This apple cider crumb cake with cider caramel combines a New York bakery classic with the crisp flavors of Autumn. The crumb cake features more crumb than cake, scientifically known as the perfect ratio for a New York style coffee cake…in my book anyway.
My sister, Jaz, and I love to bake. We have grand dreams of opening up our own bakery one day and we’re always on the lookout for baked goods our store will feature. As such, baking and experimenting sweet recipes is a natural activity during our time together.
A week ago Jaz and I were inspired to bake up apple cider donuts. After perusing the internet and my various cookbooks, we settled on a recipe from New York Times Cooking. After an hour in the kitchen and a mountain of dirty dishes, our donuts were baked and we eagerly dug in. To our disappointment the donuts severely lacked any apple cider flavor.
With the desire for an apple cider treat still on our minds, we began drafting this recipe for apple cider crumb cake. We researched, calculated, and tested, producing a crumb cake with generous crumb and ample apple cider flavor. The pièce de résistance of this recipe is [without a doubt] the apple cider caramel sauce. If you lick the sauce off of a spoon (which sis and I promptly did) it tastes exactly like those caramel apple lollipops I loved in middle school.
To truly capture the flavor of apple cider, we started by reducing 4 cups of cider down to its syrupy essence. The reduced apple cider added tons of flavor without making the batter too wet or runny. We added oats to the crumb for a nutty balance that worked beautifully with the sharp apple cider caramel. The balance of salt and sugar in this recipe is absolutely addictive and we hope you love it as much as we do.
Sis and I couldn’t totally agree on the amount of topping to add. I prefer more crumb to cake and Jaz thinks the topping made it a touch too sweet. Being sisters and best friends, Jaz and I really know how to compromise. So I’ve provided an option for a lower sugar crumb that you can follow if you’re so inclined.
If you’re looking for even more Fall desserts check out:
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla bean paste
Apple Cider Caramel
½ cup reduced apple cider
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon heavy cream (can also use half and half i you have it on hand for your morning coffee)
The apple cider will need to be reduced for 25-30 minutes. For efficiency, prepare the rest of your ingredients while the cider is reducing on the stove.
Reduce the cider:
Pour the apple cider into a pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
Let the cider reduce down to 1 cup, boiling rapidly for 25-30 minutes.
Stir the cider occasionally with a rubber spatula, scraping the bottom of the pot so that the sugar doesn’t burn.
Once the cider has reduced down to 1 cup*, separate it into two measuring cups (or as evenly as possible into two regular cups) so you can use ½ cup for the cake and ½ cup for the caramel. Set the pot aside without cleaning it – you can use it later to prepare the caramel sauce.
*If you accidentally reduce the cider down to less than 1 cup, make up the difference with unreduced apple cider or water (if you don’t have any more cider).
While the cider is reducing, preheat the oven to 325.
Line a 8”X8” square baking pan with two sheets of parchment paper, staggered to make a sling. Set aside.
Make the crumble:
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, rolled oats, and cinnamon.
Drizzle the melted butter over the flour mixture.
Toss the mixture together with a fork until everything is moistened and resembles large crumbs.
Place the crumble in the refrigerator while you prepare the cake.
Make the cake batter:
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, salt, ground cinnamon. Set aside this mixture of dry ingredients.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the reduced apple cider, eggs, olive oil, and vanilla extract.
Make a well in the flour mixture and pour the wet mixture in the center.
Mix the batter with a rubber spatula until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan.
Scatter the crumble evenly over the top of the cake.
Bake the cake on the center rack until fully cooked and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 30-35 minutes.
Let the cake cool while you prepare the caramel sauce.
Make the caramel sauce:
In a large pot (preferably the same pot you reduced the apple cider in) combine the reduced apple cider, brown sugar, salt, and butter.
Heat the mixture over medium low heat, stirring with a rubber spatula to help the sugar dissolve.
Once the sugar dissolves and the mixture starts bubbling, stop stirring and let the liquid boil and caramelize.
Swirl the pot occasionally to help distribute the heat and continue to boil over medium low heat until the mixture is thick and caramelly (and has reached 240 degrees on an instant read thermometer). This will take about 13 minutes.
Remove the caramel from the heat, add the cream and stir to combine.
Pour the caramel into a serving dish with a spout and let it cool for 10-15 minutes until desired thickness is reached. The longer the caramel cools, the thicker it becomes.
Serve the cake:
Drizzle the caramel over the crumb cake before you cut it into desired serving sizes or serve the caramel along with the cake and allow folks to drizzle their own caramel over the cake.
To reheat the caramel for drizzling, heat in the microwave on 50% power for 5-10 seconds. Stir the caramel and heat again (on 50% power) if it’s still too thick for your liking.
This recipe is delicious and sweet! If you prefer less sugar in your dessert, you can use the reduced sugar crumb topping below. I reduced the overall crumb by 1/3. Your cake to crumb ratio will be a little more even (you’ll have less crumb) but it won’t impact the texture of the overall bake.