Chocolate and caramel never looked so good! This chocolate caramel apple cake is the best of chocolate and salted caramel with a homemade caramel apple on top! This recipe yields 3- 6” cake layers or 2- 8” cake layers.
Preheat the oven at 350 F.
In a stand mixer bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Mix with a whisk to combine and sift all the ingredients together.
In a medium bowl, mix together the vegetable oil, sour cream, vanilla and eggs. Whisk the wet ingredients together.
In the stand mixer, stir on low and begin to mix the dry ingredients then slowly add the wet ingredients. The mixture will be lumpy but it will slowly mix into a smooth batter.
Next slowly add the sparkling water to the batter. Stop frequently to scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure everything gets incorporated.
Finally add the white vinegar to the batter. Be careful to not over mix the batter after the vinegar has been added. Scrape down the sides of the bowl until all is combined. The batter should be smooth and its ready to pour into cake pans.
For cake, use cooking spray and parchment paper to line the bottom of the pan. Then fill each pan ½ way up the sides. One batch of this recipe is enough for 3 - 6” cake pans or 2- 8” cake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes, check with a toothpick and check to see if it comes out clean.
In a small pot, bring heavy cream and butter up to a simmer and set aside.
While the heavy cream and butter are heating up, add granulated sugar to a medium heavy bottom pot. Then heat the sugar on medium to 320 degrees F or until a deep amber color.
Gently whisk in the hot heavy cream and butter mixture to the deep amber sugar. Add small amounts in at a time and whisk it constantly.
Then add the salt and whisk it to make it shiny and creamy. Pour into a glass bowl or jar to cool to room temperature.
Place the egg whites and sugar in the bowl of stand mixer and set over a pot of gently simmering water. Stir with a spatula until the sugar has dissolved and is warmed to the touch, about 160°F. When you touch it with your fingers, it should feel completely smooth and not gritty.
Immediately transfer bowl to a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. On high speed, whip until glossy and stiff, about 15 minutes.
Lower the speed to medium. Add the cut butter, piece by piece, incorporating each before adding more. Lower the speed and mix until silky and smooth. (It will look runny while adding butter and then it will come back together, nice & fluffy.)
It will look like fresh whipped butter when completed, its ready to add vanilla extract.
To make the caramel buttercream filling: take 1½ cups of the buttercream and place it into a mixing bowl and mix ½ cup of the cooled caramel sauce into the buttercream. Mix until combined and place into the refrigerator to chill for 30 minutes.
Scoop the remaining vanilla swiss buttercream into a mixing bowl and then place it into the refrigerator to set up.
After 30 mins, take the buttercreams out and they are ready to use to fill and decorate the cake.
First, cut the tops of the chocolate cakes to make them flat and level. (You can save the extra cake crumbs and make them into delicious cake pops, check out “How to Make Perfect Cake Pops.”)
Begin to stack the cake layers onto your base, start with a small amount of buttercream to secure the cake to the base. Note: the base can be a cardboard round, a cake stand or whatever you would like the cake to sit on. Then place the chocolate cake layer in the middle of the base.
For filling the layers, add the caramel buttercream to cake and use an offset spatula to flatten and smooth out the buttercream. Then drizzle the caramel sauce and sea salt on top of the caramel buttercream. Place another cake layer on top of the caramel buttercream. Repeat this process until you have 3 layers of cake.
Next, smooth out the caramel buttercream on the sides of the cake. Then crumb coat the cake with a thin layer of vanilla buttercream. (This helps prevents getting chocolate crumbs into the final layer of buttercream). Once the crumb coat is done then chill the it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or until its cold and set.
Once the cake is chilled then add the final layer of the vanilla buttercream to top and sides of the cake. Use an offset spatula or bench scraper to smooth out the edges of the cake.
Next drip the caramel sauce down the sides of the cake. The caramel sauce consistency should be like corn syrup if the sauce is to cold then quickly microwave it for 10 second increments until its the right consistency. Fill in the top of the cake as well.
For the caramel apple, dip a granny smith apple into a small bowl of the slightly warm caramel sauce. If the apple doesn't have a stem use a skewer to carefully dip the apple into the caramel sauce. Carefully hold the apple above the bowl to drip and remove any excess.
Finally carefully place the apple on top of the cake and enjoy!