This Apple Cider Layer Cake features apple cider flavored yellow cake filled with cooked apples and frosted with apple cider buttercream.
Apple season has arrived in Southern California!
A little over an hour’s drive east of Los Angeles you can pick your own apples and even press your own apple cider in Oak Glen.
I try to make it out there at least once during the season to stock up on all the fresh apple goodies.
Once you’ve got your fill of apples and cider, it’s time to make this apple cider layer cake!
Apple Cider Layer Cake
Before we begin, let’s get clarify what kind of “apple cider” is used in this recipe.
The labeling of “apple cider” versus “apple juice” varies from state to state.
For the sake of this recipe, apple cider refers to unfiltered apple juice. It’s juice that is a bit cloudy and thicker than your regular boxed apple juice.
Don’t use hard cider, alcoholic apple cider, or sparkling apple cider for this recipe.
If you want real deal fresh apple cider, it’s best to get the good stuff from an apple orchard or at a local farmer’s market.
- Apple Cider Yellow Cake
- Apple Cider Buttercream
- Cooked Apple Filling
- Calvados Apple Soaking Liquid
Apple Cider Yellow Cake
Yellow cake has a much richer flavor due to the amount of eggs, egg yolks, and butter in the batter. The egg yolks are responsible that iconic “yellow” color of the baked cake.
To ensure the cake is moist and flavorful, this batter uses a combination of oil and butter. Be sure to use a neutral flavored oil like grape seed oil or vegetable oil to allow the buttery notes to shine.
Apple Cider Buttercream
This cake uses a simple American buttercream. Softened butter is mixed with powdered sugar until smooth and fluffy.
A few tablespoons of apple cider concentrate gives the buttercream a pop of apple flavor.
To make apple cider concentrate, simmer apple cider until it has reduced by half. (More details in recipe)
Cooked Apple Filling
Chopped apples are lightly cooked down with butter, lemon juice, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and apple cider.
I used a combination of Granny Smith and Gala apples. They cook at different rates, creating textural variety. Granny Smith will remain a bit firm, while the Gala will be soft and tender.
Instead of cornstarch, I opted to use arrowroot. (I talk about arrowroot versus cornstarch in this Apple Ginger Cake recipe post.)
Calvados Apple Soaking Liquid
Calvados is apple brandy produced in Normandy (Northern France). It is made from pressed apples (apple cider) that is fermented into a dry cider. The liquid is distilled into brandy and aged.
Calvados intensifies the apple flavors of this cake. Very little alcohol is actually soaked into the cakes. You can’t get drunk from one slice (or even, if you eat the entire cake!).
However, omit the Calvados if you prefer to keep the cake booze-free.
How to assemble filled layer cake:
This apple cider cake consists of three 8-inch round cake layers.
- If necessary, level cake layers. Place one cake layer on turn table or cake stand. Lightly soak cake layer with Calvados apple soaking liquid.
- Spread a thin layer of buttercream over cake layer. Use a piping bag fitted with a medium round tip to pipe a double ring of buttercream along the perimeter of cake.
- Add cooled cooked apple filling within the buttercream borders.
- Spread apple filling into an even layer flush with buttercream ring.
- Add second cake layer. Repeat soaking, piping buttercream border, and adding apple filling.
- Add final cake layer on top.
- A thin layer of buttercream to crumb coat the cake.
- Once the entire cake is frosted, pop in the fridge for 15-30 minutes to allow buttercream frosting to harden. If desired, add another layer of buttercream all over cake.
Easy Cake Decor:
Fit piping bag with a medium to large star tip. Fill piping bag with any remaining buttercream.
Pipe little dollops of stars along the perimeter of cake. Decorate with sprinkles as desired.
Slicing and Serving Cake:
Cake will be easier to slice when cold. Cold cake will produce cleaner slices.
Allow cake slices to sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving to allow cake and buttercream to soften.
Assembled cake can be stored in the fridge (unsliced) for up to two days before serving.
Once cake has been sliced open, store in an airtight container to prevent cake from drying out. Alternatively, cover exposed cake parts with wax paper or parchment paper.
Is this apple cider cake very sweet?
On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being super sweet), I would rate this cake a 7. Much of the cake’s sweetness comes from the apple filling.
Instead of using a combination of Granny Smith and Gala apples, use all Granny Smith for a less sweet apple filling.
Apple Cider Layer Cake
Apple Cider Cake:
- 4 cups (480 g) cake flour
- 2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 cup apple cider*
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil, or other neutral flavored oil
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened, room temp
- 2 cups (400 g) granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 large egg yolks
- 3 large eggs
- 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
- 285 grams peeled, chopped apples * (2 medium apples)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 6 Tablespoon light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 2 teaspoon arrowroot powder
Apple Cider Buttercream:
- 1 1/2 cup (340 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 5 cup (568 g) powdered sugar
- 2-4 Tablespoon apple cider concentrate *
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Calvados Apple Soaking Liquid:
- 3 Tbsp apple cider concentrate
- 1 Tablespoon Calvados, (apple brandy) optional
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter three 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together cake flour, kosher salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Set aside. In a large 2 cup measuring glass, whisk together apple cider, milk, and grapeseed oil. Set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Scrape down bowl as needed.
- With the mixer running on low-medium, add yolks and eggs one at a time. Allowing each yolk/egg to be incorporated before adding the next. Scrape down bowl as needed. Batter may look slightly curdled.
- Alternate adding flour mixture and wet mixture. Start by adding 1/4 of flour mixture. Mix on low speed until almost incorporated. Add 1/3 of wet mixture. Once smooth, repeat adding another 1/4 flour mixture followed by 1/3 wet mixture. Start and end with flour mixture.
- Scrape down bowl often to ensure thorough mixing. Once all the flour has been added, increase speed to medium-high for 15-20 seconds until batter is smooth.
- Evenly divide batter among prepared cake pans. Level using an offset spatula or by using the back of a spoon. Bake for 35-40 minutes until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Rotate pans midway through baking. Allow cakes to cool in pan for 5 minutes. Then, run a mini offset spatula (or knife) along the edges of pan to help loosen cake. Unmold and cool cakes to room temperature on wire rack .
- In a small heavy bottomed sauce pot, melt butter over medium heat. Once melted, add chopped apples and lemon juice. Toss to coat apples in butter.
- Add brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon. Mix to combine. Add apple cider. Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Simmer mixture for 5-7 minutes until apples are softened. *Keep in mind, the Granny Smith apples will be a bit firmer than the Gala apples.
- In a small bowl, stir together arrowroot powder and 2 teaspoon water. Mix until dissolved. Quickly pour and incorporate into apple mixture. Remove from heat. Transfer to a heat safe container and let mixture cool at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
Apple Cider Buttercream:
- Beat softened butter in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons apple cider concentrate, vanilla, and salt. Mix until buttercream is smooth and fluffy. Scrape down bowl as needed to ensure thorough mixing. Add additional tablespoons of apple cider concentrate until desired buttercream consistency is achieved.
Calvados Soaking Liquid:
- In a small bowl, combine apple cider concentrate and Calvados. Set aside.
- Fit piping bag with medium round tip. Fill piping bag with about 1/2 cup buttercream. Set aside.
- Level cooled cake layers as necessary. Place one cake layer on cake board, serving platter, or cake turntable. Brush or lightly drizzle soaking syrup over cake layer. Spread a thin layer of buttercream on top using a small offset spatula.
- Using the filled piping bag, pipe a border of buttercream along the perimeter of the cake round. Pipe another inner circle of buttercream to create a double wall barrier.
- Add half of cooled apple filling within buttercream barrier. Place second cake layer on top. Repeat soaking cake, spreading thin layer of buttercream, piping border, and adding apple filling.
- Place third cake layer on top. Brush any remaining soaking syrup over cake layer. Spread buttercream around the cake to create a "crumb coat" layer to seal in any crumbs. Chill cake in the fridge for 15-20 minutes to set frosting. If desired, generously coat the chilled cake with additional buttercream for a smooth finish.
- Fit a piping bag with a medium star tip. Fill bag with any remaining buttercream. Decorate the top of cake with piped star boarder. Garnish with sprinkles as desired. Store cake in the fridge until ready to serve.
- I used a combination of equal parts Granny Smith and Gala apples. They cook at different rates, creating textural variety. Granny Smith will remain a bit firm, while the Gala will be soft and tender.
- Other firm apples to use in place of Granny Smith include: Rome or Golden Delicious. In place of Gala substitute: Ambrosia or Fuji
- Start with 2 tablespoons apple cider concentrate. Add additional tablespoons until desired frosting consistency is achieved.
Serving and Slicing Cake:
- Cold cakes will produce cleaner slices. Let cake sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes perfect serving to soften.