sugar and the vanilla until smooth.
Stirring powdered sugar into caramel glaze.
  1. Pour the glaze over the top of the cake and immediately spread it into an even layer (an offset spatula makes this job easier).
Caramel Apple Cake in sheet pan.

The layer of glaze will be thin, but it’s sweet enough that a thin layer is all the cake needs.

Slice and enjoy!

Slice of caramel apple sheet cake on plate with sliced caramel sheet cake in pan.

I'm not kidding when I say this Caramel Apple Cake turns out suuuper moist. Texas sheet cakes are always moist, mind you, but the apples in this one make it even more so.

Close-up of Caramel Apple Cake showing caramel glaze.

Tempering the Eggs

Adding the sour cream considerably cools down the batter, but just to be safe, I like to temper the eggs. Tempering the eggs helps ensure that they won’t scramble/curdle when they hit the warm batter.

If you've never before tempered eggs, it's super simple!

  1. Start with room temperature eggs.
  2. Crack the eggs into a separate bowl.
  3. Whisk them thoroughly.
  4. Whisk a spoonful of the warm batter into the bowl of eggs until well combined.
  5. Gradually whisk additional spoonfuls of warm batter into the eggs until the temperature of the eggs turns warm.
  6. Scrape all of the tempered egg mixture back into the pot and quickly stir it into the batter.
Caramel Apple Cake cut into slices.

The Best Apples to Use

I recommend using firm, crunchy apples in this cake for the best texture (so they don't cook down into mush).

When I first developed this Caramel Apple Cake recipe, I had Pink Ladies on hand, so that's what I used and they worked beautifully.

However, I've since used a tarter variety of apple when making this cake (lookin' at you, Granny Smith), which helps counter the sweetness.

For a Salted Caramel Twist

And to further offset the sweetness of this Caramel Apple Cake with its caramel glaze, I'd highly recommend sprinkling each slice of cake with a few flakes of sea salt just before serving.

If you're into salted caramel, you will especially love this garnish.

But even if you're not, I think you'll agree that the contrast of sweet and salty adds a whole new flavor profile to this cake!

Close-up of Caramel Apple Cake with chunks of apple and caramel glaze.

So YAY for apple season! Caramel Apple Cake is a must-make fall dessert, ladies and gents...or any other season of the year that you're craving a decadent, addictive, apple dessert.

Hope you all ENJOY!

Helpful Tips, Tricks, & Equipment

  • I'm usually lazy about sifting powdered sugar. But for this recipe I recommend it, because if there are lumps in your powdered sugar, your glaze will also turn out lumpy. If you accidentally forget to sift though, you can simply pour your lumpy glaze onto the cake through a fine mesh sieve (to catch any lumps) and nobody will ever be the wiser. Ask me how I know... 🙂
  • As as alternative to the caramel glaze, you could instead frost this cake with cream cheese frosting, and even mix in 1 to 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, if you wish. Say hello to Apple Cinnamon Sheet Cake!
  • Cover any leftovers with plastic wrap (I prefer Press ‘n Seal). Pull the plastic wrap taut and store the cake in the refrigerator. If you want to increase the odds that the plastic wrap doesn’t stick to the glaze, use a few small, thin pieces of apple to garnish the top of the cake. This will provide a higher “layer” that the plastic wrap can rest on without touching the glaze.
Caramel Apple Cake recipe on plate and in sheet pan.

More Yummy Apple Treats

Caramel Apple Cake sliced in pan with caramel glaze and apple garnish.

Caramel Apple Cake with Caramel Glaze (Feeds a Crowd!)

Caramel Apple Cake is a sweet, moist, fall sheet cake loaded with tender apples and topped with gooey caramel glaze…perfect for feeding a crowd!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Servings: 24 servings
Calories: 315kcal
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Ingredients

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • 2 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 (small-to-medium) crunchy, tart apples (such as Granny Smiths), peeled & diced (for about 2 cups total)

FOR THE GLAZE:

  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • _
  • Flaked sea salt, optional garnish

Instructions

Make the Caramel Apple Cake:

  • Adjust the rack to the center position of the oven and preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a rimmed 18x13x1-inch half sheet pan with softened butter.
  • In a large pot set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the water, increase the heat, and bring to a boil.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and briskly stir in the flour until smooth, followed by completely stirring in the sugar, then the cinnamon, and finally the sour cream.
  • Temper the eggs (see NOTES below) and then quickly stir them into the batter until fully incorporated. Mix in the vanilla. Sprinkle the baking soda and salt over the top of the batter (make sure there are no lumps!) and stir them in until all ingredients are well combined. Fold in the diced apples.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared sheet pan and smooth the top. Bake for 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Set the cake pan on a wire rack to cool.

Make the Caramel Glaze:

  • While the cake cools, make the glaze. Place a medium pot over medium heat and add the butter, brown sugar, and salt. Stir over medium heat until smooth and melted, then bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
  • Remove the pot from the heat and carefully stir in the half-and half. Return the pot to the heat and bring to another boil, stirring frequently.
  • Remove the pot from the heat once more and stir in the sifted powdered sugar and the vanilla until smooth. Immediately pour the glaze over the cooling cake and spread into a thin, even layer.
  • Allow the glaze to set (at room temperature or uncovered in the refrigerator) before slicing. Sprinkle individual slices with flakes of salt before serving, if desired. Cover tightly and refrigerate any leftovers.

Video

Notes

  • This recipe is a variation of a Texas sheet cake, which are known for being sweet.
  • The pan used for this recipe measures 18- by 13- inches with a 1-inch rim, commonly referred to a half sheet pan.
  • You may use salted or unsalted butter in the cake and glaze...whatever you prefer or have on hand will work fine.
  • The key to avoiding lumps in the batter is quickly stirring in one ingredient at a time until smooth. I like to use a wooden spoon.
  • TO TEMPER EGGS: Crack room temperature eggs into a separate bowl. Whisk them thoroughly, and then whisk a spoonful of the warm batter into the bowl of eggs until well combined. Gradually whisk additional spoonfuls of warm batter into the eggs until the temperature of the eggs turns warm. Scrape all of the tempered egg mixture back into the pot and quickly stir it into the batter.
  • An offset spatula makes spreading the caramel glaze easier. The layer of glaze will be thin, but it’s sweet enough that it’s all the cake needs!
  • Cover any leftovers with plastic wrap (I prefer Press ‘n Seal). Pull the plastic wrap taut and store the cake in the refrigerator. If you want to increase the odds that the plastic wrap doesn’t stick to the glaze, use a few small, thin pieces of apple to garnish the top of the cake. This will provide a higher “layer” that the plastic wrap can rest on without touching the glaze.
  • Sifting the powdered sugar for the caramel glaze recommended. If there are lumps in your powdered sugar, your glaze will also turn out lumpy.

Nutrition

Calories: 315kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.5g | Cholesterol: 48mg | Sodium: 250mg | Potassium: 67mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 40g | Vitamin A: 416IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 1mg
Made this recipe? I'd love to see on IG!Mention @FiveHeartHome or tag #FiveHeartHome!

Post originally published on October 12, 2018, and updated on August 1, 2020, September 13, 2020, and October 10, 2023.

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Recipe Rating




12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I sent this caramel apple cake to the teacher's lounge at school last week and got several requests for the recipe! I'll be making it again soon for my own family.

      1. I think chopped nuts would be a great addition to this Caramel Apple Cake, Darlene! Just be careful not to add too many so that the batter doesn't overflow the pan. 😉

  2. 3 stars
    It was good but much too sugary. I halved the sugar in the cake and it was delicious. (my apples were more sweet than tart.) It would have been perfect alone. For the glaze I only omitted about a half cup of powdered sugar. It was still so sweet I almost couldn't eat it. I would suggest using half the powdered sugar. The dessert was really yummy, moist, and people still ate the whole thing because it was such a good cake.

    1. As explained in the post, Texas sheet cakes are definitely sweet, particularly if you use sweet apples. 🙂 I'm glad you were able to reduce the sugar to your liking!

    1. This batter is thicker than typical cake batter. But you should be able to pour it into the pan and then spread it/smooth it out with a spatula. If it was too thick to pour, there may have been an issue with your ingredient measurements, such as the flour could have been packed too tightly into your measuring cup? But I hope your cake turned out tasty despite the batter texture!

  3. 5 stars
    This Carmel Apple Cake is absolutely delicious!! My family loved it and either ate it here or took most of the rest home. I want to try it with your method of making the icing as I had the recipe on Pinterest on my phone and my husband took the phone with him. I had just written down the ingredients so I made the icing the usual way which was good but your way looked really yummy.

  4. This looks so yummy! Can this be made with gluten free all purpose flour? I want to make it so bad but I’m gluten free. Thanks

    1. Hi Sarah! I'm so sorry I can't give you an answer, but I have not tried making this recipe with gluten-free flour. My experience with GF flour is that it usually works in a cake, but it doesn't always rise as well or taste the same. That being said, please let us know how it turns out if you decide to give it a try! 🙂

  5. I’m so sorry because I know it totally goes against the fact that this is a “sheet “ cake recipe that you’ve no doubt worked hard to develop, but any thoughts on making it an 8” or 9” square or 13” x 9”? Your presentation and photography are absolutely gorgeous!!