Bourbon Caramel Apple Tres Leches Cake

Bourbon Caramel Apple Tres Leches Cake

By Ashley Barbey, Test Kitchen Sponsored by Flavor Right 

Easily spice (and spike!) your autumn with Flavor Right.

Makes one 8-inch cake


Sponge Cake:
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
7 eggs
1¼ cups granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
⅓ cup plus 3 tablespoons whole milk

Salted Caramel:
½ cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

Caramelized Apple Filling:
3 cups apples, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 tablespoons salted caramel sauce
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Cinnamon Pecan Streusel:
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
⅛ teaspoon salt
2½ tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup pecans, chopped and toasted

Bourbon Swiss Meringue Buttercream:
9 large egg whites
2¼ cups granulated sugar
2½ cups (5 sticks) unsalted butter
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
¼ cup bourbon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Spiced Bourbon Tres Leches Soak:
1⅔ cups Flavor Right Festejos Tres Leches Dessert Mix
¼ cup bourbon
¾ teaspoon cinnamon


Make the Sponge Cakes
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter and flour three 8-inch pans. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
3. Separate the eggs into 2 mixing bowls, whites in 1 bowl and yolks in another.
4. Add 1 cup of the granulated sugar into the bowl with the egg yolks.
5. Place the bowl onto a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk the yolk and sugar mixture on medium-high speed until light and thick, about 3 minutes.
6. Turn the mixer down to low speed. Slowly stream in the milk, followed by the vanilla.
7. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Set a fine-mesh sieve over the mixing bowl and sift the flour mixture over the egg yolk mixture.
8. Fold in the flour until well incorporated. Set aside.
9. With a clean whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form, about 2 to 3 minutes.
10. Turn the mixer speed to low and stream in the remaining ¼ cup of granulated sugar.
11. Increase the speed to high and beat until stiff peaks just form. Do not overbeat as the egg whites can dry out.
12. Fold the beaten egg whites into the yolk mixture, folding from the bottom of the bowl. This can take a few minutes to fully incorporate. Be sure to not deflate the egg whites.
13. Evenly divide the batter between the pans and use an offset spatula to even out the batter.
14. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
15. Place the cakes on a cooling rack and allow to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edge of the pan to loosen up the cakes. Invert the cakes onto the cooling rack and remove the parchment paper. Cool completely.

Make the Salted Caramel

1. In a medium-size saucepan, combine the sugar and the water. Stir just until combined.
2. Place the saucepan over medium heat. Let the sugar mixture cook, without stirring, until the mixture turns an amber color. Take the mixture off the heat to stop the cooking process.
3. Add the butter to the saucepan and whisk to combine. Be very careful as the mixture is incredibly hot and will bubble up and steam when the butter is added.
4. Whisk in the heavy cream, followed by the vanilla and the salt. Whisk until smooth.
5. Let the caramel cool in the pan for 10 minutes before transferring it to a storage container to cool completely.
Tip: You can also use store-bought caramel.

Make the Caramelized Apple Filling
1. Add the sliced apples and lemon juice to a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine.
2. In a skillet over medium-low heat, combine the butter and the caramel sauce and cook until the mixture is melted and bubbling. Whisk in the cinnamon.
3. Add the apples to the caramel mixture. Cook until the apples have softened and become slightly translucent and the sauce has thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool completely before using.
Tip: Use crisp, tart apples like Granny Smith.

Make the Cinnamon Pecan Streusel
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, melted butter, and pecans with a spatula until well combined.
3. Spread evenly on the baking sheet and bake for 6 to 8 minutes. Cool completely and crumble into smaller pieces.

Make the Bourbon Swiss Meringue Buttercream

1. Place the egg whites and the sugar together in a nonreactive bowl, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the bowl, and place over a pot of simmering (not boiling) water, whisking constantly and gently until the temperature reaches 160°F.
2. Using a sieve, strain the egg white sugar mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer.
3. Mix on medium speed with the whisk attachment until the mixture is glossy, reaches stiff peaks, and the outside of the bowl is no longer warm. You cannot add butter to the bowl if it is warm or the butter will just melt when added.
4. Once the mixture reaches stiff peaks, switch out the whisk attachment for the paddle attachment and begin mixing on low speed.
5. Add the softened butter cubes, a couple at a time, until incorporated.
6. Let it mix. It might curdle or look lumpy, but that’s okay. Keep mixing. This could take some time. The buttercream is ready when it is smooth, satiny, and creamy.
7. Keep mixing on low and add the salt and the vanilla, beating until incorporated.

Make the Tres Leches Mixture
1. Pour the Flavor Right Festejos Tres Leches mix into a 2-cup measuring cup.
2. Whisk in the bourbon and the cinnamon.


Assemble the Cake
1. Line three 8-inch cake pans with plastic wrap. Place the sponge cakes into the pans.
2. Use a fork to generously poke holes in the cake. Avoid poking holes all the way to the bottom or on the edges of the cakes.
3. Slowly and evenly pour about ⅔ of the prepared Flavor Right Festejos Tres Leches mixture over each of the cakes, allowing each cake to absorb some of the mixture before pouring more.

soak process
4. Cover the cakes with plastic wrap and allow them to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or overnight.
5. Place 1 of the cake layers on a cake plate with raised sides. Pipe a ring of buttercream around the edge of the cake layer.
6. Spread ½ of the caramelized apple mixture over the cake layer.
7. Generously sprinkle cinnamon pecan streusel on top of the apples and then drizzle the cake with the caramel sauce.
8. Using an offset spatula, spread about 1 cup of the buttercream on top of the apples and streusel.
9. Place the second cake layer on top and repeat with the remaining apple filling, more streusel, caramel sauce, and buttercream.
10. Place the final cake layer on top and frost with the remaining buttercream. Chill for 30 to 60 minutes to firm up the buttercream.
11. Drizzle caramel sauce over the edges of the chilled cake. Sprinkle additional streusel on top.
12. Pour additional Flavor Right Festejos Tres Leches mixture along the bottom of the cake. Serve the cake slightly chilled.

slice of cake

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Ashley Barbey

Ashley Barbey is an award-winning cake designer, sugar-flower artist, and food blogger located in St. Louis, MO. Her cake tutorials can be found on Sugar Geek Show, Sugar Street Studios, and on her blog. Ashley is the food stylist, photographer, and baker behind, where she shares recipes, cake, cookie, sugar-flower tutorials, and lots more. 

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