Apple crisp was an essential dessert to my childhood. My mom had a newspaper clipping of an apple crisp recipe that she would pull out on special occasions and I would help peel apples and crumble the crisp, sneaking tastes of the sugary oatmeal butter clumps the whole time. This cake is a tribute to that nostalgia: layers of apple spice cake, apple pie filling, cinnamon-vanilla buttercream, and baked crumble for extra texture. It’s the perfect cake for cozy Fall baking and will make your kitchen smell like an Autumnal dreamscape!
There’s so much amazing texture going on in this cake and it all starts with my favorite extra-moist apple spice cake. Applesauce gives these layers the perfect apple flavor + lots of moisture. The cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg create a warm spiced element perfect for a cozy Fall day. Paired with the spiced apple pie filling and baked crumble topping between every layer it’s basically like you get apple crisp in every bite. My kind of cake.
I chose to pair this cake with cinnamon-vanilla buttercream to really enhance the spice element in this cake and it is so delicious! It really helps amplify the flavor in the cake and filling. If you’re looking for another great option for topping this cake, this brown butter frosting would be out of this world too. If you do top it with the brown butter frosting, be sure to make 1.5x the recipe so you’ll have enough for the buttercream dams, frosting and decorating.
I had a vision for decorating this cake and it turned out exactly like I imagined! I love it so much when that happens. I put some crumble topping around the base of the cake while the frosting finish was still tacky, then piped a crescent border with cinnamon-vanilla buttercream using Wilton Tip 1M (for the rosettes) and Tip 4B (for the stars). Then I sliced an apple into very thin slices and fanned them out to place on top. I learned that to keep those apple slices from browning, you can coat them with lemon juice! Pro tip right there.
However you decorate this apple crisp cake, it is sure to satisfy. It’s basically the best of both worlds if you had to decide between an apple crisp and an apple cake to serve at your Fall get together. A must make for this cozy season in my opinion!
Apple Crisp Cake
Apple Spice Cake
- 2 1/2 Cups (332g) all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- 1 Cup (226g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 Cup (150g) packed brown sugar
- 1 1/4 Cups (250g) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 2 1/2 Cups (600ml) unsweetened applesauce
Apple Pie Filling
- 2 large granny smith apples, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes (about 340g)
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 1/4 Cup (50g) packed brown sugar
- 1/4 Cup (50g) granulated white sugar
- 2 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 Cup (240ml) water
Baked Crumble Topping
- 1/2 Cup (40g) old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 Cup (60g) all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1/4 Cup (50g) packed brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 Cup (57g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 1/2 Cups (339g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 5 1/4 Cups (630g) powdered sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
- 3 Tbsp (45ml) whole milk, room temperature
- 1/4 tsp salt, or to taste
Make the Apple Spice Cake
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and prepare three 6-inch or two 8-inch cake pans by spraying the sides with cooking spray and fitting the bottoms with a wax or parchment paper circle. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients and set them aside.
- Cream the butter on high until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the brown and white sugars and continue to beat on medium for 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl and paddle once in between. Add the vanilla and the egg, then turn the mixer to medium for one full minute.
- Turn the mixer to low and add the flour mixture in three parts, alternating with the applesauce, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. When it just begins to come together after the last flour addition, turn off the mixer and give it a few stirs by hand to make sure everything is incorporated. The batter will be thick.
- Divide the batter between your prepared cake pans (fill to no more than 2/3 full) and smooth the tops, then bake for 36-42 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely before filling and frosting.
Make the Apple Pie Filling
- Toss the chopped apples and lemon juice together in a medium bowl, set aside.
- In a large saucepan, combine sugars, cornstarch, and spices. Pour in water and whisk. Cook over medium heat until boiling. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add apples, bring back to a boil. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender (15-20mins). Cool completely.
Make the Baked Crisp Topping
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF/177ºC and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Add all of the ingredients except for the butter into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix together on low to combine, then add in the softened butter. Continue mixing on low until the mixture begins forming pea-sized clusters.
- Spread the mixture evenly onto the parchment-lined cookie sheet, then bake for 5 minutes. Stir the topping around a bit, then bake for another 5 minutes until it begins to turn golden brown. Let the crumble topping cool completely to room temperature, then store in an airtight container until you’re ready to assemble the cake.
Make the Cinnamon-Vanilla Buttercream
- In a large bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.
- Cream butter on med-high until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes), scraping down the bowl and paddle a few times in between.
- Add powdered sugar/cinnamon mixture a few cups at a time, scraping down the bowl and paddle between intervals. Mix on medium until fully incorporated.
- Turn the mixer to low and add vanilla and milk. Mix on medium for two minutes. Scrape down the bowl and paddle and add salt. Mix for another minute on medium until incorporated.
- Once the cake layers have cooled completely, level them to your desired height. Fill a piping bag with 1 Cup of the cinnamon-vanilla buttercream and snip off 1/2 inch opening on the end. Place the first cake layer on the turntable and pipe a circle of cinnamon-vanilla buttercream about 1/4 inch inward from the edge to act as a buttercream dam for the apple pie filling. Fill the center of the buttercream dam with the apple pie filling and smooth it down until it's the same height as the buttercream dam (this post shows more details on this filling method). Crumble a few Tablespoons of baked crumble topping on top of the filling before placing the next cake layer on top. Repeat the filling and stacking process with any additional layers. Crumb coat the cake with more cinnamon-vanilla buttercream, then refrigerate the crumb coated cake for 20-30 minutes to let the frosting firm up.
- To create the design pictured, use the cinnamon-vanilla frosting to create a smooth finish on the cake. While the frosting is still tacky, press the baked crumble topping around the bottom edges of the cake. Refrigerate the cake for an additional 10-15 minutes to let the frosting firm up while you divide the remaining cinnamon-vanilla frosting between two piping bags, one fitted with Wilton Tip 1M and one fitted with Wilton Tip 4B. Pipe rosettes with Tip 1M and stars with Tip 4B in a crescent formation around the top of the cake. Garnish with sliced apple (coat in lemon juice first to prevent browning) and more baked crumble topping.
- The cake layers can be made ahead and stored, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature for up to two days. Alternatively, you can store the wrapped cake layers in the freezer for up to 2 months before thawing and frosting.
- The apple pie filling can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- The baked crisp topping can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
- The cinnamon-vanilla buttercream frosting can be made ahead and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use it, bring it back to room temperature and re-whip in your stand mixer to bring back to smooth buttercream consistency.
I hope you love this apple crisp cake as much as I do! Let me know what you think in the comments below and feel free to tag @sugarandsparrowco on Instagram if you post a pic! I love to see what you create.
Hi! Recipe mentions the use of 3X8 inch pans or 4X6 inch pans. However based on your other cake recipes you always use 2X8inch pans or 3X6 inch pans for the same amount of servings (15). Is this an error? thank you
Hi Karine! Yes, that’s an error – thanks for catching that! It should be 2 x 8 inch or 3 x 6 inch pans. I’ll fix it now!
Looks amazing, do you think you could turn into cupcakes?
Hi Charlotte! You could totally make this recipe as cupcakes. Just fill the tins no more than 2/3 full and bake at 350F/177C for 15-18 min. Enjoy!
This sounds delicious! Should dark or light brown sugar be used? Thank you.
You can use either but I prefer light brown sugar
Can this finished cake sit out of the fridge, in an airtight cake keeper overnight or must it be refrigerated and brought back to room temperature before serving?
Hi Robin! I’d recommend refrigerating the cake overnight because of the filling, but it should be okay at room temperature for 4-5 hours. Hope that helps!
Se Mi says
I and my family have been loving your recipes! Thank you so much for sharing your gift!
I was wondering if you could help me adapt this apple cake and your lemon cake for a standard loaf pan (just the cake, not filing or frosting). I keep getting requests from family members, after bringing these for birthdays, and I think they will be happy to be gifted loaf cakes! (Sorry but I won’t be baking a layered cake for every request) but I’m not sure how to adjust the recipe for time and amount. Thank you again!
Hi Se Mi! I’m so happy you’ve been enjoying my recipes! I’ve actually never baked my cakes in a loaf pan before, so you might have to experiment a bit with baking times. I do have instructions for how to convert my recipes to sheet cakes here: https://sugarandsparrow.com/sheet-cake-recipes/ hope that helps!