State Fair Sampler Cake

State Fair Sampler Cake

Last week I went to the Tennessee State Fair. It always brings genuine childlike joy to my soul. I love to get my face painted and gawk the giant prize-winning pumpkin. And the food! I must have tried one of everything. It inspired me to create this layer cake, which is an homage to many of my favorite fair foods.

State Fair Sampler Cake

This cake has several layers of goodness, so let’s dig in!

  • Layer one: Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake, which is inspired by the classic caramel apple. It’s made with fried Granny Smith apples, spices and brown sugar all atop yellow cake.
  • Layer two: Sweet Maple Cornbread Cake, inspired by something rather unlikely – a corn dog! My favorite corn dogs are slightly sweet with a maple cornbread coating (and for clarity’s sake, there are NO hot dogs in this layer!).
  • Layer three: this is a second caramel apple upside down cake, just like the first layer.
  • Layer four: Oreo Cake, inspired by the deep fried Oreo, this layer is yellow cake baked with plenty of Oreo cookies inside!
  • Frosting: Salted dulce de leche, inspired by my favorite churro dip! This is buttercream at its best, if you ask me.
  • Topping one: Ready-made soft pretzels. You can find a close approximation to the ones sold at fair kiosks in the freezer section, unless you’re feeling really ambitious and want to make your own (you can find my soft pretzel recipe in Sea Salt Sweet!).
  • Topping two: There’s nothing shy about putting a funnel cake on top of a layer cake, and that’s just what I did! I cheated a little by using shake-and-pour pancake mix for the batter, but with all the other layers to make and assemble, I think you’ll find it’s a nice little shortcut.
State Fair Sampler Cake

All of the flavors harmonize well, and even though cotton candy is certainly one of my favorite fair foods, it just didn’t belong in this cake. The only improvement I’d suggest to the overall cake would be to serve slices with fresh strawberries and whipped cream, which is a usual funnel cake topping.

State Fair Sampler Cake

The Oreo layer is so delicious because the cookies become soft in the baked cake. The cornbread layer is soaked in maple simple syrup. It makes the cake so tender and lovely, so don’t skip that step. I use Frontier Co-Op Maple Extract in the syrup because it is Fair Trade certified and tastes great!

State Fair Sampler Cake

This cake is SO over-the-top and meant to be seen, so I suggest making it for a crowd. It’s great for family reunions, fall bonfire parties and potlucks.

State Fair Sampler Cake

This is a lengthy recipe but absolutely worth the trouble, if you ask me. The dulce de leche frosting does an excellent job of tying all the components together. The funnel cake tastes best when eaten the same day, so if you make this cake ahead be sure to save that task for last.

State Fair Sampler Cake

Heather Baird
I used a 10.6 ounce jug of “Shake and Pour” pancake mix for the funnel cake. If you’d like to use the same shortcut, look for the brand that only requires the addition of water to the mix. Add 3 extra tablespoons of flour to the bottle before mixing. Heat about 1 1/2” of oil in a pan to 375°F and pour the batter in with a funnel, or do as I do and use a disposable pastry bag with the tip snipped. Fry until golden and drain on paper towels. If you have Bake Even strips, then I suggest using them for the “Fried Oreo” and Cornmeal Cake layers.
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Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 40 minutes
Course Dessert
Cuisine American
Servings 16


“Fried” Oreo Layer

  • 14 whole Oreo cookies
  • 4 tablespoons 57g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup 150g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup 120g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup 4 oz. whole milk

Cornmeal Cake

  • Serves 10
  • Ingredients
  • 1 3/4 cups 225g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup 70g fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup 150g sugar
  • 1/4 cup 75g maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup 100g vegetable oil or light-tasting olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons maple extract I like Frontier brand

Cornmeal Cake Syrup

  • 1 cup 200g sugar
  • 1 cup 8 oz. water
  • 2 teaspoons maple extract
  • Caramel Apple Layers

Fried apples

  • 4 tablespoons 56g unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup 105g brown sugar
  • 4 large Granny Smith apples
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon


  • 1/2 cup 113g unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup 150g sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup 2 tablespoons 145g all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup 4.3 oz. sour cream
  • 1/4 cup 2 oz. whole milk

Dulce de leche frosting

  • 1 cup 226g unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 can 13.4 ounces prepared dulce de leche
  • 1 pound powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer cream together the butter and dulce de leche. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low until combined. Add the sea salt and whip for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
  • Cover the frosting with a damp towel to prevent it from crusting.


  • 6 frozen soft pretzels with salt baked
  • Prepared funnel cake see headnote
  • Powdered sugar


Make the “Fried” Oreo Layer

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • Grease and flour an 8-inch cake pan, or use flour-based baking spray. Line the bottom with parchment paper.
  • Arrange the Oreos on the bottom of the cake pan.
  • In a large bowl cream together the butter and sugar; add the egg and vanilla. Mix well.
  • In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt.
  • Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the milk, begin and end with the flour mixture. Pour the batter over the Oreos into the prepared pan. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed in the center.

Make the Cornmeal Cake and Syrup

  • Preheat oven temperature to 325°F. Grease and line an 8-inch pan with parchment paper and set aside.
  • Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking soda and salt.
  • Beat the eggs with sugar until thick and frothy, about 3 minutes. Add the maple syrup, oil and extract. Whisk in the dry ingredients and beat until just combined.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly pressed. Let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Place a large sheet of aluminum foil in the cake pan and return the cake to the pan.
  • Prepare the syrup: Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is hot but not boiling. Add the maple extract; stir. Pour the maple syrup over the entire cake. Fold the aluminum foil over the cake and let stand until the syrup is well absorbed, about 1 hour.

Make the Fried Apple Cakes

  • Grease two 8-inch cake pans. Cut two 9-inch circles of parchment paper and fit to the bottom of the pans. The paper will come up the sides of the pan a little.
  • Fry the apples: Melt the butter in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add the brown sugar and cook until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the apple slices. Cover the pan and cook until apples release their juices, about 5 minutes. Mix in the cinnamon and cook uncovered until the apples are tender, about 10 minutes. Divide the apples between the cake pans.
  • Make the cake: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla extract.
  • Whisk together the flour, salt, and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside. In a separate small bowl, combine the sour cream and milk. Add the flour and sour cream mixture alternately to the butter mixture; begin and end with flour. Pour the batter over the apples in the cake pans.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the center springs back when pressed. Some apples are juicier than others, so baking times may vary (just keep an extra eye out for doneness!). Turn the cakes out onto two large plates and let cool.

Dulce de Leche Frosting

  • In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and dulce de leche. Add the powdered sugar and mix on low until combined. Add the sea salt and whip for 5 minutes, or until light and fluffy.
  • Cover the frosting with a damp towel to prevent it from crusting.


  • Turn the Oreo layer onto a cake plate so that the Oreos are facing upward. Gingerly turn the apple layer upside down on top of the Oreo layer (If some apple escape it is okay! Eat them and carry on). Top the apple layer with the cornmeal cake. And lastly (again, gingerly!) turn the final apple cake layer upside down on the cornmeal layer.
  • Cover the cake with a crumb coat of frosting and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Frost the cake again with a generous amount of frosting, leveling the top and smoothing the edges as you go.
  • While the frosting is still tacky, press the pretzels into the sides of the cake. Use leftover icing to adhere them if necessary. Top the cake with the funnel cake and generously dust with powdered sugar.
  • Serve immediately. This cake is delicious on its own, but a side of fresh strawberries and whipped cream is even better!
Keyword Caramel Apple Cake, Cornmeal Cake, Fried Oreo Cake, Funnel Cake
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7 years ago

This is an absolutely gorgeous and perfect fall cake! Also, a ton of work, but dang is it pretty!!

7 years ago

Heather your blog is going to the be the death of me. That looks amazing! I'm drooling all over my keyboard and it's only breakfast time here!

œuvres d'art originales
œuvres d'art originales
7 years ago

I'm speechless. OK, maybe not totally, because this cake is over-the-top, ridiculously, insanely ingenious! Cheers, Ardith

7 years ago

This is such a cute idea! I love those pretzels. 🙂

7 years ago

omg this is making my brain explode. amazing!

7 years ago

Whoa! That's all I can say. Most creative cake EVER!

Cookbook Queen
Cookbook Queen
7 years ago

GIRL!!! This is out of control in all the best ways. I don't think I can sleep until I make this cake. THOSE LAYERS!! Incredible. Love all the fun flavors.

Melle Blanche
Melle Blanche
7 years ago

OMG ! the best cake for fall.