Brown sugar buttermilk layer cake smothered in apples cooked in brown sugar syrup and finished with a drizzle of the easiest vanilla bean caramel sauce

While I was off celebrating a family wedding this weekend and pretending not to have internet (don’t lie – we all have those days), something pretty big happened around here: This little blog turned 3 years old!
Yep, that’s right. Stephie Cooks – originally Eat Your Heart Out – is a toddler! Which is only fitting, considering that on Sunday our 19-month-old niece and I both spilled food down ourselves at lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon running around with stains on our shirts. Forever young?
Now is the point in this post where I thank all you for being loyal readers. It probably sounds cliche and dorky when you read that on sites celebrating their blogiversaries, but believe me – we mean every word of it. Think about it – without our lovely readers, us bloggers would just be babbling into the void. Which, while interesting, would also make us a little crazy. Thank you for justifying my babbling and making me less of a crazy person.

When I thought about what I wanted to do for this year’s blog birthday, I immediately decided that a layer cake was in order. Why? Because cake, of course. To celebrate the arrival of scarf-wearing-weather, I went with a Caramel Apple Layer Cake – a basic buttermilk layer cake made a bit richer with the inclusion of brown sugar instead of white, layered with apples cooked in a brown sugar syrup and topped with a dollop of whipped cream and drizzles of the easiest Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce that you ever did make.

Actually, can we talk Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce for a hot second? Making *real* caramel sauce is a bit time consuming and kind of a pain; when you’re making a cake, too, do you really want to go through all of that? Hint: I do not. So I found a method from The Pioneer Woman that essentially lets you throw everything into the pot at once and cook it for hardly any time at all. It’s absolutely a cheater’s version of caramel, and I don’t care: it’s fan-flipping-tastic. Forego the cake if you want – if you do nothing else, make this caramel. Puh-leeeeease. And then please comment and tell me that you ate it straight from the spoon in front of your fridge late at night. I need to know that I’m not alone.
So, in conclusion: I love you, you’re amazing, let’s eat some Caramel Apple Layer Cake for all the birthdays (virtual and otherwise).


For the Easy Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce:
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup half-and-half
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • Pinch of salt
  • For the cake:
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2½ cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For the apple filling/topping:
  • 4½ tablespoons corn starch
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 4 cups peeled, very thinly sliced apples
  • Pinch of salt

Make the Easy Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce:
  1. Cut the vanilla bean in half and use your knife to scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds and the pod to a medium saucepan. Add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat slightly and boil for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until sauce is slightly thickened. Allow to cool before storing in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Reheat for a minute in the microwave before using.

Make the cake:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8-inch cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment. Set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add in the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.
  3. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a measuring cup, combine the buttermilk and vanilla.
  4. Slowly add ¼ of the flour to the butter-sugar mixture, then ⅓ of the milk. Continue until all of the buttermilk and flour is added, ending with the flour. Mix just until combined.
  5. Divide batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Allow to cool for 20 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto a cooling rack and allow to finish cooling completely.

Make the apple filling/topping:
  1. In a saucepan, whisk together the corn starch, brown sugar and milk until smooth. Add the butter. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly. Add the apples and cook over medium-low heat just until the apples soften.
  2. Allow apple filling to cool slightly before using. Syrup will thicken slightly as it cools.

Assemble the cake:
  1. Place one of the cake layers on a cake plate (one with a lip does best for this messy cake). Spoon about half of the apples over the cake, spreading evenly. Place the second layer on top, and top with the remaining apples, spooning them more onto the center of the cake. Top with as much of the syrup as you like.
  2. Serve cake with the Easy Vanilla Bean Caramel Sauce and lightly whipped cream.