Spiced Apple Layer Cake

This ultra soft, fluffy cake is heavy on the spices and topped with a delicious brown butter cream cheese frosting. The cake’s texture comes from using cake flour rather than ordinary flour which is lower in protein and gives you a tender, light crumb every time. Please don’t be tempted to use ordinary flour – it’s worth the fuss of buying (or making your own) I promise!

I use the Christina Tosi Milk Bar method for this cake – making a large sheet cake, cutting it into three layers with a six inch cake ring and constructing it using six inch acetate. It cooks faster, doesn’t require multiple cake tins and ensures perfectly even layers every time. If you don’t have this equipment, you can make a four-layered version with two 18cm round cake tins – just increase the baking time by about 10-20mins, carefully slice each cake in half and divide the frosting into quarters rather than thirds.

Ingredients (serves 14)
380g brown sugar
350g cake flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1½ teaspoons bicarb soda
1 teaspoon fine salt
200g sour cream (full fat)
200ml milk (full cream)
4 eggs
100ml canola oil
1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste
400g tinned apple pieces

Brown butter cream cheese frosting
110g unsalted butter
125g cream cheese (full fat), softened
150g icing sugar
40g sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste


Preheat the oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced) and grease and line a 9 by 13 inch quarter sheet pan with baking paper.

Using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the brown sugar, flour, spices, baking powder, bicarb soda and salt on low speed until combined.

Pour the sour cream, milk, eggs, oil and vanilla into a jug and whisk to combine. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined, scraping the bowl with a spatula to ensure all ingredients are integrated.

Gently fold the apple pieces through the batter with a spatula.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before gently turning onto a wire rack to cool completely.

While the cake is baking, make the brown butter for the frosting. Heat the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring continuously. Once the butter has melted, boiled, the foaming subsides and the butter has sufficiently browned (I like mine quite dark), transfer the butter into a bowl and refrigerate until set and firm.

Once the cake is completely cooled, place it onto a large chopping/bread board. Using the picture below as a guide, use a six inch metal cake cutter to cut out two full rounds of cake and two half pieces.

To make the frosting, beat the set brown butter in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment on a medium speed for 4-5 minutes or until completely smooth. Add the cream cheese and mix for a further 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl at regular intervals to ensure no lumps. Add the icing sugar, sour cream and vanilla and beat for a further 2-3 minutes or until the icing is fluffy and light.

Clean the cake ring and then place onto a plate or cake stand. Line the inside of the cake ring with a ‘collar’ of acetate. Place the two half pieces of cake at the bottom and press down firmly. If there are any gaps, use extra cake scraps to fill in the holes and press down very firmly to make one even layer. Top with approximately one-third of the frosting, using a cranked spatula to spread right to the edges.

Repeat with the remaining cake and frosting. Place cake in the fridge for at least 3 hours to set.

Gently slide off the cake ring and peel away the acetate strip. Keep refrigerated until approximately half an hour before serving. Cut into pieces (I like to use this method) and serve. Enjoy!

Cake adapted from ‘Spiced apple layer cake with brown butter cream cheese icing’ in Emelia Jackson’s First, Cream the Butter and Sugar.


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