Y’all are going to love this caramel apple butter bread pudding, friends. Made with your favorite day-old sweet rolls, be they cinnamon buns, apple fritters, sticky buns, etc, and soaked in a not-too-sweet apple cider caramel custard.
Add in some dollops of rich apple butter, bake that guy up in a water bath, and then bring in some temperature and textural contrasts with a scoop of ice cream and crispy, crunchy, nutty spiced meringue shards. This is one caramel apple bread pudding you do not want to miss!
For more apple and custard goodness, you may also want to check out my Stuffed Apple French Toast, too. And if it’s bread pudding that really does it for you, you might like my Hawaiian Roll French Toast Muffin recipe.
For ease of browsing, you can find all my custard recipes in one place. Thanks so much for visiting!
What To Expect from This Recipe
Before diving in, check to see if this bread pudding ticks all your boxes.
Are you interested in:
- A dessert you can put together the day before you need it
- An easy yet deeply flavorful custard sauce
- Bites of sweet yeasted yumminess that you get to choose
- A crispy and crunchy garnish that adds tons of drama to this or any dessert
- Fall flavors of apple, cinnamon, allspice, clove, nutmeg, apple cider, pecans, and caramel
- A small-batch dessert that will serve 4
- A new Thanksgiving dessert recipe for folks who are interested in something different than the standard pumpkin or pecan pies
Sound good to you? Then let’s get on with it!
How to Make It
There are a few components in this bread pudding that you can either make yourself or purchase depending on the time you have, how much you enjoy making components, and how hungry you are.
Here are the components:
- Caramel custard
- Sweet rolls or donuts
- Apple butter
- Crispy meringue shards
Ingredients and Substitutions
Here’s what you’ll need (and what you can substitute) for the custard:
- Caramel sauce: Homemade or storebought. I made an apple cider caramel sauce, and I’ll be posting that recipe soon, but this recipe will work beautifully.
- Milk: Use whole or 2%. You can even substitute your favorite plant-based milk like soy or oat
- Half and half: You can use heavy cream or whipping cream to make it richer, but really, isn’t it rich enough already?
- Salt: Don’t leave it out. It brings all the flavors into focus and keeps the sweetness from being too cloying.
- Apple pie spice: Or use pumpkin spice. Or just cinnamon.
- whole egg: The egg sets the custard and adds richness and structure
- egg yolk: Adds a bit of extra richness and a silky mouthfeel. You can leave it out if you want. Your pudding will still set up just fine.
For the bread, there are many choices:
- Cinnamon rolls (try my pumpkin spice cinnamonn rolls)
- Honey buns
- Sticky buns
- Cinnamon babka
Since this is a small-batch recipe, you only need about 2 cups of cut up sweet rolls, so if you happen to have cinnamon rolls from the day before, use a couple of those.
Or get some special.
I just don’t want you to feel locked in. If all you have is “regular bread,” you can use that as well, although you may want to add a little more sugar.
On the other hand, there is sugar in all the components of this bread pudding, so maybe hold off, now that I think about it!
And you will also need apple butter.
You can use storebought if you’d like, but if you want to make some, you may like my chai spice apple butter.
I made a caramel apple butter, and that recipe is coming soon. I will keep you posted.
Here’s what you’ll need to make the meringue shards:
- Egg whites: Unless you are allergic to eggs or are vegan, there’s no reason to use anything other than egg whites. The water from a can of chickpeas (aqua faba) makes an excellent vegan alternative to egg whites and will whip up into a lovely meringue
- Sugar: granulated. You could also use brown sugar if you don’t mind the meringue having a slightly darker color. Do not substitute coconut sugar, because your whites won’t whip up well.
- Salt: Brings out the flavor of the spice and cuts the sweetness
- Apple pie spice: Or use cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice
- Chopped pecans: Any nuts or seeds will work. You could even through caution to the wind and use cinnamon granola
- Finishing salt: I used sea salt, and much to my surprise and delight, after 2 hours in the oven, it turned black. So just know that some finishing salts may change colors after a prolonged period of heating
Please see the recipe for the details, but in broad strokes, here’s how you make the bread pudding and garnish:
- Whisk up the custard
- Pour over the cut-up cinnamon rolls
- Pack into a baking dish, add little spoonfuls of apple butter to the top, and bake in a water bath
For the meringue garnish:
- Whip up whites, sugar, salt, and apple pie spice to about medium peaks (see photo)
- Spread in a thin layer on a Silpat-lined baking pan
- Sprinkle on chopped pecans and finishing salt
- Bake for 2 hours at 250F
- Cool and break into pieces
Equipment You May Need
Even though I’ve pictured this apple butter bread pudding all duded up and fancy looking, you really don’t need a lot of specialized equipment to make it.
Using a stand mixer makes short work of the meringue, but you can also use a hand mixer.
Spread out the meringue with an offset icing spatula. I like an 8″ offset spatula for this.
I baked my bread pudding in this small baking dish. It’s the perfect size for this recipe.
While it’s technically called a storage dish, it is oven-safe and a great size for small-batch recipes.
Tips for Success
Do not be intimidated by all the components. You don’t have to make everything the same day.
The meringue shards will keep for several days as long as they’re well-covered and it’s not humid out.
If the long list of Parts makes you tired, worry not. The pudding will be just as good all by itself.
Put a tea towel in your half-sheet pan for the water bath. It provides more insulation for your bread pudding and it will help keep the water from splashing when you pour it in.
You can bake in a small baking dish or bake your puddings in 4 ramekins in a water bath. The baking time will be less if baking in ramekins, so check them after 25 minutes and go from there.
Do not try to pull the pan, water bath and all, out of the oven hot. Rather remove the baking dish with large spatulas or rubberized tongs. Leave the water bath in the oven (which you have now turned off) until cool enough to handle.
Use your preferred size of graduated round cutter to cut perfect circles out of your pudding for serving. Or just cut into rectangles. You’ll get 4 (maybe 6) servings.
Apple Butter Bread Pudding Q & A
You can. Substitute 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch for the egg and yolk. Whisk it into the milks before heating them up with the caramel sauce. Whisking the cornstarch into cold milk will help ensure there are no lumps. Heat in a saucepan over medium heat until thickened. Then pour this thickened “custard” over your bread/cinnamon roll cubes. Poke lots of holes in it to make sure this thicker liquid soaks into the bread. Bake at 350 until it reaches 165F in the center.
Use aqua faba rather than egg white for your meringue, and the whole dessert can be 100% egg-free.
Yes. Substitute your favorite plant milk. My vote is to use soy milk or oat milk for best results.
Yes, substitute your favorite gluten-free sweet bread/cinnamon rolls/donuts for wheat-based. The rest of the components are gluten-free, as written.
Keep leftovers well-covered or in a tight-sealing container for up to 5 days, although it will be more delicious if you can eat it within a couple of days.
Yes. Make sure it is completely cool, and cut it into individual portions. Wrap in plastic wrap and freeze until firm. Place all the frozen portions into a zip-top freezer bag for up to 3 months.
I made this apple butter bread pudding specifically to be served with Angela’s ice cream, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other options.
Add some more crunch with spiced nuts.
About That Ice Cream
I worked with my friend Angela Robles from Say Helado NYC on Instagram to come up with a dessert that would perfectly complement her ice cream creation.
So apple butter bread pudding complete with crispy, pecan-y meringue shards was born specifically to go with Angela’s salted caramel ice cream with spiced buttered rum marshmallow fluff and pecan ‘brittle.’
A match made in heaven!
Here’s the ice cream straight out of the churn and ready for the freezer:
And here it is in all its frozen glory. Click on the image to go straight to Angela’s post and get the scoop (ha!) on how she made this beauty!
This ice cream is the perfect accompaniment to my caramel apple bread pudding. Ask Angela for the recipe. She’ll be happy to help!
A Note About Measurements
NOTE: Most of my recipes are written by weight and not volume, even the liquids.
Even though I try to provide you with volume measurements as well, I encourage you to buy a kitchen scale for ease of measuring, accuracy, and consistency.
If you have a question/questions about this or any other post, whether recipe or technique, don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’m happy to help.
You can leave a comment on the post, and I will respond within 24 hours. If you need an answer more urgently, please email me, and I will respond within about 4 hours (unless I’m sleeping) and often much more quickly than that.
Either way, I will answer as completely as I can. That’s why I’m here!
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For the Custard
- 3 oz caramel sauce, homemade or storebought
- 6 oz whole milk
- 2 oz half and half
- pinch salt
- 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice
- 1 whole egg
- 1 egg yolk
For the Bread
- 1-2 leftover cinnamon rolls, honey buns, sweet rolls, sticky buns, apple fritters, donuts, etc. You'll want about 2 cups. cut up
- 1/3 cup apple butter, homemade or storebought
For the Meringue Shards
- 2 egg whites
- heavy pinch salt
- 3.5 oz (about 1/2 cup) granulated sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon apple pie spice
- 3/4 cups chopped pecans
- 1/2-1 teaspoon finishing salt such as fleur de sel or other flaky salt
For the Custard
- Place the caramel sauce, milk, half and half, and a pinch of salt in a microwave-safe bowl.
- Microwave for 30 seconds or so to melt the caramel sauce and warm the milk.
- Whisk all the ingredients together until uniform.
- Whisk in the apple pie spice, the egg, and the yolk. Set aside.
For the Bread
- Spray a small baking dish or 4 ramekins with pan spray.
- Cut up your cinnamon rolls or sweet rolls (whatever you are using as your bread) into roughly 1" cubes. No need to be exact.
- Pack the rolls into the baking dish and slowly pour the custard over them.
- Use a fork or a skewer to poke holes through the rolls to encourage the custard to soak in.
- Press down on the rolls with a spatula to compress them so that when they "puff up" again, they'll draw in some custard just like a sponge.
- Dot the apple butter all over the top of the pudding.
- Cover with some plastic wrap and refrigerate while making the meringue shards (or overnight).
For the Meringue Shards
- Set a rack in the center of your oven and heat to 250F.
- Line a half sheet pan or cookie sheet with Silpat or parchment, and set aside.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, whip the egg whites together with the sugar and salt until foamy.
- Add the spice and whip on high until the meringue reaches "frosting consistency." It doesn't have to be at stiff peaks, but you want it to hold its shape when you spread it out.
- Spread the meringue in an even layer on your prepared pan.
- Sprinkle the chopped nuts evenly over the meringue.
- Sprinkle on some finishing salt.
- Bake for 2 hours, rotating the pan halfway through baking time.
- The meringue will still seem soft, but it will quickly crisp up out of the oven.
- Allow it to cool for about 5 minutes, and gently work a long offset spatula under the sheet to loosen it from the parchment or Silpat. Slide it onto a cooling rack to cool completely.
- Break the sheet of meringue into pieces. You will have much more than you need to serve 4 puddings, so snack on some if you want.
- Seal in an air-tight container and leave at room temperature until serving.
To Finish and Bake
- Place a half-sheet pan on the center rack of the oven and heat to 325F. (NOTE: You can line the pan with a kitchen towel for added insulation and to keep the water from splashing when you pour it in.
- Bring a kettle of water (about 1 1/2 quarts) to a boil.
- Take the plastic wrap off the refrigerated pudding and place the pudding in the center of the sheet pan.
- Pull the rack out so it's easier to pour the water.
- Carefully pour the boiling water into the larger pan to make a water bath.
- Slide the rack back in and bake for 40-45 minutes or until the temperature in the center of the pudding is 160-165F.
- Use two large spatulas to remove the pudding from the larger pan and place on a cooling rack.
- Cool until warm (or cool then chill and reheat to serve).
- For a dramatic presentation, serve in a pool of caramel sauce with a scoop of ice cream on top and 2-3 shards of meringue stuck into the ice cream.
Feel free to substitute other nuts or seeds for the pecans on the meringue.
Switch up the spicing to use your favorites. I like apple pie spice, but pumpkin spice or even straight cinnamon will work. Or consider chai spices or even Chinese 5 spice.
Use your favorite sweet rolls or sticky buns for the bready part of the bread pudding. Don't worry about fillings--they'll just add to the flavor of the overall dish.
Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat in the microwave for a few seconds. For longer storage, wrap well in plastic wrap, freeze, and keep in freezer bags for up to 3 months.
NOTE: Nutritional value does not include the ice cream and it factors in a whole sheet of meringue.
Nutrition InformationYield 4
Amount Per Serving Calories 451Total Fat 14.9gSaturated Fat 4.1gCholesterol 130mgSodium 441mgCarbohydrates 73.6gFiber 2gSugar 49.1gProtein 9g
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