1/2 cup chocolate wafer cookies, chopped (apple garnish)
To make the frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup caramel, reserved
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease three 8-inch round cake pans. Line with parchment paper, spray with cooking spray.
To make the cake, in a medium size bowl combine the flour, sugar, unsweetened cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat together the eggs, canola oil, apple sauce, and vanilla until smooth.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients with the mixer on low until there are no longer any clumps of flour.
Add the warm apple cider and mix until combined.
Pour the batter into the 3 cake pans and bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Remove and allow to cool for five minutes. Line a cooling rack with parchment paper and invert the cakes onto the racks. Cover and allow to cool completely before frosting.
To prepare the caramel, place sugar, corn syrup, and apple cider into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, without stirring, until light golden in color.
Add the heavy cream, butter and vanilla, slowly stirring into pan. Boil for 5-10 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads 210 degrees F., stirring frequently. Remove sauce from heat and add the salt.
Using a heat proof measuring cup, pour 1 cup of caramel sauce and allow to cool. Cover the remaining sauce and set aside until the cake is ready.
To prepare the frosting, add the butter, cream cheese and powdered sugar to the bowl of stand mixer. Beat together until the butter is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes.
Add 1/3 cup of the cooled caramel sauce and vanilla. Beat until fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed.
To assemble the cake, place 1 layer of cake on a plate or cake stand. Drizzle with a little salted caramel sauce from the reserved cup. With an offset spatula, spread the top with frosting.
Place the second layer on top and drizzle with caramel. Spread the frosting evenly on top.
Add the final layer of cake and drizzle with the remaining caramel.
Frost the top and sides of the cake. Place the cake in the refrigerator to chill.
To make the chocolate ganache, melt 8 ounces chocolate with 1/2 cup heavy cream in the microwave on high for 30 second intervals, stirring between each until melted. Allow the sauce to cool 3-5 minutes.
Pour chocolate onto the middle of the cake and spread, allowing to drip down the sides of the cake. Place the cake in the refrigerator for 1 1/2 hours or overnight.
Once the cake is cooled and set, reheat the remaining caramel in the saucepan, bringing to a boil. Boil for 5-10 minutes or until a candy thermometer reads between 220-230 degrees F.
Remove the sauce from the stove and allow to cool 15-20 minutes, stirring every so often. Make sure the caramel does not become too stiff.
While the sauce cools, clean apples and push the wooden sticks into the top of the apples. Line a baking sheet with wax paper.
When the caramel has cooled, but is not too thick, pour half the caramel over the cake and allow it to drip down the sides of the cake.
Working quickly, dip the apples into the remaining caramel, roll in the chopped peanuts and cookies, and place in the center of cake. Sprinkle the cake with flakey salt.
Refrigerate cake until firm, at least 30 minutes.
Store the cake in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Allow the cake to sit 15 minutes at room temp before serving. Remove apples before slicing.