thankful – salted caramel apple custard cake

I have had food allergies.

For the last several years, I’ve been allergic to certain fruits, especially raw apples, peaches, plums, cherries and more. Cooked or baked in desserts, they’re okay. So, I’ve been missing the simply, satisfying pleasure of biting into a juicy Winesap.

I’ve taking the tiniest bites of fresh fruit to gauge the sweetness when making desserts. These micro tastes haven’t bothered me, but occasionally, I carelessly took a few too many bites, and my throat tightened and sent me scrambling for that bottle of Benadryl.

Last week, I peeled one too many apples for this cake. Instead of wrapping them up for M to munch later, I ate an entire wedge while cleaning up, not thinking about the consequences. To my surprise, there was no discomfort in my throat. Suspecting that a reaction was still coming, I waited 20 minutes then ate a second wedge. Still nothing. Before the cake was done, I had eaten an entire apple.

This was an unexpected surprise. For the past week, I again tested my allergic reaction to apples and pears–no Benadryl was required. Next summer I’ll see if I can venture as far as peaches, apricots, and cherries. I’ll have one more thing to be thankful for at the Thanksgiving table. 

Salted Caramel Apple Custard Cake


Salted Caramel Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup (7 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
Vanilla Pastry Cream
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
  • Pinch fine sea salt
  • 1/4 cup (1-1/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into four pieces
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla paste or extract
Caramel Pastry Cream
  • Salted Caramel sauce
  • Vanilla Pastry Cream
Apple Topping
  • 2-1/2 pounds Granny Smith or other tart apples, peel, core and cut each apple into 8 wedges
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Vanilla Almond Cake
  • 2 cup (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 16 tablespoons (8 ounces/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups (14 ounces), plus 2 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
  • 6 tablespoons almond paste (not marzipan)
  • 4 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Vanilla Almond Cake layers
  • Vanilla Pastry Cream
  • Caramel Pastry Cream
  • Caramel Sauce
  • Confectioners’ sugar for dusting (optional)


Salted Caramel Sauce

1. Bring water, sugar and corn syrup to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil, uncovered and without stirring, occasionally brushing the sides of the pot with water, until amber color is achieved. Remove from heat and whisk in the cream, salt and brandy (it will bubble up) until fully incorporated. Pour into a bowl and cool to room temperature.

Vanilla Pastry Cream

1. Heat half-and-half in medium saucepan over medium heat until just simmering. Meanwhile, whisk yolks, sugar, and salt in medium bowl until smooth. Add flour to yolk mixture and whisk until incorporated. Remove half-and-half from heat and, whisking constantly, slowly add half-and-half to yolk mixture to temper. Whisking constantly, return tempered yolk mixture to saucepan.

2. Return saucepan to medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, until mixture thickens slightly, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, whisking constantly, 5-6 minutes.

3. Increase heat to medium and cook, whisking vigorously, until bubbles burst on surface, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat; whisk in butter and vanilla until butter is melted and incorporated. Strain pastry cream through fine-mesh strainer set over medium bowl. Remove 1/3 pastry cream into a separate bowl, set aside. Press lightly greased parchment paper directly on surface to the remaining pastry cream and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Caramel Pastry Cream

1. Stir 1/4 cup of caramel sauce into reserved pastry cream until fully incorporated. Press lightly greased parchment paper directly on surface and refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Apple Topping

1. Mix apple wedges, sugars, salt, cinnamon in a 12-inch skillet cook over medium heat, stir occasionally, until apples are tender and liquid has almost evaporated, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in brandy (if use) and lemon juice. Gently spread apple wedges on a baking sheet to cool.

Vanilla Almond Cake

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375℉. Line two 8×8 square baking pan with parchment rounds, spray parchment and side of cake pans with cooking spray, set aside.

2. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat butter and 2 cups of the sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add almond paste and continue to beat until fully incorporated. Add vanilla, eggs (one at a time), beat until combine. Add the flour mixture and beat until fully incorporated. Divide mixture evenly into prepared pans and smooth top with small off-set spatula.

3. Arrange apple slices on top of the batter in overlapping rows, pressing lightly into the batter. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar evenly over apples. Bake until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, run a knife around the edges to release cake from side of pan. Continue to cool to room temperature, about 40 minutes.


1. Divide each cake layer horizontally into two equal layers, gently use a cake lifter to separate the layers. Place bottom layer on a cake stand or serving platter. Spread half of vanilla pastry cream evenly on top. Carefully place the top layer on top of pastry cream.

2. Spread caramel pastry cream on top of apple cake and smooth with of-set spatula. Place the bottom layer of the 2nd cake on top of caramel pastry cream and spread remaining vanilla pastry cream evenly . Place Apple top cake layer on top. Wrap entire cake with plastic wrap and refrigerate until pastry cream has set, about 30 minutes.

3. Remove cake from refrigerator, unwrap cake and dust top of cake with confectioners’ sugar (if use). Drizzle caramel sauce on top of cake and let it  run down the side of cake. Serve cake with remaining caramel sauce on the side.