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John's Three-Layer Apple Cake

Imagine those caramel apples you loved as a kid, now all grown up and baked into a cake. Stacks up well, doesn't it? Try this cake, courtesy of John Barricelli, host of "Everyday Baking."

  • prep: 45 mins
    total time: 2 hours 20 mins
  • servings: 12

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Ingredients

For the buttercream

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into pieces

For the cake

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pans
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pans
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, two coarsely grated and two diced

Cook's Note

You can also bake the cake in a 13-by-9-inch pan; the baking time will be about the same. Also, if the buttercream separates, continue beating -- it will come together.

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 8-inch-round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper. Butter, then flour paper and sides (tapping out excess); set aside.

  2. Step 2

    In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together butter, sugar, and eggs until well combined; fold in grated and diced apples. Add flour mixture; mix just until combined. Divide batter among prepared pans; smooth tops.

  3. Step 3

    Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 20 minutes, then invert onto wire racks; peel off parchment. Invert cakes again, and let cool completely on racks.

  4. Step 4

    Make buttercream: In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water, whisk together egg whites, sugar, and salt until sugar has dissolved; remove from heat. Using an electric mixer on medium, beat mixture until fluffy and cooled, about 15 minutes. Increase to high; beat until stiff peaks form. Reduce to medium-low; gradually add butter, beating until fully incorporated, about 3 to 5 minutes.

  5. Step 5

    Assemble cake: Place one layer on a serving plate; spread top with buttercream. Top with another layer; spread top with buttercream. Top with third layer; spread remaining buttercream over top and sides of cake. Refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to 4 days). To serve, bring cake to room temperature; slice with a serrated knife.

Source
Everyday Food, September 2008

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Reviews (28)

  • 24 Oct, 2012

    SO....I just made this cake and its the stickiest cake I have ever made. Let the cake cool for a long time before applying frosting--if you don't you end up with a melting mess. I'm having to salvage mine. :-( The presentation won't be the best but it tastes amazing. The frosting recipe has too much butter for my taste, so I added some more brown sugar, cinnamon and a little lemon juice. It worked wonders! I'll definitely make this one again.

  • 11 Aug, 2012

    This was so delish! I had to make two batches, I have no idea how one batch can fill three pans. Even with the doubled recipe, I only had two layers (although they were thick). I also used a cream cheese maple frosting, using imitation maple extract. I didn't even melt the butter and didn't dice the apples fine enough, but this cake was still delicious with great presentation. I topped it off with a homemade caramel sauce!

  • 8 Aug, 2012

    This cake definetly looks nice! For some reason, I had to make the batter twice because the first one did not even come close to filling three cake pans, let alone two. I think I did not dice the apples finely enough...I also used the maple cream cheese frosting using maple extract but I kept finding it didn't have a distinct enough maple flavour.. maybe it would've worked better with maple syrup. Overall though, pretty good!

  • 2 Apr, 2012

    GREAT!! So easy and moist and full of flavor! We loved it! To make this easier, I halved the recipe and put it all in one 8 inch round cake pan. I cut the sugar by 1/3 cup and used all grated apples. It was very easy to whip up and smelled great. Instead of trying the icing recipe provided here (sounds like a TON of butter!) I made my own cream cheese frosting: 2 oz. cream cheese, 2 T. butter, 1 cup 10x, 1 t. vanilla. Really, really good sprinkled with some cinnamon sugar. Will be making again!

  • 25 Nov, 2011

    I have made this recipe 3 times since Sept '11...it rocks every single time. I changed it a bit by adding dulce de leche between layers along with the cream cheese frosting instead of the frosting suggested. ABSOTIVELY YUMMY!!!!

  • 23 Sep, 2011

    Oh goodness! I made this recently for my friend's birthday and I thought it would be good, but it exceeded my expectations by far!

    It was like pure heaven!

  • 19 Sep, 2011

    This is the cake that everyone wants me to make for them. I have tried it with different types of icings and even make little bundt style cake and wrap them in cellophane for gift giving. The cake is "wonderful"!

  • 23 Jan, 2011

    Just made this cake for my husband's birthday and it was a big hit! Cake turned out moist and delicious. Instead of the buttercream I made carmel cream cheese frosting which went really well with this cake. I will definitely make this again.

  • 10 Dec, 2010

    Made the cake last night, and the frosting was a bust. After about a stick and a half it looked like buttercream. As I kept adding butter the recipe called for, it became so wet and clumpy. Something about the 3 sticks doesn't add up. I stopped at 2.5 sticks, and added more sugar. Not sure how much, just eyeballed it, and it looks and tastes like it may work. My co-workers will be the judge of that today!

  • 10 Nov, 2010

    Thanks for the idea about the maple cream cheese frosting, I loved it! I added maple flavoring as well as syrup. This cake was very moist but it wasn't too fragile. It even survived a day in the fridge before I iced it and it tasted great. I will definitely make this cake again. I think caramel or cinnamon frosting would work well with this too.

  • 16 Sep, 2010

    I've made this cake twice, once with the buttercream frosting and once with a maple cream cheese frosting. I liked it much better with the cream cheese frosting. I used a recipe for it on this site and added a teaspoon of maple extract. It was delicious.

  • 2 Sep, 2010

    I agree with msjane1225. the frosting was not a success and merely tasted of butter. I would only make this again with a cream cheese frosting.

  • 29 Apr, 2010

    Definitely a grown-up cake. Kids will eat it, but I think they'd rather have something else. I'm not a master baker, but mine turned out kind of heavy. The buttercream was interesting... never tried it with brown sugar before. Overall, the cake was good, but I'd rather just have an apple pie or strudel.

  • 10 Dec, 2008

    I made this for Thanksgiving. It was awesome, but I used a true buttercream as the one provided with the cake recipe didn't turn out. The cake stayed moist for days, very impressive!

  • 30 Nov, 2008

    One word: Delicious!! The cake is super, but with the frosting it's amazing!

  • 30 Nov, 2008

    One word: Delicious!! The cake is super, but with the frosting it's amazing!

  • 5 Nov, 2008

    To add to my comments of 10/31......make sure you use 4 large apples. Anything less produces a dryer cake.

  • 31 Oct, 2008

    I've made no fewer than 10 Apple cakes since this was published. A delicious crowd pleaser. But, don't make 3 layers, 2 is sufficient. Also, if you bake the cake in 9in pans, decrease the time to 20 minutes baking time. And, most importantly, a cream cheese frosting is de rigeur.

  • 20 Oct, 2008

    I have heard of 3 layer chocolate cake..but this is a great idea... thanks for sharing...

    Andy
    www.recipebuddys.com

  • 19 Oct, 2008

    Not sure what MsJane did, but this cake was great. I didn't use this frosting recipe, but rather a cream cheese frosting with minced candied ginger and rum added to it. It was over the top. I also had to bake it longer ~15 minutes longer. The cake was very tasty and moist.

  • 14 Oct, 2008

    any comments on the cake itself? moist? apple-y? Can you make it as a loaf-like a bananna bread? Ruth

  • 14 Oct, 2008

    any comments on the cake itself? moist? apple-y? Can you make it as a loaf-like a bananna bread? Ruth

  • 5 Oct, 2008

    Brown Sugar Buttercream

    Ingredients

    Makes about 4 cups
    4 large egg whites
    1 cup packed light-brown sugar
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons

    Directions

    1. In a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water, whisk together egg whites, sugar, and salt. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.

    2. Transfer to the clean bowl of an electric mixer. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and cooled, about 15 minutes.

    3. Raise speed to high; beat until stiff peaks form. Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, until fully incorporated.

  • 5 Oct, 2008

    Annie, have you been able to get the recipe? The link worked fine for me, but I'm not able to get the Dark-chocolate Layer Cake from Everyday foods to work for me, I get an error. Seems like it's been happening a lot more lately. Frustrating!

    In case you don't have the recipe, here it is.

  • 25 Sep, 2008

    the link to the brown sugar buttercream doesn't work - anyone know the recipe?

  • 14 Sep, 2008

    made this in a 13x9 pan for a housewarming party we attended yesterday. i was skeptical about the icing, but i know from experience that you definitely need to beat it until it's cool otherwise it doesn't really work. it broke a little when i added the butter, but i kept beating and it was fine. i found the cake to be quite delicious - it did require more baking time for that pan size, but it turned out to be quite the crowd please last night. cream cheese icing might be something to try!

  • 14 Sep, 2008

    made this in a 13x9 pan for a housewarming party we attended yesterday. i was skeptical about the icing, but i know from experience that you definitely need to beat it until it's cool otherwise it doesn't really work. it broke a little when i added the butter, but i kept beating and it was fine. i found the cake to be quite delicious - it did require more baking time for that pan size, but it turned out to be quite the crowd please last night. cream cheese icing might be something to try!

  • 30 Aug, 2008

    This cake was a DISASTER! The cake wasn't sweet enough and a little tough. The icing was a mess. It looked good when the egg white stiffened, but when i added the butter, it turned into a soupy mess. I had to fix it with a cup of powdered sugar. After refrigerating for the time specified it tasted like biting into a stick of butter.Tragic!