Recipe: Salty Caramel Apple Cake


Ever since the concept of salty desserts became trendy, I have been way into the concept. I am one of those people that salts everything before I even taste.

I know, I know: this is offensive to most chefs. I, however, believe that even if the seasoning is perfect, a little dash of salt on top makes any dish even better.

I picked up this bad habit from my mom, who is very heavy-handed with the salting. We always had a hearty supply of good salt in the house, and she wasn’t afraid to use it. Her standard cooking instruction and advice: If it doesn’t taste right, add more salt.

I mean, let’s face it, there is an entire area of your tongue that is dedicated to detecting salt. If a dish doesn’t have enough of it, it won’t taste right.

Salt is an essential mineral that is found naturally. It helps to regulate your body’s water content and nervous system. Too much of it, though, and you could fall prey to heath problems such as high blood pressure. I pray that doesn’t happen to me, as I would not be happy about being forced into eating unsalted, bland food.


Photo by Nathan Burrows

Salt is pretty much in every dish you ever make. The only food I have ever made that I don’t add salt to is Asian food, which derives its saltiness from fish and soy sauces.

So while I have always been big into using salt when I cook, the idea of adding it in a substantial amount to desserts is somewhat new to my repertoire.  Salted toffee and salted caramel are very in fashion these days. Extraordinary pastry and chocolate shops will always have a selection. Persephone Bakery locally does an amazing salty caramel buttercream cupcake that is fantastic.

I have played around with adding salt to desserts a bit lately. I recently made chocolate chip cookies with my standard recipe but added chunky, course sea salt to the batter in a larger quantity than normal. The result was delicious. When you ate them, small crystals of salt released an extra burst of flavor. My cookies are good to begin with but this new trick is here to stay!

On a recent Sunday, my mom and I were making a nice dinner and I found a recipe online for an apple cake for her to make. She made it but left it in my hands to finish and I decided to add a salty caramel sauce to the top. It was so amazing that I had it for breakfast the next morning, then proceeded to give the rest of it away before I gained five pounds (it has quite a bit of butter in the batter and topping).

We ate the cake warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, though it was great cool and leftover the next day.  This would be a great dish to finish any special meal. Thanksgiving, perhaps?

Salty Caramel Apple Cake


  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups diced apples
  • 1 cup chopped dates rolled in flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Topping:
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon of course salt (and more for the top)
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla


  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda and cinnamon with a wire whisk and set aside.
  • Combine sugar and oil using a mixer until blended.
  • Add eggs and vanilla, mixing until combined.
  • Add flour mixture and mix well.
  • Stir in nuts, dates and apples - the batter will be very thick.
  • Pour into a greased and floured 9 X 13 pan and bake for 40-45 minutes or until done.
  • Cool cake and using a skewer, poke holes in cake.
  • Cook topping ingredients on stove until mixture bubbles.
  • Pour topping over cake letting some seep into the cake.
  • Sprinkle a little extra salt evenly over the top of the cake.

About Author

Also originally from the South, Cara Rank discovered cooking was a creative outlet that helped her relax after long days writing magazine and newspaper articles during the past eight years in Jackson. Really, she just missed Southern food. A lot. During a 12-year career as a journalist, Cara has won numerous awards for her work and has written about everything from rodeo queens to Dolly Parton tomatoes. She spends her weekends making jars of pickles and jam and amazing dinners for friends. She loves shishito peppers, Chicago-style hot dogs and elderflower-spiked cocktails.

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