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DIY Caramel Apple Bar with Homemade Caramel Recipe

Fresh, ripe apples are a sweet staple of fall. The only thing better than biting into a juicy apple in the middle of autumn is covering said apple with smooth caramel, and dousing with your favorite candy toppings. 


Caramel apples are one of those delicious treats we enjoyed as kids in the fall months, but their taste and delight don't wear away once we hit adulthood. Some of the best caramel apples I've had have been covered in chocolate chips, peanuts or even candy corn. To spread the fun, set up a DIY caramel apple bar; it's the perfect edible activity for kids and adults. 

If you're throwing a fall party and looking for an interactive dessert bar, a DIY caramel apple bar is just the thing. You could encourage guests to dunk whole apples into caramel and take home as a party favor. But a more fun and accessible way to set up the dessert bar at your party is to cut up the apple into slices, and have guests make their own apple pieces so they can try a whole range of topping combinations. My personal favorite was the chopped walnuts topped with cinnamon-sugar. 

 

 

Since caramel is inherently messy, I lined the table with butcher paper. That made it easy to label all the toppings, and catch any of the caramel and candy if it spilled. Big paper trays were also a plus because there was more than enough room to catch the dripping caramel. 

Finding a lot of fresh apples at your local grocery store is also tricky soo, so I ordered a couple boxes of Signature Seasons Best Apples from Harry & David. They were conveniently delivered right to my doorstep, and exactly ripe and perfectly juicy by the time we used them. It was a relief knowing that all of the apples were tasty and ready to be eaten for the party!

Setting up the bar was a breeze; the trickiest part was making the caramel. I chose to do a microwavable recipe (details below), which proved to be a lot messier than I was expecting. If you make yours in the microwave, be careful of it boiling over or being too undercooked.

So next time you're planning a fall party or kids birthday bash, consider setting up a DIY Caramel Apple Bar! 

 

 

Supplies
  • For the Caramel Apple Bar:
  •  
  • 6-7 apples, each one cut into 6 pieces
  • Popsicle sticks
  • White or light-colored butcher paper
  • Pencil
  • Paper plates or trays
  • Homemade caramel* (recipe below)
  • Toppings of your choice: sea salt, chopped walnuts, candy corn, chocolate chunks, etc.
  •  

 

Directions

After you wash your apples, cut them into 6 pieces. Place a popsicle stick through each apple slice so that it's firm and sturdy.

Use butcher paper as your tablecloth for your caramel apple bar. Secure the paper to your table using double-sided tape. Once you decide which toppings to use and the order in which they will be placed, set out your apples on a stick, paper plates, caramel and toppings.

Use a pencil or pen to label each topping. Even if it's something obvious, such as the apples or sea salt shaker – the fun is in the details! 

Making your own caramel apple slices is messy, so make sure you hover your apple over the paper plate or try to catch any excess caramel dripping off. If not, the butcher paper is there to catch all the mess! 

Have fun with mixing and matching toppings, and ecourage others to do the same. The more apple pieces means more options to have fun with your topping combos.

Helpful Tip: Make sure you have extra apples out in baskets and bowls as decor, but also as backup in case you run out of your pre-cut apples. 

 

Ingredients
  • For the Homemade Caramel: 
  •  
  • 1 cup butter
  • 2 and 1/4 cups of packed light brown sugar
  • One 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Directions

Make sure you are using a large, microwave-safe bowl. Large enough that the caramel won't boil over as it's cooking. Start by melting the butter in the microwave bowl. 

Add the brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk and corn syrup. Stir well. Microwave on high for 12-15 minutes. Watch the caramel as it cooks; as soon as it looks like it might start to boil over, stop microwave and stir well (approximately every 1-2 minutes).

Keep cooking and stirring until it hits the right consistency. It's too soft and sticky when it's not cooked enough, and will be hard and chewy if it's overcooked. 

Once it's the right consistency, add the vanilla. Let cool for a couple minutes before serving. Continue to stir throughout the serving process to make sure it doesn't harden. 

 

More Delicious Caramel Apple Treats:

Nuts About Caramel Apples 4 Pack from 1-800 Baskets

Caramel Apple Kit from Harry & David

Pixie Apple from Fannie May

Find more party planning inspirations for Fall Parties
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Meet our Writer
Jennifer Geddes
Celebrations Writer

Jennifer Kelly Geddes has hosted Christmas cookie swaps, New Year's open houses, Thanksgiving for 22, and all manner of dinner parties in her Manhattan and Ghent, NY homes.

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