Toffee Apple Cake Recipe
With a crisp dough base, halved apples and delicious walnuts, all topped with a layer of delicious toffee, this cake will be a hit with anyone who has a sweet tooth. It may not look so pretty, but the taste is incredible! It's based on a traditional French style recipe, where caramel is made in a pan first, then fruit is placed on top and covered with a dough.
This super-sweet toffee apple cake is best eaten warm, within a couple of days of being made. Sugar likes water and will pull moisture into itself, which makes the toffee soft and runny within a day or so.
Toffee Fun Facts
- The word "toffee" first appears in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1825.
- Toffee can be soft, or very hard and brittle.
- Hard, brittle toffee is 99% sugar, but soft caramel candy is only 87% sugar.
- Toffee is heated to the hard crack stage in candy making (about 150°C / 300°F).
- Red toffee apples were first made in Newark (US) in 1908.
But I Like a Softer Caramel!
If you prefer a softer, creamier caramel candy rather than a hard toffee:
- Melt white sugar in 4-5 tablespoons of butter.
- Heat on a lower heat, for a shorter time than for making the hard toffee.
If you want a pure caramel sauce, such as the type used in creme brulee:
- Don't use any butter.
- Heat to a higher temperature (170°C / 335°F), stirring less often to avoid the sugar forming solid lumps.
Which Sugar and How Hot?
The type of sugar and the amount of heat applied as it is melted, will change the flavor of the toffee/caramel.
- White sugar: a clean caramel taste.
- Brown sugar: a dark treacle flavored toffee.
- Longer, higher heat: smokey and slightly bitter flavor.
- Shorter, lower heat: a lighter, softer caramel.
Recommended: For a less sweet apple cake that looks stunning as a celebration cake, try my apple bundt cake that is smothered in a rich rum glaze. This has the overwhelming approval of the non-sweet-tooth members of my family!
- 340g / 2.6 cups plain flour
- 120g / 0.6 cups icing sugar, (powder sugar)
- 75g / 0.6 cups ground almonds
- 270g / 1.1 cups cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or essence
- 3 teaspoon iced water
- 6-7 medium apples, (fewer for a smaller tin)
- 2 handfuls sultanas
- 2 handfuls walnuts
- 30g / 2 Tablespoons butter
- 400g / 2 cups sugar, (raw or brown)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- Prepare the dough: Blend dry ingredients, rub in cold butter, tip in a little cold water and vanilla essence.
- Prepare the filling: Peel, halve and core apples; chop half of the walnuts.
- Prepare the tin: Double line and butter the cake tin.
- Make the toffee: Melt sugar in a little butter, add a little vanilla essence. Stir continuously!
- Assemble the cake: Tip toffee into tin, sprinkle chopped walnuts over the toffee, place apple halves, sultanas and whole walnuts to cover toffee. Then flatten pieces of dough to cover cake.
- Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Invert (carefully) while still hot onto a plate with a rim.
- Decorate and/or serve warm.
Making the toffee should be the last step before assembling the cake and baking.
The toffee needs constant attention and stirring as the sugar melts, and you want to be able to add the chopped nuts as soon as you've poured the toffee into the prepared tin.
Make the Dough
- Whiz the flour, sugar and ground almonds together in a food processor, or mix with a balloon whisk.
- Add the cold butter chunks to the food processor and process until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. If working by hand, rub the butter into the flour mixture.
Note: the butter must be very cold, or the dough will not come together easily.
- Add the vanilla paste or essence, and the iced water a little at a time. Process until the dough forms a rough ball. If the butter was too warm, you will need to tip the dough out of the food processor and form the ball with your hands.
- Set the dough ball aside.
Prepare the Filling and the Tin
- Prepare the apples—peel them, cut them into halves, and dig the apple core out with a knife or the tip of the peeler.
Tip: A smaller cake tin will need fewer apples. There should be enough apple halves to fill the cake tin in one layer.
- Sprinkle the apple halves with a little lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Then set the apples aside.
- Chop one handful of walnuts, then set these aside. Keep the other handful of walnuts whole.
- Prepare the cake tin—double line the tin with paper, buttering each layer.
Note: If using a spring-form or tart tin with a removable base, make sure the lining paper is 1cm above the gap in the bottom of the tin. If there is any gap, the toffee/caramel will leak!
Make the Toffee
Be careful—hot, melted sugar can burn skin!
- Wear long sleeves and an apron to prevent splattered hot sugar from touching skin.
- Have cold water on standby in case a splatter does reach your skin.
- Use oven mitts when pouring the melted toffee and handing the tin.
- Wear glasses, if you have them, to protect your eyes.
- Use a strong, deep frying pan or saucepan.
Avoid using a candy thermometer—if it breaks, your pan, the thermometer and the toffee are all unusable. Better to use your eyes and nose.
Tip: Use a metal spoon—melting sugar will clump and stick to a wooden spoon and can melt plastic, Teflon or silicone utensils.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large, solid frying pan, tip to evenly coat the entire pan.
- When the butter starts to bubble, pour in the sugar.
- Stir evenly, slowly and constantly. Watch carefully; the toffee can burn quickly.
- When the sugar starts to melt, tip the vanilla essence in carefully—it will hiss, splatter and cause lumps to form. Break these lumps apart, and keep stirring!
- When toffee has fully melted, and just as a little smoke appears, tip the toffee into the prepared cake tin—be careful, it is extremely hot!
Assemble, Bake and Serve
- Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the hot toffee in the cake tin.
- Place the apple halves with their cut sides facing up.
- Put a few sultanas and a whole walnut or two into the middle of each apple half.
- Break off pieces of the dough. Flatten each piece and lay over the apples. Cover the apples completely with flattened pieces of dough.
- Fill any gaps or valleys with leftover bits of dough.
- Use oven mitts and put the cake tin in an oven, preheated to 180°C / 350°F.
- Cook for about 40 minutes or until the dough is golden brown.
- Take the cake out of the oven. Let the cake cool in the tin for about 5 minutes.
- While it is still hot, turn the cake onto a large plate that has a raised lip, being very careful not to burn yourself. The toffee/caramel will run and make a mess!
Serve the toffee apple cake warm with ice cream or cream.
Eat within 1-2 days of baking, before the toffee and the dough becomes soft and moist.
- Add cinnamon and nutmeg to the dough, or sprinkle over the apples.
- Apples, cranberry and hazelnuts, with hazelnut meal in the dough.
- Apples, dried apricots and macadamias, with macadamia liqueur instead of vanilla essence in the dough.
- Pears and pistachios, with a touch of ground cardamom in the dough, or sprinkled over the pears.
- Nashi pears and almonds, with a little almond essence in the dough.
- A double layer of baking plums as the fruit filling, and rum instead of vanilla in the dough, with or without nuts and dried fruits.
- Use flavored sugars for the toffee/caramel such as lavender or rose sugar.
- Shortcrust pastry or puff pastry can be used to replace the base.