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!

A dramatic shot of a piece of bread pudding in a pool of caramel topped with caramel ice cream with tall pieces of crispy meringue stuck in the ice cream.

See my Apple Butter Bread Pudding Web Story for a quick visual guide to making this recipe.

Every element has so much flavor and to think you can use leftovers for the bread pudding made this such an easy but amazingly elegant dessert.

Reader Beth

What To Expect from This Recipe

Before diving in, check to see if this bread pudding ticks all your boxes.

Are you interested in:

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  • 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:

A collage of photos of the ingredients for making caramel custard: caramel sauce, milk, half and half, salt, applep ie spice, egg, and egg yolk.
  • 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:

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:

Ingredients for making meringue shards on a white background: egg white, sugar, salt, apple pie spice, pecans, and finishing salt.
  • 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

Procedure

Please see the recipe for the details, but in broad strokes, here’s how you make the bread pudding and garnish:

  1. Whisk up the custard
  2. Pour over the cut-up cinnamon rolls
  3. Pack into a baking dish, add little spoonfuls of apple butter to the top, and bake in a water bath

For the meringue garnish:

  1. Whip up whites, sugar, salt, and apple pie spice to about medium peaks (see photo)
  2. Spread in a thin layer on a Silpat-lined baking pan
  3. Sprinkle on chopped pecans and finishing salt
  4. Bake for 2 hours at 250F
  5. Cool and break into pieces
Whip the meringue to a spreadable consistency. It does not have to be at stiff peaks.

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.

You’ll want a good whisk and a nice bowl for mixing the custard.

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.

A silicone baking mat is really ideal for baking the meringue. They are sized to fit nicely on a half-sheet pan.

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

A plate with a round of bread pudding in a pool of caramel sauce.

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

A close up of apple cider caramel sauce on a plate with swirls of caramel ice cream melting into it.
Can I make this without eggs?

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.

Can I make it dairy-free?

Yes. Substitute your favorite plant milk. My vote is to use soy milk or oat milk for best results.

Can I make this gluten-free?

Yes, substitute your favorite gluten-free sweet bread/cinnamon rolls/donuts for wheat-based. The rest of the components are gluten-free, as written.

How long will bread pudding last in the fridge?

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.

Can I freeze it?

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.

Serving Suggestions

A small brown crock of apple butter bread pudding topped with caramel sauce and bits of crispy pecan meringue with more meringue shards on the plate.

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.

A big scoop of French vanilla ice cream would be most welcome as would some softly whipped cream.

Add some more crunch with spiced nuts.

And while there is a difference between butterscotch and caramel (and I won’t let you forget it!) there is no reason not to pour some butterscotch sauce on top.

And if you’re a fan of appley, custardy desserts, give my apple custard pie a try. It’s a winner!

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:

An overhead shot of a rectangular container of ice cream with candied pecans on top.

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!

Overhead shot of a rectangular container of ice cream with a scoop of it in a cone on top.

This ice cream is the perfect accompaniment to my caramel apple bread pudding. Ask Angela for the recipe. She’ll be happy to help!

More Bread Pudding Recipes

If you love bread pudding like I do, you’ll want to add a few more varieties to your repertoire.

Start with my “best bread pudding,” which combines cinnamon swirl bread with warmly spiced custard and an upside-down topping of brown sugar, butter, and pecans.

Since bread pudding is a great way to use up any kind of bread or bready Item, don’t worry about buying or making more bread than you can eat.

Use up leftover donuts with my chocolate glazed donut bread pudding.

And go ahead and make a ton of Moravian Sugar Cake, because you can always use the leftovers in Moravian sugar cake bread pudding.

A Note About Measurements

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03/07/2024 05:03 pm GMT

Questions?

5 golden stars for rating recipes
A plate with a round of bread pudding in a pool of caramel sauce.

Caramel Apple Butter Bread Pudding

Jennifer Field
Full of fall flavors, this caramel apple butter bread pudding is comforting enough to eat whenever but elegant enough to serve for Thanksgiving dessert.
For folks who are fans of apple desserts and bread pudding, this is one not to miss. And the shards of crispy meringue are very easy to make, provide some crunch to an otherwise smooth and creamy dessert, and add the wow factor that a special occasion dessert calls for!
Serve this dessert with ice cream, or whipped cream, the crispy meringue, and some caramel rum sauce.
4.75 from 4 votes
Tried this recipe?Please give it a star rating!
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Meringue Baking Time plus Cooling Time 3 hours
Total Time 4 hours 5 minutes
Course Custard and Pudding Recipes
Cuisine American
Servings 4 servings
Calories 451 kcal

Ingredients

For the Custard

  • 3 oz caramel sauce homemade or storebought
  • 6 oz whole milk
  • 2 oz half and half
  • pinch salt
  • ½ 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
  • 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
  • ¼ teaspoon apple pie spice
  • ¾ cups chopped pecans
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon finishing salt such as fleur de sel or other flaky salt

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Did You Make Any Changes?

Notes

Variations

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.

To Store

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

Calories: 451kcalCarbohydrates: 73.6gProtein: 9gFat: 14.9gSaturated Fat: 4.1gCholesterol: 130mgSodium: 441mgFiber: 2gSugar: 49.1g
Keyword apple butter bread pudding, bread pudding recipe, caramel apple bread pudding, Thanksgiving dessert
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9 Comments

    1. Hi, Donna. No, apple butter doesn’t contain butter. It’s a fruit spread. So if you can find apple jelly or even applesauce, add a bit of cinnamon to either and you’re good to go. I hope you enjoy the bread pudding!

  1. I am assuming this can be frozen after it’s baked, I am sure that’s a given but I don’t want to take a chance on messing it up. Also, I don’t have apple butter and it’s not available but I do have Ginger Curd (or lemon) what do you think of subbing the curd for the apple butter? It’ll add that bit of tartness ?

  2. Wow – every element of this dessert is so flavorful. But to think you can use leftovers for the bread pudding makes this also so approachable. And those shards! So beautiful and fun but not hard to make at all.

  3. 5 stars
    Every element has so much flavor and to think you can use leftovers for the bread pudding made this such an easy but amazingly elegant dessert.

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