This moist and tender, lightly spiced yellow cake, filled with smooth apple butter and topped with a very special apple-flavored traditional buttercream frosting, is more than worth your time.
We finally did it (and just under the wire in September): we went apple picking. The crowds are legendary, the bathroom facilities far from ideal, and the apples no cheaper than what we’d buy in the store by the pound. But we love going every year with dear friends of ours. It just wouldn’t feel like it was really fall without it—even though the weather on Saturday seemed more like summer here in the northeast.
The minute I saw a similar cake to this one in the current issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine, I knew this would be a fabulous way to make use of that gorgeous, smooth apple butter we’ve been making since our trip to the orchard.
This moist and tender, lightly spiced yellow cake, filled with smooth apple butter and topped with a very special apple-flavored traditional buttercream frosting, is more than worth your time. There are a few steps to making it, but, well—that’s true of any layer cake.
The steps are simple, and the cakes can be made and cooled, then wrapped and frozen until you’re ready to thaw at room temperature, then fill and frost. And let’s face it—if it weren’t for Martha (good ol’ Martha), I never would have believed that apple butter could be used as a layer cake filling, and then sliced so cleanly.
As long as you’re baking with apples, try this recipe for Easy Apple Cake from Cindy at Vegetarian Mama. Looks simple and delicious!
My method for making super chunky applesauce couldn’t be simpler, with little to no added sugar—it’s really just apples, ground cinnamon, and a bit of water—but if you’re interested in more detail, just see the second paragraph of the apple gingerbread snack cake post. The chunky stuff on top of the cake is really just for dramatic effect, but I highly recommend it. If you’re going to make a layer cake, go big or go home!
Apple Buttercream Frosting 16 tablespoons (224 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 1/2 to 4 cups (400 to 460 g) confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (60 g) smooth applesauce
1 to 3 tablespoons milk, at room temperature
For finishing 1 cup chunky applesauce (optional)
*To make your own apple pie spice, combine 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon + 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom + 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg + 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger + 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
First, make the cakes. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans well, and set them aside.
In a separate, medium-size bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, salt and apple pie spice, and whisk to combine. Set the bowl aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a handheld mixer), place the butter and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add the granulated sugar and light brown sugar, then the eggs and vanilla, beating to combine well after each addition. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer bowl in 3 parts, alternating with the milk, and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Divide the batter evenly among the two prepared cake pans and smooth into an even layer with a wet spatula in each. Place the cakes in the center of the preheated oven and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of each cake comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached, rotating the pans halfway through baking (about 22 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow the cakes to cool in the pans for at least 30 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
Fill the cakes. Trim any domed top on both cakes with a large serrated knife and place one cake, cut side down, on a cake plate. Spread the apple butter into an even layer on top of the overturned cake, creating a clean edge all around. Place the second cake, cut side down, on top, and press evenly to adhere. Place the layered cakes in the refrigerator to set while you make the frosting.
Make the frosting. Place the butter in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a handheld mixer) and beat on medium speed until the butter is light and fluffy. Add 3 1/2 cups of the confectioners’ sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and mix on low speed until the sugar is absorbed into the butter. Increase the speed to medium-high, add the smooth applesauce and 1 tablespoon milk, and continue to beat until the frosting is light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Add more confectioners’ sugar by the tablespoon as necessary to bring the frosting to a thickly spreadable consistency. If necessary to thin the frosting after adding too much confectioners’ sugar, add more milk by the half-teaspoonful.
Frost and finish the cake. Remove the cake from the refrigerator, and spoon a generous amount of frosting on top. Cover the entire top and sides of the cake, using the offset spatula, in a very thin layer, filling in any gaps between the layers with frosting. This is the crumb coat, and it will keep the top layer of frosting from showing any cake crumbs. Place the thinly frosted cake in the freezer for 10 minutes, or until firm. Remove the cake from the freezer, and cover the sides and then the top generously with swirls of frosting. Top with the optional chunky applesauce, piled in the center. Refrigerate until set before serving.
Inspired by the apple butter layer cake in the current issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine.