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Gluten-Free Apple Cake (Dairy-Free)

Tender, moist, and absolutely loaded with autumn apples. This gluten-free and dairy-free apple cake is fabulously fall and fantastically delicious. The apple trees outside are bursting with bright juicy apples ready for the picking and I could think of no better way to use them up than with a sensational seasonal apple cake covered in dreamy whipped salted caramel buttercream frosting.


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An apple cake covered in salted caramel frosting with cinnamon specks. Caramel sauce is dripped over the top of the cake and buttercream swirls around the top of the cake.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Apple Cake

Three decadent moist layers of warm apple cake stacked high with the most glorious whipped salted caramel buttercream. The subtle autumn sweetness of the apples contrasts beautifully with the cozy salted caramel sauce mixed into the cinnamon-speckled frosting.

Topped with the remaining caramel sauce for a show-stopping golden drip and even more of that delectable frosting in mile-high swirls make this gluten-free and dairy-free apple cake pure cozy fall comfort in every single bite.

What Makes Up An Apple Cake

With a warm comforting combination of apples and cinnamon, this apple cake is made up of 3 different components:

  • Apple Cake Layers – moist oil-based apple cake layers loaded with sweet shredded autumn apples.
  • Salted Caramel Sauce/Drip – flavoring the buttercream, this salted caramel sauce is ridiculously easy and ridiculously delicious. The sauce is used to drip decadently over the cake for final decoration too.
  • Salted Caramel Frosting – whipped salted caramel buttercream with a touch of cinnamon makes this frosting spoon-licking scrumptious.

A slice of apple caramel cake sitting on a grey plate in front on the sliced cake. It has three warm brown layers of cake and light tan salted caramel buttercream between each layer.

Apple Cake Ingredients & Substitutions

As always this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free. That said, I do test each recipe with “regular” ingredients and make notes of alternatives or swaps so that everyone can enjoy it.

Here are a few key ingredients for this cake but make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom recipe card for the complete ingredient list.

  • Gluten-Free Flour: Check to see if your blend contains xanthan gum. This can also be swapped for regular cake flour if you are not gluten-free. Note that gluten-free flour blends can vary in weight so I recommend measuring by the cup. I made this cake with Kinnickinnik all-purpose baking mix. If you are not gluten-free, swap the flour with regular cake flour and omit the xanthan gum.
  • Dairy-Free ButterI enjoy baking with Becel plant-based bricks but any dairy-free butter substitute will work. You can also use regular butter if you are not dairy-free.
  • Dairy-Free Milk: I love to bake with unsweetened almond milk but this recipe will work with any type of dairy-free or dairy milk.
  • Oil: Use canola or vegetable oil for best results.
  • Apples: I used crisp tart granny smith apples for this cake but you can use whatever apple you prefer or have on hand. Make sure you peel them first before shredding them.
  • Applesauce: Homemade or storebought will do for applesauce. However, I used unsweetened but sweetened will work just fine too.
  • Cinnamon: Fresh is best, that’s at least my motto when it comes to spices. Make sure to swap out your spices every 2 years. While they may not go rancid, they certainly will lose their potency over time. Not a cinnamon fan, you can simply omit it.
  • Vanilla Extract: I will always encourage pure vanilla extract. It’s truly the best but with that said, artificial extract works as well in a pinch or on a budget.

An apple cake covered in salted caramel frosting with cinnamon specks. Caramel sauce is dripped over the top of the cake and buttercream swirls around the top of the cake.

The Easiest Oil-Based Apple Cake layers

These oil-based spice cake layers are as easy as they come. One bowl and a whisk are all you need to mix this batter up. And thanks to it being oil-based, they bake up so incredibly moist and flavorful.

Get started by mixing up the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, xanthan gum (if using), and salt in a bowl to combine and set aside. Next up, combine the oil, sugar, eggs, milk, applesauce, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and mix until smooth. Add in the dry ingredient mixture and combine.

With a spatula, gently fold the shredded apples into the cake batter and mix until just combined. Divide the batter between the prepared cake pans and you’re ready to bake these perfectly moist and perfectly delicious oil-based apple cake layers!

How To Make Dairy-Free Salted Caramel Sauce

Salted caramel sauce, while so darn tasty, is notorious for being fickle to make. It’s a fine line between perfectly golden caramel sauce and burned. I’ll walk you through this dairy-free salted caramel sauce to ensure you have success.

Here are a few tricks for dairy-free salted caramel sauce triumph:

  • First, make sure all the ingredients are measured, at room temperature, and ready to go before you start.
  • Swirl, never stir. This is key to preventing crystallization. The steam running down the pan will help dissolve any sugar crystals that may develop on the edge of the pot.
  • Keep an eye on it at all times. It can go from light to dark amber to burnt quickly.
  • Store salted caramel sauce in a heatproof airtight container. Note that once it cools to room temperature it may separate. Simply reheat and stir to combine again.

And always remember, slow and steady wins the salted caramel sauce game!

A slice of apple caramel cake sitting on a grey plate in front on the sliced cake. It has three warm brown layers of cake and light tan salted caramel buttercream between each layer. There is a bite taken out of the cake slice.

Apple Cake: Step By Step Instructions

Step 1: Mix the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and xanthan gum (if using) together and set aside.

Step 2: Mix together the oil, sugar, oil, eggs, milk, applesauce, and vanilla until fully combined and smooth.

Step 3: Combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix until just combined.

Step 4: Gently fold the shredded apples into the cake batter.

Step 5: Divide the cake batter into three 8-inch cake pans that have been prepared with baking spray and parchment paper and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes. Cool cakes on a cooling rack.

Step 6: Cream the butter in a mixer on high speed for 10 minutes until light and fluffy. Add in the icing sugar, salted caramel sauce, cinnamon, and salt, and mix until combined.

Cake Assembly Tips

Stacking a cake with a soft salted caramel frosting like this apple cake can feel daunting. But, as they say, slow and steady wins the race. Therefore, let’s set you up for cake success with a few tips and tricks.

Here are a few assembly tips:

  • Fully Cooled Cake Layers: even if a tiny bit warm, layers will slip when warm. Ensure that each cake layer is fully cooled if not even a bit chilled. I will even work with semi-frozen cake layers if I have to bake them a few days before stacking.
  • Leveled Cake Layers: flat and level cake layers will sit far easier than crooked ones. I use this super easy cake tool to ensure each cake layer is perfectly level.
  • Chilled Frosting/Cake: Salted caramel frosting can be quite soft simply due to the nature of the caramel sauce. If the frosting starts to feel too soft, stop what you are doing and place the buttercream and cake into the fridge to chill. Remember, don’t rush it. Take your time.

The inside picture of an apple cake showing three warm brown cake layers and tan salted carmael frosting between each cake layer.

How To Decorate An Apple Cake

“As you desire” is often how I refer to cake decoration. It’s not that I don’t want you to make the exact same cake as I did, it’s simply that I don’t want you to feel like you *have* to make the exact same cake. We all have an inner cake artist and I always want to encourage you to let it shine.

That said, I break down this gluten-free and dairy-free apple cake decor for you real quick in these 4 simple steps.

Step 1: Crumb coat the cake and allow it to chill for 20 minutes. See the above section for stacking tips and tricks.

Step 2: Put a final “beauty” coat of frosting on the cake and smooth the sides and top edge with a cake smoother and allow to chill again in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Step 3: Gently heat the remaining salted caramel sauce for 5-10 seconds in the microwave or until it reaches a thick but pourable state. With a piping bag or spoon, drip the salted caramel sauce over the edges and immediately place it in the fridge.

Note that salted caramel sauce will never harden like a ganache drip and will continue to slowly drip down the cake. I recommend not pouring the drip until the day of serving. If you would like the drip to harden, add ¼ cup of white chocolate chips to the caramel sauce and heat together until fully melted and smooth.

Step 4: With a piping bag fitted with a Wilton 1M piping tip, pipe swirls around the top border of the cake. Chill the cake until ready to serve.

An apple cake covered in salted caramel frosting with cinnamon specks. Caramel sauce is dripped over the top of the cake and buttercream swirls around the top of the cake.

Storing and Freezing Instructions

This cake can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 6 months.

If you want to bake these layers a few days in advance, you most certainly can. I recommend allowing the cake layers to cool, wrap them in plastic wrap, and freeze until you a ready to stack and decorate the cake. Simply remove the layers from the freezer for approximately 1 hour before stacking and decorating to slightly thaw them.

The Yummiest Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Apple Cake

A piece of fall deliciousness, this fantastic gluten-free and dairy-free apple cake is a delicious combo of sweet and salty in every single bite. Fluffy moist cake layers packed with tart crisp apples and covered with smooth whipped salted caramel frosting. This autumn apple cake is pure warm and cozy comfort in every scrumptious bite.

Make sure you tag me on social media @cakedbykatie and leave me a rating and review below if you make it. Can’t wait to see it!

A slice of apple caramel cake sitting on a grey plate in front on the sliced cake. It has three warm brown layers of cake and light tan salted caramel buttercream between each layer.

Autumn Baking Ideas

Here are a few other yummy fall recipes that I think you’ll love:

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An apple cake covered in salted caramel frosting with cinnamon specks. Caramel sauce is dripped over the top of the cake and buttercream swirls around the top of the cake.

Gluten-Free Apple Cake (Dairy-Free)


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  • Author: Katie Stymiest
  • Total Time: 1 Hour 35 Minutes
  • Yield: 14 Slices 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Perfect for autumn, this gluten-free and dairy-free apple cake is paired with the most delicious salted caramel buttercream frosting with a hint of cinnamon and finished off with a decadent salted caramel drip.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Apple Cake

  • 2 1/2 cups (350g) gluten-free 1:1 flour blend *see note
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum **see note
  • 1 3/4 cups (350g) brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature *can sub liquid egg replacer for vegan
  • 3/4 cup (177ml) canola or vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup (177ml) dairy-free milk, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup (118ml) applesauce, room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large apples (216g), peeled and shredded ***

Salted Caramel Sauce/Drip

  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup (59ml) water, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (79ml) dairy-free milk, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (56g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Salted Caramel Buttercream

  • 2 1/2 cups (560g) dairy-free salted butter, room temperature
  • 6 3/4 cups (810g) icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1/2 cup (140g) salted caramel sauce, room temperature

Instructions

Apple Cake

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare three 8-inch round baking pans with non-stick baking spray and parchment paper.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and xanthan gum (if using) and set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer or large mixing bowl, combine the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, milk, applesauce, and vanilla extract and whisk together until smooth.
  4. Add in the dry ingredients from step 2 and whisk together until fully incorporated.
  5. With a spatula gently fold the shredded apples into the batter until just combined.
  6. Divide the cake batter evenly into the three prepared 8-inch round baking pans and bake for approximately 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Invert the cake layers on the cooling rack and allow them to fully cool. If freezing the cake layers for a later time, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in the freezer.

Salted Caramel Sauce/Drip

  1. In a medium pot, combine the sugar and water and swirl together until the sugar is covered in water. Place on medium heat and begin to cook until the sugar is fully dissolved. Swirl the pot every minute or so but do not stir.
  2. Bring the mixture to a simmer and reduce the heat to medium-low. Place the lid on the pot and allow the mixture to gently simmer until it turns a light amber color. Check the mixture every minute and remember to swirl and not stir. It should take approximately 5-10 minutes.
  3. Once the mixture has reached an amber color immediately remove it from the heat and whisk in the milk. Be careful as the caramel sauce is quite hot and might bubble up.
  4. Add in the butter and salt and mix until combined. Pour into a heatproof jar. Keep at room temperate if using right away in the buttercream or in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. It may separate slightly when cooled so simply reheat in the microwave if need be and stir to combine when you are ready to use it.

Salted Caramel Buttercream

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment cream the butter on high for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary.
  2. Add in the icing sugar, cinnamon, and salt and mix on low until combined.
  3. Add in the salted caramel sauce and mix on low until combined.
  4. Turn the mixer to high and allow to beat for 5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Notes

* Check to see if the gluten-free flour blend contains xanthan gum or not.

** Omit the xanthan gum if the gluten-free blend already contains it or if you are not using gluten-free flour.

*** I used tart granny smith apples but you can use whatever you prefer.

  • Prep Time: 60 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 Minutes
  • Category: Cake
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 Slice
  • Calories: 876
  • Sugar: 91 Grams
  • Sodium: 127 Miligrams
  • Fat: 52 Grams
  • Carbohydrates: 113 Grams
  • Fiber: 3 Grams
  • Protein: 5 Grams
  • Cholesterol: 111 Miligrams

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4 Comments

    1. Hmmm I think it would be too much batter for a single 10-inch pan. A 9×13 would work better. Or if you want a 10-inch I wouldn’t use all of the bater.

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