Caramel Apple Poke Cake

4 from 1 vote

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This poke cake is a fun, easy-to-make recipe that will excite your taste buds and warm your heart. Tart Granny Smith apples team up with warming cinnamon and rich, buttery caramel sauce to bring you a recipe that is as comforting as it is mouthwatering.

close up: a slice of caramel apple poke cake

Apple poke cake has all the cozy, sumptuous flavors of autumn but is delightful year-round. The ingredients required are simple and easy to find. Plus, this delectable dessert is a joy to make. 

There is something so satisfying about filling those holes with ooey gooey caramel, knowing that the whole cake will be saturated with sweet rich flavor. Your friends and family won’t be able to get enough! 

For more irresistible desserts, check out my Cranberry Coffee Cake, Gingerbread Cake, and this Lemon Rosemary Cake.

overhead: serving a slice of apple poke cake

Ingredient Notes and Substitutions

  • Apples I prefer bright, tart Granny Smith apples for this recipe, but you can sub in Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, or your favorites.
  • Flour – Regular, all-purpose flour works great. 
  • Leavening Baking powder and baking soda work to add lightness and fluffiness. 
  • Salt – Harmonizes the batter while a bit of flaky sea salt on top accentuates the rich caramel flavor. 
  • Cinnamon Adds an aromatic warmth and sweetness. 
  • Butter – Adds richness to the cake and the caramel sauce. 
  • Sugar White and brown sugar are used to sweeten. Brown sugar brings an extra deep, caramel flavor. 
  • Vanilla Adds exhilarating, floral, and sweet notes. 
  • Eggs – Bind the batter together while adding moist fluffiness. 
  • Corn Syrup Enhances the caramel with an intense sweetness and a sticky, chewy texture. 
  • Heavy Cream Adds rich creaminess and smoothness.

How to Make Caramel Apple Poke Cake

  1. Prepare the Oven. Set your oven to 350 degrees F to preheat. Use parchment paper to line an 8×8” baking dish, covering both the sides and the bottom. 
  2. Grate the Apples. Peel the apples, then grate them using a box grater. Use the larger-sized holes or you’ll end up with a mess. Set the grated apples aside. 
  3. Combine Dry Ingredients. Add the all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, kosher salt, and cinnamon powder to a large mixing bowl and whisk together to combine. 
  4. Blend Wet Ingredients. In a separate bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar, white sugar, and eggs. 
  5. Combine the Mixtures. Now, add the grated apples and the dry flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix well to combine. Transfer the batter to the prepared baking dish, smoothing out the top.
  6. Bake the Cake. Place the cake in the oven and bake for about 35-40 minutes. A toothpick or tester inserted in the middle should come out clean. Keep the cake in the pan and move it to a wire rack to cool.
  1. Poke Holes. Take chopsticks, or the end of a wooden spoon, and gently poke holes all over the top of the cake. 
  2. Make the Caramel Sauce. Place a skillet over medium heat. Stirring constantly, brown the butter until the solids are a deep brown hue. This usually takes about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and heavy cream. Still stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil for 1-2 minutes, or until all the sugar has melted and your candy thermometer reads 225 degrees F.  
  3. Pour & Spread. Carefully pour the caramel topping over the top of the cake. Fill the holes and use a spatula to spread the caramel to the edges if needed. I recommend sprinkling some flaky sea salt over the top, but that’s totally optional. 
  4. Cool, Cut & Serve. Give the cake at least 15 minutes to cool after adding the sauce. After that, cut the cake into squares, serve, and enjoy.
pulling out a slice of caramel apple poke cake

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it called poke cake?

This dessert gets its name from the holes that are poked in the sponge after baking. Also called poke-and-pour cakes, poke cake recipes started popping up in the 1970s with the rise of Jello-based recipes in magazines. 

Traditionally, poke cake was made with white cake, any flavor of Jello in the holes, and Cool Whip on top. Today, the flavors for this dessert have expanded to include fruit, chocolate, pudding, cookies, caramel, and more. It’s all about poking holes and filling them with sinfully sweet goodies.

What is the best way to poke holes in a poke cake?

For the best results, let your cake cool completely before poking any holes. Warm cakes will stick to your poking device, and you could end up with unsightly potholes in your apple poke cake. 

Once it has cooled, use the end of a wooden spoon, skewer, or chopstick to apply gentle but firm pressure, going down about ¾ way to the bottom. It’s that easy!

How do you keep apples from sinking into a cake?

A simple way to keep your apples (or any fruit) from sinking to the bottom of your cake is to toss them in a light coat of flour before stirring them into the batter. It helps the fruit stay suspended in the batter. 

This apple poke cake recipe uses grated apples, which are lighter and usually stay incorporated well on their own, so I usually skip this step.

close up: a slice of caramel apple poke cake
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Caramel Apple Poke Cake

4 from 1 vote
This recipe for caramel apple poke cake features fluffy cake infused with cinnamon, tart apples, and a buttery caramel topping.
Servings: 9
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Total: 55 minutes


Caramel Topping


  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Line bottom and sides of an 8×8" baking dish with parchment paper.
  • Peel and grate the apples on the large holes of a box grater, set aside.
  • Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt, and ground cinnamon together in a bowl.
  • Add melted butter, white and brown sugars, vanilla and eggs to bowl and mix to combine. Add apples and dry ingredients to wet and mix until combined.
  • Scrape batter into prepared baking dish and smooth top. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 35–40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cake cool in pan.
  • Using the end of a wooden spoon or chopstick, poke holes all over top of cake. Make the caramel topping.

Caramel Topping

  • Brown butter in skillet over medium heat, stirring until milk solids are deep brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, heavy cream, vanilla.
  • Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil and cook until sugar is melted, 1–2 minutes (an instant-read thermometer should register 225°F). Pour caramel over cake holes and spread to edges if needed. Sprinkle flaky sea salt on top (optional).
  • Let cake cool 15 minutes before cutting cake into squares.


Recipe adapted from Zaynab Issa, Bon Apetit.


Calories: 336kcal | Carbohydrates: 55g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.4g | Cholesterol: 67mg | Sodium: 490mg | Potassium: 184mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 42g | Vitamin A: 437IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 1mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: Desserts
Cuisine: American, Southern
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
titled image (and shown): caramel apple poke cake


Whether in the kitchen or on the grill, you’ll find me cooking American favorites with a love for BBQ, Mexican and Tex Mex. I’m passionate about making tasty food because life’s too short to be bland!

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  1. 4 stars
    Made this last night. The recipe was easy enough to follow, the taste was good, but the texture of the cake was unusual. The recipe called for 3 large apples, and I had that.. but I am wondering if they were too large, and made the cake rather pudding like. Perhaps the recipe could be adjusted to give a more specific amount of shredded apples?
    Overall it was fine, but I think I would prefer a more apple tasting cake and less of the moistness that this one produced.

    1. The 3 cups of shredded apples are correct and with the caramel topping that sinks in makes this indeed a pudding like texture. Be sure to use any tart baking apple, too.

  2. Hi Kevin I was recently in Phoenix for a month. And at the place we were staying there was a lemon tree. I used the fresh lemons to make a lemon poke cake. Using the fresh juice and zest. It turned out really good. So now that I’m back home in Washington this apple poke cake will be the perfect cake to make. Ill be doing it in the next day or so thanks for the great idea