This Maple Layer Cake is made with lots and lots of pure maple syrup, in the best way possible! We've got a homemade maple caramel, a super moist maple cake, and a maple cream cheese buttercream to top it all off! This maple layer cake is perfect for a fun fall baking project, or for a different Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving dessert!
Preheat oven to 350℉. Butter and flour three 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms of the pans with parchment paper as well. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, brown sugar, and eggs until smooth. Add the vanilla, sour cream, and milk, and whisk again until smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until combined. Divide the batter among prepared pans and smooth out the tops with a rubber spatula. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean, the edges are golden, and center is set. Cool cakes in pans for 20 minutes, then cool for the rest of the way on a wire cooling rack.
To assemble the cake, place one layer (make sure you're setting the layers down upside down so they're flat!) on a serving plate or cake stand, and spread the top with buttercream. Top with another layer and spread top with buttercream. Top with the third layer and spread with another layer of buttercream, leaving a little bit left for the sides of the cake. Use the leftover buttercream to "half" frost the sides, to create a "semi-naked" effect. Use an offset spatula or bench scraper to smooth out the sides and top of the cake. Pour the maple caramel over the cake and let it drip down the sides (you might not use it all, just use your desired amount!). Sprinkle the top with flaky sea salt. Slice and serve with extra caramel!
To a medium saucapan, add the maple, brown sugar, and heavy cream. Stir to combine. Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 7 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture has reduced in volume. Reduce heat slightly and add the butter, vanilla, and salt, and cook until butter has melted. Remove from heat and let cool completely.
Add softened butter and cream cheese to a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat for 2-3 minutes on medium to medium-high speed or until light and fluffy. Add the maple syrup and beat for an additional minute. Lower the speed and gradually add the powdered sugar. Once powdered sugar has been incorporated, add the vanilla and salt and increase speed to medium-high. Beat for an additional 2 to 3 minutes until light and fluffy.
*If you want to make this cake ahead of time, you can definitely do it. The caramel can be made a few days in advance, and kept in a sealed container at room temp. (You may need to microwave it for a few seconds to get it drizzle-able again!) The cake layers can be made up to a day in advance, and kept wrapped tightly. The buttercream should be made day of.
*Extra maple caramel can be kept in a sealed jar or container on the counter for a few weeks!